01 March 2014

The Foot as Way of Life

"We don't use our feet to their full capacity.  Remember when I said earlier that the foot is the only part of your body that is evolved specifically for the purpose of having a relationship with the earth?  Well that kind of begs the question of: What earth? The earth that was present when this thing evolved is not present for most of us. It's been leveled, it's been paved, it's been predictable. Nature has given us these all-terrain vehicles which we never take off-road." -Leslie Kaminoff 

I love Leslie Kaminoff.  Even if you don't have the slightest interest in yoga, his understanding of the body and his method of delivering what can be a dry subject with too many systems and parts to remember is interesting and personal.

That being said, I found his explanation on going barefoot enlightening, not just for feet, but for life in general. 

Apparently, 75-80% of the body's proprioceptors (those mechanical receptors in a joint structure which delivers information to the nervous system) are located in the ankle area. Predictable surfaces (such as carpet, flooring, paved streets, sidewalks, etc.) weaken these sensory receptors.  He explains how shoes, in fact, do not support nor create strong feet but actually damage feet in the long-term, for example, by stomping when walking to create that sensory reception not felt in on foot "muffled" (his term) by a shoe.  Barefoot walking does feel lighter on the feet, no?  By muffling (shoeing) the feet, those ankle proprioceptors are not exercising their fullest receptive potential. 

It should come as no surprise, then, that one of the best ways to clear up mental fog and return to the personal center would be to go outside and stand barefoot on Earth.  It's not just about feeling grass beneath your toes (sure that's part of it), but it's about awakening and re-invigorating those nerves on the foot pad and the proprioceptors of the ankle for the body to re-establish its support base, both physically and spiritually.  

We know that it is crucial to have a strong core for physical fitness and strength.  By strong core, we don't mean 6-pack abs (if that's what you mean, then you're sorely mistaken and setting yourself up for injury) but a strong trunk consisting of both abdominal, back, and side oblique muscles.  A stronger body trunk allows for greater weight-bearing with less injury for its limbs.  We are told to lift with our knees not with our back, but a strong body trunk supports much of that weight.  

Just as it is with the feet, the foundation for almost all our movement which bears immense weight every day; strong feet with sharp proprioceptors will prevent and decrease ankle injuries.  Go barefoot for a day, then see what happens in your work out.  My bet is that your squats will feel more stable, your lunges more powerful, and your running a bit lighter.

And go barefoot for the greater, personal reason: To re-connect the energetic relationship of the Self to the Earth and return empowered, centered, and restored.  Clearing up that head fog and confusion is like a home-coming, returning to a personal center to understand the new gains and loss of the current Self so that we can move forward  in greater awareness and truth.

So, just do it--go barefoot.  Feel the Earth, search out unpredictable and naturally-occurring surfaces.  Your ankles, your fitness, your greater Self will thank you.

You can watch the rest of Leslie Kaminoff's video on the anatomy of the feet in regards to barefoot walking here.

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