What's the first thing you think of when you hear barefoot walking? Tree hugging hippies with dirty feet? That was my first thought too (mind you it's high time I accepted that I am a hippy myself now, I sit here in India studying yoga sporting pants covered with elephants wearing crystal mala beads and my hair drenched in sesame oil) but after a bit of research I was quite surprised at how many benefits walking around with no shoes on really has on the body.
Have you ever wondered why it feels so good to get away and connect to nature, escape from all the hustle and bustle of city life and taking a break somewhere serene? Why everyone wants a holiday to a tropical island, to head up into the mountains or out in the country somewhere green and lush to rest and recharge? If you think about it logically we all come from the earth, our mother and father created our lives but fundamentally we are grown and nourished from the planet itself. There's something in anchoring ourselves back into nature that is healing. We also went a fair few years without wearing Nike's or Birkenstocks before footwear was even invented. So it only makes sense that connecting to the earth or "grounding" in our most natural form without any buffer in between is the best thing for us and this has been proven scientifically to be true for quite some time now.
Studies have shown that the act of strutting without footwear neutralises the negative energy in the body and aids feelings of anxiety or stress and even changes the electrical activity in the brain. We are bioelectrical beings living on an electrical planet and that point in itself is pivotal to understanding how important it is to be "plugged in". The natural charge of the earth supports us when our bodies are in direct contact with it and helps us to absorb the energy that we have all become quite disconnected from by wearing shoes, sleeping in beds and walking on man made surfaces. There's nothing better than feeling sand between your toes whilst walking along the shores of a beautiful beach. Now I know the science behind why, it means a lot more. I now understand the logic behind my reasoning for being so drawn to feeling the earth beneath my feet and grounding my energy in it.
By walking in nature you allow yourself to unwind, disconnect and centre yourself back to your authentic state of innate wellbeing. It brings a balanced feeling to your mind, body and soul! In particular "Earthing" as it is called means to walk barefoot on a natural surface ie sand, grass or soil. Essentially nature walks are not only beneficial to calming the mind from a psychological perspective, science has proven that it has a positive effect from a physical standpoint as well! Some physical benefits of barefoot walking are:
- Reduces inflammation - earthing brings about a detoxifying effect for the entire body thus removing and aiding inflammation that causes all sorts of diseases and conditions
- Reflexology - works on healing and balancing every area of the body via relieving stressed nerves by stimulating acupuncture points on the bottom of the feet which also are connected to every organ in the body
- Sleep cycle - due to the release of stress/anxiety the body is able to relax and enjoy a deeper sleep cycle
- Reduces chronic pain - by strengthening feet and legs as well as the hips and spine and reducing inflammation pain levels decrease
- Boosts the immune system - as well as the physical act of walking the breath also is synchronised and therefore the endocrine and nervous systems are calmed bringing about a healing effect on the entire body
- Strengthens and stabilises the entire body - walking in general is great but going barefoot and by walking consciously on the feet in the correct way ie using the outer parts of the foot rather than allowing the ankle to roll into the arch of the foot it distributes the weight of the body evenly and allows the body to correct itself (if you're anything like me and have worn heels for half your life you'll understand) and in turn works on building a solid structure and correct alignment
This being said it isn't always easy to motivate yourself to get into a routine of doing it daily (I know I'm definitely struggling as I am allergic to grass and there's no sand where I am currently) so if you can't find the time to walk daily for 30mins (as my yoga teachers recommend at Atmavikasa Centre of Yogic Sciences) then at least try to spend 10 mins in the mornings when you first wake up (maybe while you eat breakkie) outside with your bare feet on the ground. You may need a pedicure a little more often but your body will thank you.