Sandbags can be one of the most physical ways to explore the sensation of "grounding." Placed on specific areas of the body, they help to ease muscular tension by applying steady pressure for a prolonged time. The grounding sensation is not just physical, though, as these props function similarly to a weighted blanket to encourage a quiet mind and state of being. Here are a few of my favorite ways to use sandbags. Enjoy!
This seems to be the favorite sandbag location for so many of my students - I think that is because they come to class overworked, exhausted, and carrying heavy burdens. Resting with the sandbags on the tops of the shoulders can be a powerful tool to opening up the (typically too-tight) chest and releasing tension throughout the neck and shoulders. This is especially helpful for those needing help externally rotating the arms (which, nowadays, seems to be pretty much anyone who spends any time on a screen). If your shoulders and neck are especially tight, you'll want to start slowly and keep the bags on for just a few minutes at a time. Always remove the bags if you feel numbness or tingling in your hands. Eventually you can work up to 10 minutes in this pose.
Notice the way Margie's palms face up when the sandbags are placed on the shoulders - this is essential to creating space in the chest and upper arms.
Only have one sandbag? You can do this pose one shoulder at a time, or place the sandbag horizontally across your chest and allow the sand to fill the ends of the bag evenly.
Sometimes adjusting the shoulders doesn't quite alter the wrist position, and those who do a lot of typing or caring for a newborn will benefit from support on the forearm and wrist to encourage supination. The eyebag in her palm offers gentle pressure and can feel very supportive and calming. Keep the pressure off of the carpal tunnel and remove the sandbag if you experience and numbness/tingling in the hand.
The belly is one place that many people who practice yoga often have hardened and have difficulty softening. 10 or 20 pounds directly placed on the abdomen can help accomplish this release. An added bonus here is that the weight of the bags can put pressure on the illiopsoas muscles, which tend to shorten with prolonged sitting and contribute to low back pain. Releasing these tense muscles for just 10 minutes can have benefits that you'll feel for days.
This one can be a little tricky to figure out, but once you've done it a few times you will be a pro! In legs-up-the-wall pose, bend your legs and place the sandbag on your feet. Gently slide both legs up the wall simultaneously and you'll notice a grounding sensation that helps guide the tailbone down to the floor. This can be relieving for tired and tight legs. If your hamstrings are particularly tight, make sure you are far enough away from the wall so that your tailbone isn't hanging in the air - there should be contact onto the floor if you don't have a bolster underneath your low back.
There you have four of my favorite ways to practice with sandbags! Of course, there are so many more creative ways to use them - on the low back in child's pose is another classic, or over the hips in baddha konasana. What are some of your favorites?