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After a recent day-long yoga-thon—including two sound baths, a Restorative Yoga session, and an intense guided meditation—I was so in the yoga zone that I actually got on an elevator, rode to the fourth floor, and took two more yoga classes before I realized that I had left my shoes downstairs.
I may have been experiencing what some people call “yoga high.” It’s that light-hearted, maybe light-headed feeling you may get after a particularly rewarding practice session. You may have it after an asana practice, during pranayama, or in yoga nidra. It’s not just in your mind. Yoga practices activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which releases feel-good hormones and makes you feel contented and relaxed. In my case, the meditation leader asked us to imagine ourselves floating outside of our bodies. Maybe I didn’t quite come back to mine.
While we love having blissful yoga sessions, at some point we have to re-join the real world and resume daily activities that require things like, um, shoes. But that doesn’t mean you have to hold back on your practice. A grounding asana practice may help you find both bliss and balance.
Here are some poses curated to help you find a sense of stability any time you have an experience that shifts you off center—say, waking from a deep dream, experiencing a surprise, or engaging in a smooching session. These poses also activate your sense of proprioception–your sense of where your body is positioned and how it’s moving in space—to help you feel less wafty. The idea is to become more balanced and settled, so you can focus on whatever you’re inspired to—or need to—do next.
Try a few of these poses when you need to center down after an uplighting yoga session, or practice them as a sequence whenever you need to feel more grounded and secure.
Sukhasana (Easy Pose)
Sit on your mat and cross your legs in front of you. Take a moment to make note of where your body makes contact with the ground. Then notice where your body connects with itself–your feet against your shins, your hands on your knees, your arms against your side body. Breathe naturally, noticing the sensation of your breath coming into and leaving your body. From Sukhasana, find some movement in your upper body while your lower body stays rooted and level.
- Head and neck–Slowly move your head to the left and right, allowing your ear to come toward your shoulder.
- Side Bend–Reach your right hand up and, on an exhale, curve your torso as you reach to the left. Inhale as you rise up, then repeat on the other side.
- Side twist–Place your right hand on your left knee or thigh. Support yourself by placing your left hand behind you, near your left hip. Twist at your waist, moving your shoulders and torso to the left while keeping your hips facing forward. Breathe and explore the sensation in your back. On an inhalation, return to center. Repeat the twist to the opposite side.
Come to all fours, aligning your hips over your knees. Your hands may be under your shoulders, a little out to the side, or a bit ahead. Find a hand placement that feels sturdy and comfortable. Anchor your hands into the mat and press the floor away, keep your shoulder blades moving down your back. Engage your core, lengthen your neck, and look straight down.
Balasana (Child’s Pose)
From Tabletop, press your hips back toward your heels for Balasana. Bring your arms down by your sides with your hands reaching toward your feet. (If this is not comfortable, cross your arms and make a pillow for your forehead.) Allow yourself to soften into the pose, feeling length along your spine and across your back from shoulder to shoulder. Take several breaths. When you’re ready, press up to Tabletop.
Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose)
From Tabletop, walk your hands forward, ahead of and a little wider than your shoulders. Lift your belly to activate your core, then lift your knees a couple of inches off the floor. You may hover here for a moment or two. Then slowly lift your hips up toward the ceiling and press back into Downward-Facing Dog. You may you straighten your legs or keep them slightly bent. Press your hands and feet into the mat and push away from the floor. Stay in this position for a few breaths. Find movement in the position–bending your knees or exploring the position of your shoulder blades. When you are ready, walk forward until your feet meet your hands, or bend your knees and walk your hands toward your feet. Roll up to standing.
Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
Spend some quality time getting grounded in your Mountain Pose. Start with your feet approximately hip-bone width apart and engage your belly as if you are zipping up from your pelvis to your navel. Level your hips and create space in your lower back. Make sure all edges of your feet are rooted to the ground and your arches are lifted away from the mat. You may want to lift your toes, wiggle them, or spread them apart to help you feel the connection between the balls of your feet and the mat. Perhaps shift your weight slightly forward, back, left, and right, to explore your sense of balance. Return to center, extend the crown of your head toward the ceiling, allow your shoulders to move away from your ears and your hands to reach toward the floor.
Vrksasana (Tree Pose)
From Tadasana, shift your weight into your right foot. Start to lift your left foot off the floor, finding balance. Raise your knee as high as you are comfortable. When you feel steady, open your knee out to the left, keeping your hips facing forward. Bring the sole of your left foot to the inside of your right calf or thigh for Tree Pose. Press your leg and your foot gently, but equally, toward your center line. Find balance. Lengthen your spine and reach your head up as you continue to root down. Place your hands on your hips, bring them to Anjali Mudra at your heart, or reach up toward the ceiling.
Virabhadrasana 3 (Warrior 3) variation with movement
From Tree Pose, release your left foot from your standing leg and rotate at left hip to bring your knee back to face the front of the mat. Check your balance. When you’re ready, begin to reach left foot back behind you, straightening both legs as you tilt your torso forward. Continue to tilt until your body creates a straight line from your head to your heel in Warrior 3. Stay in the pose for a few breaths.
If you’d like to play with your balance, you may choose to continue to tilt your body forward, bringing your hands to the mat or to blocks, and lifting your leg up high behind you into Urdhva Prasarita Eka Padasana (Standing Split). When you are ready, return to Warrior 3.
From Warrior 3, bend your right knee and reach your left foot back and down until your toes and the ball of your foot find the floor. Adjust your stance to make sure your back foot has solid contact with the ground. Square your hips, deepen the bend of your right knee, and take a High Lunge, allowing gravity to lower your torso straight down toward the floor. Keep your hands on your hips or reach your arms alongside your ears as you continue to root down with both feet. Your back leg may be straight or slightly bent. Take a moment to notice your breath. When you are ready, step your right foot forward into Tadasana.
Repeat poses 6-8 on the opposite side.
Utkatasana (Chair Pose)
From Tadasana, bring your feet together. Bend your knees and lower your hips, taking care not to arch your low back. Hinge slightly at the hips to bring your body out at an angle over your knees. Keep your hands on your hips or lift them alongside your ears. From Chair Pose, you may lower down into a deeper knee bend, and bring your torso forward until your body is parallel to the ground in Bear Pose. Reach your arms forward in line with your body. When you are ready, return to Tadasana.
Step your feet about three feet apart and turn your toes out. Engage your core, level your hips, and lengthen your spine, reaching the crown of your head toward the ceiling. Bend at your knees, directing them in the same direction as your toes, and lower your torso into a wide-legged squat. You may keep your hands on your hips, bring your arms out to the side parallel to the mat, or raise them overhead. Breathe and play with going deeper into the pose. When you are ready, inhale, release your arms down and straighten your legs.
Malasana (Garland Pose)
From standing, bring your feet a little wider than hip-width apart. Engage your core, bend your knees, and lower your body straight down between your legs. This time, continue to lower your body all the way down into a deep squat, opening your knees wide. You can support yourself with your hands on the mat in front of you or, bring your hands to Anjali Mudra at your heart, open your elbows wide, and use them to press your knees away from each other. When you are ready, reach forward to support yourself with your hands. Come to your knees, then sit back to return to Sukhasana.