The Beauty of Being Barefoot

movement Sep 15, 2020

This Blog is all about the benefits of being barefooted and how your footwear and your yoga practice can benefit more than just your tootsies! We don't often pay too much attention to our feet, but if you think about what they go through on a daily basis then perhaps we should take a bit more care of them... and I don't mean popping to the nail salon to get a quick pedi (although that is a bit lush!).

Have you ever considered that pain in the hips, pelvis or lower back may be a sign of something going on with the style of shoe that you wear regularly?

Along with our yoga practice, we can take many simple lifestyle steps to improve the mobility and strength of our feet. Inside our homes, it is valuable to walk barefoot whenever possible. Both for the sake of a clean house and to develop a greater feel for the surfaces under our feet, it is a good practice to leave shoes at the door. When barefoot at home, we can incorporate all sorts of foot yoga into our daily routines. Try lifting the arches and spreading your toes in the kitchen while waiting for your morning toast to pop or the kettle to boil.

When people begin yoga, it is common for them to discover they have lost connection with their feet. For many, their feet seem so far away that they feel foreign - this could be said for my feet at most 6.30am classes :))
The practice of yoga postures can transform our relationship with our feet. Practicing barefoot, we develop greater feel for the ground below. As we become more intimate with our feet, they also become stronger and more mobile. When we begin yoga, we have little idea how confined and restrained our feet have been over the years. 
As we free up our feet, we tap into a reservoir of potential energy. 
 
Almost every yoga pose engages the feet and reflects their actions up through the body in a slightly different way. In Triangle Pose, for example, the work of the foot needs to be slightly different than in either Standing Forward Fold or Downward Facing Dog.
 
Once you cultivate mobility and support in your foot you engage the foot this way throughout almost all postures. In forward bends, twists, and backbends—even in inversions when the feet are both extending into space—you sustain the same lifting action to pull energy in through the feet. Without this engagement through the feet, the thighs, hips, and low back lose the intelligence they need to stay active.
 
It can be said that the soles of the feet and the pelvic floor mirror each other. Elasticity and postural tone in the feet help determine tone in the pelvic floor. Especially as we age and the weight of the internal organs draws them down inside the abdominal compartment, building good tone and lift in the feet helps tone the perineal muscles and prevent gravity from getting the best of us.
 
When you hear us say phrases like 'root to rise', 'ground down through the big toe, little toes and heel' we're encouraging you to feel the distribution of weight evenly throughout the feet (see below)
 
 Some of the benefits that a regular yoga practice can bring to having feet that are able to move freely are:
  • Improved circulation to the feet - Even under normal circumstances you don’t get the same level of blood flow in your extremities than your core areas. If you’re overweight, have diabetes, or suffer from various other chronic diseases, the circulation to your feet may be even lower. Yoga is such a great and safe way to get your blood pumping better to the feet and toes, cells get the nutrients they need more efficiently and unlike high impact exercise, like running, the risk of injury is limited.
  • Better balance - balance is a skill like any other. You can improve it with practice, but it will decline quickly if you don’t. Unfortunately as we age, people tend to become less balanced and have a tendency to fall, in later life these falls can be fatal or be the beginning of a downward spiral where less physical activity means even poorer balance, mobility and independence. Yoga is perfect for balance training and reconnecting with the feet. Use it or lose it folks!
  • Increased flexibility & strength - strength and flexibility in the ankles and feet are a lot more important than most people realise. Strong, flexible ankles are critical for balance and yoga gently allows you to stretch the joints and engage the stabilising muscles - just think about all the good stuff happening next time you are standing on one leg!
  • Relief from pain - those of you that have suffered with a painful foot condition (planter fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis etc) will know that stretching the tight muscles, tendons and ligaments of the calves, ankles and feet can help recovery. Yoga gives you a great opportunity to gently loosen and stretch your tired, sore and inflamed soft tissues. Remember too, that foot pain doesn’t always stay in the feet. Discomfort and the foundation of your body can change the way you stand and walk and force other parts of your body to work harder to compensate - may be you can ‘yoga away’ pain in your knees, hips and back too :)

Check out this list of familiar poses that can all help with your trotters! You'll see most of these in our sequencing at some point, and now you can spend a quiet moment of reflection and give thanks to the feet and ankles when you're there :))

  • Chair Pose
  • Downward-Facing Dog
  • Extended Hand-To-Big-Toe Pose
  • Triangle Pose
  • Half Frog Pose
  • Mountain Pose
  • Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose
  • Warrior II Pose
As I mentioned earlier, considering your footwear may be a great way to find further comfort, balance and reduce pain. Chris, Rosie and I all have at least one pair of Vivo Barefoot shoes - which incidentally come in all shapes and sizes: from work shoes, to hiking boots, to trainers and many more (no I'm not on commission!)
I recently purchased mine from 
http://www.sportpursuit.com and received a nice hefty discount #winning.
 
Here's a little bit of why they're so ace....
  • Designed to allow your feet to move like feet. Ultra thin sole protects but lets thousands of nerve endings do their job. You can bend, balance and bounce to your heart's content.
  • Wide - a wide foot shaped shoe allows your toes (and crucially your big toe) to provide a stable foundation for natural, healthy movement.
  • Thin - a thin, puncture-resistant sole helps maximise the sensory feedback available to the brain from thousands of nerve endings in each foot. 
  • Flexible - allows all the muscles, tendons and ligaments of the foot to load, splay and recoil, putting a natural spring in your step.
Plus they're made from natural renewable materials, and made to last. They contain renewable resources to make for a durable shoe with natural water resistance and easy on the planet, with fewer chemicals and less waste.
 
So there you have it - put your best foot forward and look after those plates of meat.
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