A lot of teachers use the expression ‘root to rise’ in their classes. When I was new to yoga, I was pretty dismissive of this. It sounded a little flowery to me. Then one day during a slower class, I found myself feeling much more grounded and firmer in my foundation than ever before, and I finally understood the expression. Ever since then, this simple expression guides how I practice and teach, because it adds so much to both yoga poses and to my daily life.
So what does it mean? Why does it matter?
- Strong Foundation: This cue is a reminder from the teacher to work from your foundation upwards. Start paying attention to the part of your body that is touching the floor. By firmly pressing downwards, you can activate not only the muscles in this area but many muscles and tendons connecting to this. This gives you a firmer foundation from which to construct your pose, aiding with balance, focus and strength-building.
- Safer Alignment: By purposefully bringing your attention to the part of your body that meets the mat, you can actively engage other muscle groups with greater ease. For example, in tree pose when you have a firm connection to the floor in your standing foot, this allows for greater ability to engage your core, and the muscles of the raised leg. It also facilitates a safer posture by taking weight from the lower back and hips through the strength of the standing leg.
- Confidence and Peace of Mind: By actively bringing your attention to the part of your body that is rooting down to the ground, we intuitively feel more grounded and at ease. Many meditation and stress-reduction techniques include placing both feet on the floor. Strong public speakers and government leaders are often coached into speaking with both feet on the ground. The reason is that psychologically and physically we feel safer with our feet planted. This sense of security can allow the central nervous system to ease up a little, which helps to build confidence and peace of mind.
Next time your teacher instructs you to root to rise, or even as you sit / stand reading this blog post, get curious about where and how you distribute weight in your foundation. This will give you a clue as to how you habitually hold your stance. If you have your legs crossed, or you are standing with the weight on one leg – take a moment, breathe and place both feet on the floor. Root down firmly, and allow the strength of your foundation to ripple upwards.
Hope you have a grounded, rooted and peaceful Monday yogis.