Stay on Solid Ground
We are transplants to the midwest from the east coast. Our first summer here we quickly realized summers are so precious to Minnesotans that any time they aren’t forced to be indoors they will be outside - in any capacity possible. I like this about them. (I guess I should say “us” as I have become one of “them”!) A lot of this time involves travel to the “cabin”. I grew up in New Jersey where summer meant we spent time “down the shore”, and we visited our “cottage” in New Hampshire.
Whether you’re trekking to Europe or hiking in your backyard, the travel of this time of year can be both exciting and exhausting. We take on new adventures and the challenges that come with them (lost luggage, mosquitos, car sickness, whiny children...) I grew up moving too much as a kid, and though I love the freedom of travel, I can easily become “ungrounded”. If you’re like me, and could use a sense of solid ground beneath your feet even while you spread your wings, let me share some of my favorite ways to stay grounded, keep that root chakra healthy and feel more than ready to take on the next great expedition.
Signs you’re feeling “ungrounded” (or your root chakra is out of balance)
• Feeling lost, listless, restless or unsupported.
• Feeling homesick.
• Feeling a need to exert control (over organizing, over preparing)
• Anxiety disorders.
• Nightmares and dreams of being overwhelmed.
• Constipation, diarrhea.
• Lower back, leg or feet issues.
• Bladder problems.
Somewhere between heaven and earth. In my Women’s Health and Trauma Informed Yoga classes I sometimes invite students to feel the earth beneath their sitting bones and the heavens above the crown of their head. Pause here, and notice how perfectly you sit between heaven and earth, just where you should be.
As parents, travelling is often equal parts work and relaxation. It can be easy to neglect ourselves and what we need if the face of itchy bug bites and upset tummies, unexpected weather and traffic that lasts longer than the toddler’s tablet battery. Come to this imagery if you can, whenever you can and remember that you are poised between heaven and earth: you won’t be bogged down by the weight of everything and you won’t be swept away. You are here, now. Feel your feet or whatever is touching the ground. Take 3 deep breaths.
While you’re breathing, consider some earthy essential oil scents (in a roll on or inhaler so as not to bother other passengers/travelers etc.) Choose what’s calling to you, and I would suggest earthy elements for grounding - patchouli, rosemary, black spruce (added bonus of supporting adrenals!)
In particularly hairy moments, try circular breathing: Inhale for a count, hold for same count, exhale for same count, hold breath out for same count). This is a commonly used yoga breath, but also recommended for grounding after trauma by experts like Suan Pease Bannit who wrote about it in The Trauma Toolkit . Walk it off or just sit down.
Getting your feet on actual earth as soon as possible helps too. Take your shoes off as soon and often as you can. With or without those shoes, take brief walks outside, even if it’s freezing. I learned this from Minnesotans and read this quote in How to Hygge , “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. ” So make sure to pack appropriate clothes to spend some time outdoors and take at least a walk around the block, without your phone of course.
Unroll your mat. If you’re not traveling with a yoga mat, a towel will do. Come into a child’s pose balasana (Sit back on your heels, lean forward and rest your forehead on the floor with arms extended forward, or back by your sides reaching for your heels). This causes the “rest and digest” system of the parasympathetic nervous system to “turn on”. Take at least 5 breaths here, slowly, in and out of your mouth.
Another great choice to shake it all off: Viparita Karani or Legs Up the Wall Pose. This posture can help soothe a racing mind, flush lymph fluid to relieve swelling aching feet and legs and help cure insomnia. Try it for 5-20 minutes before bed. Sit on the floor near the wall, scoot one hip up close to the wall and then lie back and swing your legs onto the wall. The closer you are to the wall, the deeper the inversion, the farther away the more gentle the pose. *If you’re pregnant make sure to elevate your hips or upper body to take pressure of the uterus off the vena cava nerve. If you have your period,skip this pose and try supta bada konasana (Reclined Bound Angle - lying flat on your back with the soles of your feet together and knees wide).
When you can’t get it out, get it in. In addition to that essential oil blend you’ve got, try some candles. Candles and candle gazing, in the grand tradition of the danish hygge , have a calming and cosying effect. Turn some on at night. If you can make bonfires outdoors or fires in doors. Fresh flowers, especially local to where you are, help to keep the indoors feeling welcoming and earthy, and therefore your brain centered on the here and now. The olfactory sense is our strongest memory sense, and we likely associate campfire smells and flowers to good happy things.
When you are stuck inside, bring your journal and jot down a few lines every so often. Maybe give yourself one question to answer each time you do. For e.g. “What do I see around me right now and how does it make me feel?” or “What does this make me think of?” Notice your breath as you do, notice how your body feels , notice what emotions are coming up for you in that moment.
Speaking Safe & Sound. Choose a mantra that helps you!
• I have everything I need.
• I am safe and secure.
• I can imagine the security of the earth beneath me.
• I am supported.
• I have room to breathe and live.
• I am in no hurry, as I have all the time in the world to get where I need to go.
Let’s be real. For some of us, those of us who have been through trauma or other challenges, our bodies remember much more than we do. It might not necessarily the traveling that can trigger you but the mere disruption of regular routine. I’d recommend seeing a therapist and/or yoga teacher trained in trauma sensitive yoga or trauma informed yoga for a plan to enjoy your trips as much as possible!
Keep it together. It’s important to do things on your own, even for tiny moments, as a mother. (Can I get an amen to hiding in the bathroom?!). But on trips when it’s not possible as often - bring your kids into what you’re doing. Teach them circular breathing and grounding yoga postures. Explaining to them what you do when you feel overwhelmed will help them learn to rely on these tools for themselves in the future. Our children learn to handle their emotions by watching us handle ours. Might as well do it together!
And remember mama, it’s all a journey, right? Even the best of us lose our heads every once in awhile. Leave the chastising voice behind and invite your feet back down to solid ground. Bon voyage!