Erika Shershun, MA, MFT
Why Grounding Matters
Updated: Jan 18
Grounding is the feeling of being physically and energetically connected to Earth. Our bodies are both matter and energy, and even though gravity is always pulling us downward toward the earths surface, we may have lost or never developed a strong energetic connection. When we experience an intense trauma such as an accident, a natural disaster, or a physical assault our energy is pulled upward resulting in a loss of connection to Earth’s welcoming support just when we need it most. Any sense of safety and trust may have been replaced with a feeling that the ground has been pulled out from underneath us, that we’re unable to support ourselves, we may feel off balance, or that we’ve been knocked off our feet (perhaps literally). You may or may not be aware of these feelings, yet your body may organize in relation to them.
A loss of grounding is not unique to trauma survivors, our culture reveres the brain and as a whole our energy is focused higher in the body. When most of our energy is centered upward in our heads an imbalance of the autonomic nervous system is created, producing anxiety and an over-reactive sympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system is what initiates the fight-flight response, thus we may feel out of control or overly impacted by our emotions. This upward shift of energy is heightened by trauma and can become chronic eventually leading to depression or a slew of other symptoms. Grounding helps to bring awareness back into our body, increasing nervous system regulation, and supporting reconnection on all levels of experience.
A grounding practice is helpful for anyone who feels easily distracted, scattered, spacey, excessively focused on the needs of others, or experiences ruminating thoughts. Grounding helps to regulate the flow of energy in our bodies which in turn helps to eliminate energy blockages that can lead to illness. Over time a practice of grounding will improve our ability to access and feel our emotions, while at the same time bringing a greater sense of safety as we experience what is present in a more embodied way.
Although not usually the case when healing from trauma, sometimes we may be overgrounded, where our energy is not flowing upward from the earths magnetic field. Symptoms of overgrounding include a sense of heaviness, along with feelings of being stuck, trapped or hopeless. Energy is being pushed downward as though the earth is a place to hide. These same feelings can be present for undergrounded individuals however they won’t include the weightiness. In both cases we need to begin to grow a sense of the earth as welcoming, nourishing and supportive.
There are many ways to ground, the following is one of my favorites because it is so effective and easy to do. Toe Tapping is a powerful practice to strengthen grounding passed down from Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and Qigong.
Lie down on a flat surface such as a yoga mat, rug, bed, or couch, facing up.
Allow your hips and legs to rest easily, hips loose and feet a few inches apart.
Rotate or rock your legs and feet in and out from your hips, leaving your heels in place as they follow along rotating in and out.
As you rotate inward tap the sides of your big toes together before letting your legs and feet role back out.
While you find your rhythm it can help to pick up the pace as you continue to tap your big toes together, the momentum will make it easier to sustain.
Again, make sure you are engaging your legs from the hips, not just your ankles.
If you wish close your eyes and relax as you continue tapping. You might try listening to fast, rhythmic music while tapping to the beat. When you have the hang off it you can do breath work or combine mindfulness practice as you tap, or read or watch tv if you prefer.
Continue tapping for a minimum of five minutes, ten minutes is excellent yet five minutes once or twice a day is beneficial and far better than not at all.
Toe Tapping is meant to be an ongoing daily practice. You can tap once, twice, or several times a day. The results can seem subtle but don’t let that fool you, this practice is more powerful than you might realize. The effects are cumulative, taking up to a year to experience the full benefits. When change is gradual we often fail to realize the impact of a practice, yet if we think back to where we were a year ago in relation to grounding, anxiety and the fight, flight response, we will see and feel the progress.
For Over Grounding
This practice helps those who are over grounded yet can be relaxing for anyone. It can be done standing or seated with bare feet touching the ground. You will need a small ball, such as a tennis ball, or a foot roller, otherwise you can use your hands to massage one foot at a time.
Take note of how your feet feel. Are they relaxed or tense? Are you gripping the ground as if holding on for dear life?
Invite your feet to soften and relax. On your next inhalation visualize your breath traveling all the way down to your feet as they relax more completely.
Place the ball or foot massager under one foot and begin rolling it around.
Notice what sensations you’re feeling. Take your time and pay special attention to any areas of your foot that are tender.
When you notice your foot feeling fully relaxed switch to your other foot and repeat the last two steps.
Now take note of your spine. Imagine you are being pulled upward by a string attached to the top of your head as though you were a marionette. Feel your spine lengthen.
Step away from the ball or foot roller and try walking around the room as though the string is pulling you upward.
Continue to sense your relaxed feet on the ground as you walk.
Feel the Earth supporting you. Does the ground feel welcoming?
Presence is where our past and future concerns recede, providing greater access to what is. Unlike our thoughts, our bodies exist one hundred percent of the time in the present, grounding helps us come into our bodies where we can be fully present.
It is from this grounded foundation that we begin to cultivate embodied safety, a solid base of grounded support from the earth and within, allowing for forward momentum in our healing and growth. To feel the breadth and depth of our connection to ourself and others as we draw strength and guidance from our body and the living Earth.