Nurturing Whole Health
At age 6, my niece, Jennie, who is now a grown woman, used to flip her stuffed "Little Foot" dinosaur into the air while chanting, "Feet, feet; they make your heart beat; when you don't have feet, your heart won't beat; feet; feet; they make your heart beat."
Our feet are essential to our wellness. They can even give us clues to serious health conditions. Being way down low and opposite our head, feet can get lost on our list of self-care. Healthy, whole feet are essential to living a vital, active life. If you have been neglecting or abusing your feet, you may want to think again. Feet need to be fully functional, decade after decade to carry us into an active old age.
"Feet need to be fully functional, decade after decade to carry us into an active old age."
With feet come shoes. Shoes are essential. They allow us to walk and run for miles and stand for a long-day's work. They help cushion our joints and spine and serve as protection from hot pavement, broken glass and other sharp objects that can injure the feet. For many, shoes are also a fun fashion statement which can make or break your look.
Are you relieved to arrive home; slip off your shoes and relax into the freedom of bare feet or cozy, soft slippers? Feet were made to be walked on, bare. Bare feet are designed for supporting our bodies in movement and while standing still.
Many foot maladies are a result of wearing shoes designed for style, not function. Wearing the wrong shoes can result in bunions, calluses, hammer toes, plantar fasciitis, fungus, infections and other debilitating foot conditions. If you have ever had a foot problem with chronic pain or sudden loss of your ability to walk, you may understand from experience how we take out feet for granted.
Walking barefoot is an essential counterbalance to a day spent in shoes. We each know our own bodies, which means, if you have a back condition or are dealing with foot problems, make sure you consult with a doctor or chiropractor if you find barefoot walking to be painful.
There are areas on the soles of the feet, that when stimulated, have a powerful affect on the health of our internal organs. There is a form of therapy for the feet, called Reflexology, based on an ancient reflex map of the feet and hands which connect to the internal organs and other parts of the body. This form of foot and hand therapy has been practiced in China for thousands of years. When specific foot points are stimulated, the result can be very therapeutic for numerous areas of the body. As well, wearing the wrong shoes, can injure the feet and cause problems for other areas of the body, due to the wrong types of pressure and constriction for long periods of time.
Walking barefoot outside, connects us to the magnetic field of the planet. It is a powerful practice called, "Earthing" and is also known as "Grounding." Living in our modern world, we have disconnected from our electrical roots. According to research, this disconnection may be a cause of the increase of chronic illness worldwide. Evidence-based research shows that being grounded supports the health of the body in many ways. Evidence points to our need for the earth’s electrons, for health and well-being. Through the practice of "Earthing", free electrons from the earth’s surface spread over and into the body, where they can have antioxidant effects. These electrons represent an essential form of “nutrient” that if missing, results in health problems similar to a deficiency of a vitamin or mineral. Humans suffer a deficit of "Vitamin N" (Nature) and "Vitamin G" (Grounding).
"These electrons represent an essential form of “nutrient” that if missing, results in health problems similar to a deficiency of a vitamin or mineral. Humans suffer a deficit of "Vitamin N" (Nature) and "Vitamin G" (Grounding)."
Bare Feet Techniques for Whole Body Health:
1) Pamper your Feet: When you first remove your shoes and socks, stretch your feet; wiggle your toes; stand and stretch onto your toes if you can. Next, sit and spend some time squeezing, pressing and massaging your feet and toes. You may notice that this alone helps your whole body feel more relaxed, loose and tightness, aches and pain may lessen.
2) Elevate your legs and feet. Following Step 1, find a comfortable spot on the floor to lie on your back and rest your calves and feet at a higher level like a couch or an ottoman. Elevating your legs and feet increases circulation in the feet and legs, reduces swelling and helps prevent varicose veins. Try this for ten to fifteen minutes after a long day.
3) "Earthing" research demonstrates that connecting the body to the earth allows free electrons from the Earth’s surface to spread over and into the body, where they can have antioxidant effects. Earthing, also known as Grounding, has been shown to improve sleep, normalize the day–night cortisol rhythm, reduce pain, reduce stress, shift the autonomic nervous system from sympathetic toward parasympathetic activation, increase heart rate variability, speed wound healing, and reduce blood viscosity, blood pressure regulation and calms anxiety. Those are some very powerful effects from spending time doing some barefoot walking. It is easily done-walk outside barefoot, to a soft area of grass or dirt and stand or slowly walk for a minimum of 5-10 minutes. Even in the cold and wet- do it! It is a powerful daily practice. Earthing is therapeutic and energizing. It helps you reconnect and ground to the magnetic field of the Earth. We humans spend so much time indoors and in shoes; we rarely connect directly with The Earth in the way that is natural for all mammals. We come from The Earth and connecting in this way is strong Earth medicine.
"We humans spend so much time indoors and in shoes; we rarely connect directly with The Earth in the way that is natural for all mammals. We come from The Earth and connecting in this way is strong Earth medicine."
4) Strengthen Foot Muscles, Joints and Tendons as well as The Body: Spend time, either walking barefoot inside or on the grass. When feet spend most of the day in shoes, muscles and joints don't get a chance to strengthen as the shoe takes over that function. Walking barefoot helps to strengthen your feet and can improve balance. Any barefoot walking you do, will help stimulate pressure points used in Reflexology, which in turn helps to regulate and support corresponding parts of your body. There is an ancient Chinese practice of walking barefoot on river stones. Research demonstrates this practice of walking barefoot on cobblestones can improve functioning in older adults. Results show improved balance and mobility and reduced blood pressure, more so that with regular walking.
5) Increased Blood Flow: Stimulation to the feet equals increased blood flow through feet, legs and into heart. Good circulation improves your ability to heal, stay well and prevents lower extremity problems which can result from poor blood flow.
6) Improve Balance and Posture: Walking barefoot helps to improve balance, posture and prevent common foot injuries, according to researcher, Patrick McKeon, a professor at Ithaca College's School of Health Sciences and Human Performance in New York. He states that "the more people go barefoot at home, in the office or outside, the healthier their feet will be. McKeon believes that the small, often overlooked muscles in the foot play a critical but underestimated role in movement and stability, similar to the core muscles in the abdomen. His research looks at the connection between the large "extrinsic" muscles in the legs and feet and the smaller "intrinsic" muscles in the feet, and the neural connections that send information from them to the brain.
6) Allow for Air Circulation: Shoes make for sweaty, stinky feet- a cauldron for brewing fungus and even infection. Being barefoot allows your feet to get air and dry out, which in turn can help decrease bacteria, foot fungus and odor. A great practice is to relax with your bare foot in the sunshine. The air and warmth feel wonderful and at the same time, toes and feet get a healing treatment from fresh air and sunlight.
All of the above practices are powerful ways to stay balanced, grounded and contribute to the wellness of your whole self.
I highly recommend experimenting with Earthing. I have found direct contact with the earth, to be a potent tool for staying balanced, energized and grounded. Grounding is an important practice as I begin my day, as well as the perfect way to settle and regulate stress levels after an intense work day. The tactile stimulation to my feet, especially cold, wet grass, helps me wake-up, energize and and ground. I gain a heightened awareness of my body, surroundings and my connection to the natural world.
Experiment with your bare feet, in the warm safety of your home and outside in the energizing healing, natural elements. You may discover a wonderful way to promote balance and wellness in your life. Loving and caring for your feet is loving and caring for yourself.
Many Blessings as you walk your path to wholeness, Sari