What do you mean by “root down”?

When teaching yoga class, I often say “root down” (or “ground down”) as you reach up.  Recently a student asked me “why?” 

In yoga asana practice and in life, it’s essential to establish a solid foundation before you start to move in whatever direction your life or your yoga pose takes you.  To fully benefit and feel the effects of a standing asana, you really need to find the connection to the ground below you.  This usually starts with the feet.  Can you feel your heels pressing into the mat?  Can you feel action in balls of your feet?  As with any asana, find the strength as well as the ease.  The ease in the feet is in the toes –they should be light and not gripping the mat.  So lift them up and then place them back down, lightly. 

Once you establish your stability in the feet, you work your way up.  Start to find the strength in your the legs and core.  Now you’re standing in your power.  Now you can apply this strength (sthira) to find the ease (sukha) in the yoga pose at hand.  Feel your lower body power as you find a corresponding lift in the ribs, chest and heart.  Let yourself be light and bright.  Feel the freedom the pose has to offer.  The trick to finding this freedom is to set your foundation. 

Yoga poses aren’t about confining the body into a ball or tightening into a pretzel.  The poses are aimed to open the body up.  Lengthen the body.  Find freedom.  In order to accomplish this, you need to stand firm in your roots and explore from there.  It’s the same in life.  If you feel lost or unclear about a situation, go back to the root cause.  Start over.  Analyze and explore the situation just like you might explore your Warrior II.  Start from the feet, your foundation, and build from there.    

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