Monday, June 9, 2014

Morning taiji, barefoot in the wet grass ... bliss

For a few years now I have been barefoot as much as possible. I'm not sure how it happened. I suppose it was when I began taiji and bought some Feiyue martial arts shoes (I blogged about it in 2010). These are very minimalist "sneakers," what we used to call in England plimsoles, or pumps, when I was a kid. (Tricky, because in the US pumps refer to women's shoes with heels.)
Feiyue shoes have no support, no arches, minimal cushioning. At first they felt really weird. For years I had been used to shoes that encased my feet, offering very little flexibility.
In time I really took to the minimalist shoes.
I wondered whether this would damage my feet. For years I had bought into the view that feet needed to be overprotected. My feet very rarely touched the ground without shoes, often with very thick spongey soles. So I did some research and discovered the "barefoot revolution." People all over the place were throwing off their shoes and connected with the Earth again.
One of the leaders of the revolution was "Vibram Fivefingers." I bought some and took to them immediately. I hiked in them; ran in them; played squash in them. The trouble with them is that they are very strange to look at. You get funny looks when you where them. And they don't go with suits and bow ties! So at work, traditional shoes, outside work Fivefingers.
Then I discovered Softstar Shoes. They make a perfect minimalist shoe that go perfectly with more formal attire. I bought a pair, then another, and never looked back!
So, its barefoot or almost barefoot for me, all the time. I tried a pair of my former shoes. Ouch! I couldn't walk in them. So alien after being barefoot. My feet feel great. I suffered from sore arches before going barefoot. That has now gone.
Of course, it takes a little while getting used to, and the "experts" say you should go barefoot incrementally so your feet get used to the new way of walking. It is different. I realized early how very much I was used to striking hard with my heels, and thus jarring my whole body.
All by way of saying that last night we had major rain. So today taiji, barefoot, on the wet grass. Sensually a treat!
Recently, I have been reading about the "earthing" or "grounding" movement. In brief, it says that our modern footwear has insulated us from Earth. The human body is charged positively. The Earth negatively. Traditionally, every day humans balanced the bioelectricity of the body by "earthing" connecting with the ground. Recently, we have lost the connection, insulated against it by rubber and plastic. The problem: the imbalance is connected to inflammation and its associated maladies.
Earthing is, I discovered, a bonus! Healthy, strong feet by being barefoot, and bioelectrical body balance.
Interestingly, the research suggests that the main "grounding" point of the body is the ball of the foot—the bubbling well point, K1, in Traditional Chinese Medicine. How cool! East meets West. It gives a whole new perspective to "rooting" in taiji.
So, try going barefoot. Your feet will thank you. You body will benefit!

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