Meet Byrdie columnist, Juhi. She’s a wellness and health guru, acupuncturist, Ayurvedic doctor, activist, CEO and founder of The Juhi-Ash Center in New York City’s Upper East Side. Each month, she’ll be answering your questions and sharing her tips on how to leave a healthier, more centered life from a holistic perspective. Got questions? Follow her @juhi says and DM us @byrdiebeauty so she can answer them in her next column.
Dear Juhi ,
Since the start of the pandemic, some days I wake up feeling hopeful for the future and grateful for what I have during this uncertain time. Other days, I feel overtaken by fear and a dark dread of how long this period will last, and how things might never go back to the way they were. What are some things I can do to ground myself when I feel overcome with these thoughts?
In essence, we come from the earth. We even give it the distinction of Mother. Each of us, a member in her delicate family balance. So it only makes sense that the earth has our back. We, however, have been somewhat inattentive in this relationship. The first signs of imbalance were whispers. Slightly off-kilter weather patterns that intensified to storms, earthquakes and tsunamis. I am sure we all know the consequences of not heeding motherly warnings.
Time-out. Banished to our rooms for contemplation. When the need for contemplation is of a more serious nature—remember what happens then? You’re grounded. And here we are, globally grounded. Mother Nature apparently has a sense of irony.
In Ayurveda (translation: knowledge of life), vata, pita and kapha are the three life forces, or Doshas present in each of us. Each are associated with a natural element and human characteristics. It is a system of healing that considers the physical, emotional and spiritual outlook in the context of the universe. For example, vata is air—the main force. It is the mover and shaker of the three doshas. Without it, there is stagnation. Too much of it and you get a frenetic-fritz. Excess vata is caused by stress—as in too-much-to-do, too-much-to-have and too-much-to-achieve. It manifests as anxiety, agitation, sleeplessness, distraction, inflammation, allergies and chronic pain. Sound familiar? We have a collective excess of vata created by our modern lifestyle. Like a sling-shot, we’ve been propelled from the human essentials that keep us grounded. So, how do you balance excess vata? You ground it with nutrients, mindfulness and a little help from Mother Nature. What we are experiencing now during this pandemic is tough love. We’ve literally been sent to our rooms, in our homes. Home, whether it is within walls or within ourselves, is where we begin to ground and evaluate what is precious to us—to acknowledge that we do not simply live on the earth, but are connected to it. How we tend to both is what creates a balanced life and planet. A grounded person realizes what’s important and what is not, and is able to let go that which no longer serves them. That takes a bit of time, but we've got that now, right? Mother Nature is wise.
Grounding / Earthing
The science of grounding or earthing is a therapeutic technique that electrically reconnects you to the earth. I know, the words you and electric in the same sentence might give you pause. But I am not speaking high voltage here. But rather, the gentle beneficial current between you and the earths’ surface. The earth and your resting cells are both negatively charged. Negative ions make you feel good. It’s why you feel good after a day at the beach. You’re grounding. Simply standing next to the sea lowers your blood pressure. The salt air enveloping you in negative ions, draining your body of inflammation. Positive ions make you feel bad. The ones you rack up from pollution, electronics, stress, and poor nutrients. When too many positive ions produce rampant free radicals, you short circuit. It’s why during this isolation, you want to back off from the temptation of 24/7 connection to your technology—or at least just focus on iTunes. Music also grounds you. Even your rubber soled running shoes disconnect you. Rubber stops the flow of electrical energy. It’s why your car is a safe place in lighting storms. It’s also why you want to kick off those Nike’s after a run and squish your feet in the grass.
The earth and your resting cells are both negatively charged. Negative ions make you feel good.
The science of grounding simply means to connect your bare skin to the earth to pump up the negative ions and deplete the positive ions, thus creating a neutral grounded charge. Grounding outside is pretty straightforward. Depending on where you’re quarantining, find a patch of grass, sand, or dirt and you’re good to go. Make sure you’re in a safe place, debris-free and preferably free of pesticides. City-dwellers, asphalt is not the earth—you’ll have to find a park, keeping in mind the six foot rule. You need two points of contact to form any circuit. Hopping on one foot won’t do it. Place two feet on the ground, or any two points of contact, like one foot and one rested elbow. Or, try resting back on the palms of your hands, or a yoga headstand if you can manage it. If you’re lucky enough to be quarantining near a beach, stretch your body full out on the sand (minding it’s not too hot, of course). Massaging wet sand on your skin will add glow to your calm. Walking on the sand gives you the added benefit of acupressure on the soles of your feet and the gift of an earthly pedicure. Human beings are beings of energy. In Ayurvedic medicine, a body’s internal energy is called Prana. The earth is an external energy. Link the two with care and you can experience monk-like moments of zen.
