Our bodies are designed to move. We all come from the same lineage, an ancestral line of nomadic hunting and gathering people who spent a great deal of their lives in a near constant state of motion on their feet walking and running across various terrain. Although time has passed and society has undergone radical changes, the design of our bodies is ultimately the same, as are its needs and capabilities. Often, we think of our body in terms of individual parts and pieces rather than the single cohesive unit it is, and the foundation of our structure as an upright creature begins with our feet.
Our feet house a total of 52 bones, a quarter of the number contained within the human body, and 64 joints. These bones and joints are encompassed by our bodies largest organ, the epidermis that is in constant communication with our nervous system and our brain. They are biologically engineered for adaptability, dexterity, and stability as well as to provide key information about our environment. Anatomically, whatever happens in our feet translates to the structures stacked above it, the knee, hip, etc. Today, we live sedentary lives and confine our feet to shoes which don’t allow them to fully express their potential. Working on the mobility, strength, and range of motion in our feet can transform the way we move through not only our yoga practice but also in the day to day of our lives.
Perhaps the simplest way to support the health of our feet is to go barefoot! Shoes create a physical barrier between us and nature. I’m not advocating that you take your shoes off and run through the Sonoran Desert at high noon or wade through 5 feet of snow at the mercy of the elements. As comfy shoe wearing individuals, we have not given our body time to safeguard itself from those aspects of nature. What I am advocating is that you spend more time on your bare feet letting them do the things they are meant to.
Experiencing the world around us through our feet is biologically wired into our systems. Who doesn’t relish the feeling of digging your toes into the sand when that long awaited vacation finally arrives? Who can resist dipping their toes in the creek even when they have no intention of jumping in? How might it feel to start the day with feet freshly washed from the dew clinging to the blades of grass that lie just beyond the front door?
Thich Nhat Hanh, a Zen Buddhist Monk, author, and activist has said, “walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.” How would you move your feet differently if you focused on doing just that? How would that translate to how you move through your life?