WALK LIKE A YOGI: THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF WALKING BAREFOOT
Walking. We do it every day, in fact it’s the 1st thing we do every morning when we get out of bed. We walk to the bus stop or train station, or if we are lucky enough, we may walk to work. Quite simply, we are born to move. How many of us though actually walk properly? I’m not talking about that strange sport called ‘competitive walking’ but actually consciously and carefully walk in a way which our bodies are designed to do? To this extent, my aim is to show you a new dimension to walking: “How to walk like a yogi”.
When we take a step back from our modern day living in an urban jungle and observe how we walk around in shoes bound by leather and other materials wrapped in a flat sole, you wouldn’t know any different. You know the reaction when you see someone walk around in bare feet in public and the feeling of repulsion. How disgusting, how dirty, how could that be? Quite frankly, it’s “FILTHY”, your mind is screaming inside.
Well it’s actually quite natural if you look at the anatomy of the feet. Let us take us a little closer look. We have three arches across the foot: the medial (inside), lateral (outside) and transverse (across) arch. All of which this is designed to provide us with support as ‘tripods’.
Yes, that’s right: TRIPODS. Not those scary looking creatures from some sci-fi fantasy. It’s the actual anatomy of the feet. We have those 3 points of support which make for a superior walking and balancing experience. Think about how many times you have visited a coffee store and were frustrated by one leg being uneven and madly scrambling for a piece of paper to correct the imbalance. That’s because there are 4 pillars of support in that table. Make one leg unstable and the whole thing goes out of balance.
The above picture clearly demonstrates this. A solid heel, 3 arches and the mound of the big toe and little toe. 3 pillars of support. Unshakeable. Well almost.
That’s where the story relating to going ‘bare foot’ and trying to “walk like a yogi” gets interesting. There’s a whole bare foot movement out there which aims to reconnect ourselves with the land, tapping into the ‘negative charge’ of the planet. David Wolfe claims, citing numerous research studies the benefits of ‘bare foot’ walking, including the treatment of many degenerative diseases and that it could serve as an effective strategy against:
“chronic stress, ans dysfunction, inflammation, pain, poor sleep and more.”
Tias Little, in his fascinating book “A Guide to the Physical & Energetic Anatomy of Yoga” also states that going bare foot helps with absorbing the earth’s magnetic field and negative ions, which can affect the level of biochemical activity in the body, in particular increasing levels of ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitters such as serotonin, resulting in less stress. Walk like a yogi it seems and perhaps you’ll feel better for it, not just like an “Egyptian”.
In my personal experience, I have found the simple experiment of taking a short stroll before bed around the neighbourhood in my ‘barefoot shoes’ (as explained later) a really effective way of inducing a relaxation response in the body. This experience came entirely through walking back late at night after the Notting Hill Carnival (when the streets were still closed), but follow up ‘excursions’ confirmed my belief in the benefits of going barefoot.
From an anatomical perspective, the feet are the base of our foundation. Imbalances in our feet can result in imbalances further up our body. If you wish to see this in action and how you walk, take a look at the soles of your sneakers or work shoes and see if they are worn down on the inside or outside. It’s called ‘heel strike’. At this point you’ll get an idea how you walk. It may just well be contributing to some structural imbalance in your body.
In fact, it gets worse. ‘Flattening’ of the inner arches of the feet, which may in part be due to poor footwear from running or walking, can result in compression on the lower spine. If you see the natural curvature of the spine, then a flattening of the base may result in a collapse elsewhere. Remember, the body is not the sum of its parts, it’s one interconnected unit. A problem in one area is likely to have a knock on affect elsewhere.
It is said that 85% of us suffer from some form of back pain, with in my experience, lower back pain the major cause. This could all be due to how we walk or run and/or the shoes that we wear.
So what does it mean to walk like a yogi in our flat soled shoe universe? Well company Vivobarefoot created virtually that: shoes that allow you to make a deeper connection with the earth, moulding your feet to the ground as you walk. The result: it’s as if you are walking bare foot without you really knowing it. Check us out, as Susanne and I walk together, in our new Vivobarefoot African savannah inspired shoes.
Granted, it takes a little bit more time to get used to wearing them as you start to feel your soles as you walk, but the end result is worth it: Healthy soles, healthy body, healthy mind.
Walk like a yogi indeed. It may really be that simple.
What do you think? Have you noticed anything with your shoes or complained of back issues, which may be due to problems with your feet?