Centering is the broader concept of grounding. Your center is expansive, encompassing your body, mind and spirit. Simply putting your two feet on the ground is not going to be as beneficial if your mind is scattered. So, let’s add meditation to center court. Your thoughts are like tennis balls coming at you like you’re on the court at the US Open. Meditation acts like a tennis net ,stopping the thoughts and teaching you how to distinguish between the balls. Then you choose which is the ace and which is a poor shot. A mantra during meditation gives you quiet focus. A mantra is the steady, soft applause of tennis spectators. Notice I didn’t use a hockey game to illustrate my point. So, where does your spirit come into play in being grounded? Our spirit connects us to each other, to the planet, to ourselves and perhaps to something greater than ourselves. The need to stay connected is paramount to our well-being and the essence of being grounded. After all, it’s all connected, right? If you didn’t respond with a resounding yes, then we need to spend more time together.
Earthing in the Time of Quarantine
Let’s revisit that day at the beach. I know, every day is not a day at the beach. You need options to simulate the physical grounding component. One way is to recreate that experience in your home. Adding Kosher or Himalayan salt to your bath mimics the sea’s detoxifying properties. If you’re not a beach fan, then adding sesame oil has a calming effect on excess vata. Lighting an aromatic candle next to your bath scents the air and gives you a distant focal point, like gazing at the horizon. Go ahead, bring that Mai-Tai in with you and the bikini if it makes you laugh. And there’s nothing wrong with moisturizing with your favorite sunscreen. Now all you’re missing is the breeze. The beautiful thing about your mind is you can imagine it. Or you can accept that nothing is ever spot-on perfect. Focusing on what you do have instead of what you don’t have pulls you into your center.
Choose Helpful Grounding Aids
You can also choose from a plethora of grounding products. How often do your thoughts race when you lie down to sleep, as if your pillow were filled with buzzing bees instead of cotton? Poor sleep is a sure sign that your immune system is shot. While your body benefits from a grounding mat during sleep, your mind benefits from a mantra before sleep. If your body is not rested and your mind is constantly racing, then all that work you’re doing to ground yourself is going to be done through a haze. Grounding needs clear, rested focus. Personally, I use Deepak Chopra‘s InnerSpace sleep mat at night and the meditation chair in the daytime. Both mimic the earths charge, in effect re-charging you. As a child, I was put to bed listening to mantras. When you use a mantra, each time a thought breaks through you start again from the beginning. My competitive nature loves a mantra; I don’t want to keep starting over. That’s added focus to keep the bees at bay.
Centering is giving your mind and body every element it needs to be calm and focused, and that includes nutrients. Maybe you’re cooking your own fresh foods now that you’re home more and maybe you’ve upped your immune system with supplements. It’s advisable to have the freshest food available and the purest supplements you can find. I recommend my line, Pure Essentials. The Ultra Calm is exactly what you need for a calm center.
Be Kind to Yourself
If all this sounds self-indulgent to you, good. This is the time for disciplined indulgence. I don’t want to hear one apology for self-care—not one excuse why you don’t do it. This is your opportunity to make habits of the things that will bring you out of this momentary time with a clearer vision of who you are, what you want and how to get there. Because this is momentary. Enjoyment, appreciation, awareness and compassion are as essential to centering as two feet on the ground. A strong core does not operate from fear. Fear disconnects you from yourself and others. In this moment, you need caution, yes—suspicion, however, serves no one. Sharing kindness strengthens the collective core, and isn’t that what we need now?
Enjoyment, appreciation, awareness and compassion are as essential to centering as two feet on the ground.
The earth’s inner core is solid. It needs to be. It supports the pressure caused by the weight it bears from the earth’s outer layers. See a similarity between you and the earth? I want you to come through this experience with your core as solid as the earth's. I want you to view this stay-at-home as a gift and continue using that gift when this is over. Apparently, Mother Nature is also gracious. Happy Earth Day. May you both be well.