Why do we do yoga in bare feet? My feet get cold, my feet are ugly, it’s a pain to have to take off my shoes, what if there is a fire and I need to run out of the studio quickly??? There are both practical and spiritual reasons to leave your shoes at the door and as a bonus its fun! Who doesn’t like running around with naked feet!! Let’s start with the practical reasons and move to the more esoteric.
The number one reason to do yoga barefoot is because most yoga teachers are nosey little busybodies that want to check out your foot hygiene. OK, not really, but it is a good motivation to have good foot hygiene if your feet are going to be naked in public. Do you really think anybody cares about your wonky toe or bad pedicure? Airing out those puppies also promotes foot health!
Feet are an important part of yoga for balance and stability. Most of the yoga poses require us to have our feet firmly in contact with the ground. This is important for maintaining the stability and balance of the body while practicing a yoga pose. The absence of good grip, stability and balance can lead to injury. Feet are the foundation of any standing yoga pose. Shoes not only limit the movement of our feet but also interfere with the proper alignment of our feet, which is essential to get the pose right. Improper alignment of the feet leads to the wrong posture of the body, which can cause immediate injury as well as long term damage.
Shoes also constrict the natural movement of the feet. Shoes can affect the entire “carrying load” “of your body. Any sort of rise in the heel will pitch your entire body weight forward stressing muscles you normally would not need to use when standing.
The footpad, that meaty area just below your toes, is designed to spread out and provide stability. Most shoes hinder that movement and in doing so weaken those small muscles that give us balance. Compromised balance can also lead to injury. Most serious yogis have “wide” feet when they are on the mat. I have always been told I have a narrow foot and a size 12B is hard to come by.
I was once diagnosed with Plantar Fasciitis. While this “disease” sounds very official and serious, the translation from Latin simply means “your foot hurts”. However, after years of yoga and switching to a different shoe style, my feet have widened and my feet stopped hurting! Many European shoes are only concerned with your foot size from the heel to the arch. The footbed properly cradles the foot up to the arch and then it spreads out to let the footpad and toes find their natural position. Yoga does the same thing as well as stretching and strengthening those muscles which means your feet won’t hurt as much.
Yoga is done with your face oftentimes really close to or on the floor. Do you want to put your face in the grime that is tracked in on somebody’s shoes? Who knows where folks have been and what is on the bottom of their shoes. Clean floors make for happy yogis. Nuff said.
Foot massage promotes general health and well-being. Throughout the course of most yoga classes, you are massaging the trigger points in the feet, releasing tension. You are also facilitating the flow of prana, life force energy, from the earth to your body. You are energetically better able to anchor your pose with bare feet in addition to the muscular stability previously discussed.
Taking off one’s shoes shows respect for the studio and your fellow yogis. It is a baring of a part of you and is symbolic of opening yourself to others. By taking off your shoes and standing in an asana class in yoga clothes, you have stripped away much of the costume we all hide behind and you are presenting a closer and perhaps more venerable version of your true self. That takes courage, stand tall and proud!
Finally, there is the spiritual concept that we are One. We are from Source. The source is not complete without you. Yoga is the journey to that realization and we are spiritual travelers. It was a custom in ancient times for the traveler to be welcomed by the host for the night by taking off the traveler’s shoes and washing their weary feet. That simple act showed respect for the traveler’s difficult journey and honored the accomplishment.
Source welcomes us to the mat and recognizes our spiritual journey is oftentimes difficult. Remove your shoes so that you are symbolically prepared to be bathed in the Love Light and Truth of your true self as you practice the union (yoga) of the ego-self with your higher true self.
Now we are doing yoga.
Blair is the co-owner of Yoga Daily in Mt. Pleasant, SC. He is a certified yoga instructor, a recovering lawyer, and a spiritual student. The content of this blog is what Blair considers to be universal truths that span all dogma and religion and it is offered to you in Love and Light. Check out The Daily Yogi for additional blog entries. You can contact Blair at firstname.lastname@example.org. Yoga is but one path to the knowing that we are all one. Please take what resonates with you and leave the rest without judgment or offense.