Connecting with the earth by Sarah Burgess

Are you ever surprised by just how old you are?  When I sat down to write this the first thing I did (for research purposes, obviously) was google “I want to be a tree advert”.  Apparently that was 1989.  WHAT?  Side note: whenever my dad hears anything about The Prudential, he always says “The man from the Pru” which I have also just googled, and those adverts started in 1949, so now I feel quite young again.  Anyway, the tree thing resonated with me all those years ago, partly because I was going through a hippy phase (still am) and partly because I have always been really good at standing on one leg, which is one of the things that tree pose in yoga requires.  It was tree pose that lead me to include yoga in 19 ways to stay connected with nature during Covid-19.

For those of you who don’t know, tree pose in yoga (Vrksasana in Sanskrit) is where you stand on one leg, really connecting with the earth through the standing foot, and bring your other foot to rest against your other leg, either low down  on your ankle, or higher up against your other thigh if you’re feeling as strong as a giant oak.  As a pose it represents balance, and as you stand in it, you have a really strong connection with the earth.  I think we can all agree that some balance and a connection with the earth have been good things to have over the last few months.

Until COVID-19 I think a lot of us associated physical activity with working out in a gym, however research has shown that taking exercise in nature has additional benefits.  Information on the Woodland Trust website says that exercising outdoors is particuarly good for your mental health, and that in comparing different exercise settings, studies showed that regular use of woods or parks for physical exercise reduced the risk of poor mental health, whereas no such pattern was found in non-natural settings like gyms.

So while gyms continue to be closed, how about taking your exercise outside.  Of course I expect most of you have already discovered this by taking walks in a park or if you’ve got a garden, by doing some gardening .  Gardening definitely counts as exercise.

Walking (or standing) barefoot on grass has its own benefits too,  so if you have access to your own patch of grass where you know you’re not going to stand on / in anything unpleasant, that’s a simple way of connecting with nature.  When I started to look into this, I was surprised by the information I found.  I expected it to be related to the benefits of walking barefoot generally, mainly for your feet and posture with some added benefits of actually feeling the ground underneath your feet.  However what I found was that there is a phenomenon called grounding or earthing which happens when humans are in contact with the Earth’s subtle electric charge.  Apparently research has shown that barefoot contact with the earth can produce nearly instant positive changes in physiological measures including improving sleep and lowering stress.

There are many reasons connecting with nature is good for mind and body as I’ve talked about over the last number of weeks, but electricity was one that I didn’t know I’d be mentioning until now.  Obviously please do your own research and don’t take any health advice from me, but if you need me, I’ll be walking round the garden without any shoes on, and hoping for a restful night tonight.  

Finally, as you can see from the photo above, I’ve also been concentrating on the grass for my instagram project. It was a great excuse to buy a very cheap macro lens for my phone and I’ve been getting immersed in close up nature photography.  Turns out this is a great way of forgetting the world and getting into a state of flow.  Drop me a line at sarah.burgess@vaslan.org.uk with some nature photos of your own.