After a chilly spring, aren’t your feet itching to walk across the grass and bask in the sun? Here’s a good reason to liberate your soles: Today, Wednesday, May 8, is National No Socks Day. Yogis know it’s good to go bare, but on this day we have equal footing with everybody. Here are four extra incentives to toss your socks and love your tootsies:
1. Bare your feet for better health. New yoga students can be shy about leaving shoes and socks by the door, but practicing asana barefoot is not an empty tradition. According to reflexology, the entire body is reflected in the zones of the feet. Energy channels (called nadis in yoga) connected to organs, glands, and other structures are stimulated by acupressure points, often found near joints or indentations along bones. With 26 bones, 33 joints, and 7,000+ nerve endings each, your feet are exquisitely sensitive. Standing poses and movements in pawanmuktasana massage the feet, adding to the health of the entire body.
2. Feel your foundation. To create a strong and balanced base, place the weight on the corners of the feet: the mounds below the big and baby toes, the center of the heel. Grounding unevenly creates a domino effect, putting pressure on the knees, destabilizing the pelvis, curving the spine, etc. A solid foundation is important to the subtle body as well: The foot’s sub-chakras or minor energy centers relate to muladhara, the root chakra, associated with the earth element and feelings of support and safety. Mr. B.K.S. Iyengar said that in learning how to stand properly, “One feels light in body, and the mind acquires agility.”
3. Put a spring in your step. Yogis are familiar with how the three major bandhas influence pranic flow. A similar effect is created by practicing pada bandha, lifting the upside-down hammock of muscles and fascia that form the arch of each foot. Engaging the arches draws energy upward through a network of connective tissue (bathed in a conductive liquid medium called “ground substance”), all the way up the legs to the pelvic region. This why some yoga teachers say prolapsed arches (“flat feet”) may indicate prolapse of the pelvic organs. Grounding down and lifting up—making Tadasana feet—is excellent therapy for fallen arches and plantar fasciitis.
4. Expand your awareness. Focusing on the primary action of an asana, we may forget the humble foot, but asana comes alive when awareness extends to all parts of body/mind. According to the late Georg Feuerstein, it is through the feet that accomplished yogins connect their psychospiritual energy to the earth’s electromagnetic field. Kissing the guru’s feet is a sign of reverence and humility. In forward-bending asanas we echo this gesture, bowing to the inner guru by bringing the head toward the feet.
Your feet say a lot about your health and state of mind. But don’t be shy about baring your soles. In Eastern medicine, keeping the feet healthy preserves the health of the entire body, and practicing yoga can help you put your best foot forward.
What’s your favorite way to treat your feet?