The doshic viewpoint on walking barefoot
by Sandra Radja
There are ample studies that show that connecting via the earth can be very beneficial for your health - barefoot running is considered the preferred mode as a runner tends to strike the foot with the forefoot than the heal thereby minimising the severe impact to the body. For the rest of us slower moving creatures, there is increasing information that "earthing" or connecting the negative ions found naturally in the earth can boost energy, benefit skin conductivity, moderate heart rate variability, reduce stress, improve sleep and improve immunity. Another study even suggested it could help to regulate the endocrine and nervous systems.
All good stuff. But how would Ayurveda view the practise considering the earth is an element in a mix of elements within us. Would earthing/barefoot practises necessarily benefit all?
AYURVEDA AND FEET
In Ayurveda, we acknowledge the connection between the soles of the feet and the head; Dr Lad tells us that there are many marma pathways (energy points) that connect the two. Vagbhata (Astanga Hridya: Uttara tantra: 15: 66-67) says that there are 4 important nerves that run from the soles to the head, affecting the eyes and ears. He describes the practise of Padabhyanga (foot oil massage) as being very beneficial for the referred action it has on the eyes and ears. With daily heat, friction and excessive pressure on the soles of the feet, the eyesight can become afflicted. A daily oil massage can also help with circulatory issues in the lower limbs such as sciatic nerve pain, cramps and varicose veins as well as with dryness, numbness and fatigue.
AYURVEDA AND EARTH
When you read the article by Martin Zucker, a leader in the research of "earthing", he quotes some of the main benefits as anti-inflammatory and calming for neurological disease - simply stated Pitta/Vata disorders. Earth having the qualities of cool, dense and heavy, it makes sense. He makes the following suggestion, noting that it isn't just being barefoot that is important but the type of "earth" element you are conducting the negative ions through -
"To quickly experience Earthing yourself, just walk or sit barefoot on grass, sand, gravel, or unpainted concrete – ground surfaces that conduct energy. Wood, asphalt, and plastic do not conduct. Stay for at least a half hour or so and at the end of that time you will notice you are calmer, and if you had pain to begin with, it will be less, or maybe even gone." - Martin Zucker
Vata is the most fragile of the 3 doshas. They literally lean toward the asymmetrical and awkward along with thin skin and a natural coldness of the body that comes on quickly and seems to reverberate throughout their system. Being Vata they can fall out of balance quickly and lack the natural immunity a Kapha body type might have. Connecting to the earth is wonderful but a warm environment as well as a softer surface are preferable. Vata naturally embodies the qualities of hard so walking on hard surfaces may increase a sense of rigidness.
Pitta does well from the cool and moist environment. Walking in the hot Summer on asphalt is not a good idea and can wreck havoc on your eyes (see above) and even though sand is a natural environment, the heat from the summer sun can make it unattractive for Pitta - it's better to walk in the water alongside the beach shore. Walking in the morning dew on green grass is also a wonderful remedy for boosting immunity and cooling the body and would serve well for those suffering from inflammatory conditions.
Kapha and it's thick skinned sturdy frame is very well developed to walk long distances and through tough terrain. Pain and inflammation may not be their go to for remedy reasons but moving the muscles and increasing circulation would be highly advantageous. Aside from the connection to more earth, Kapha benefits from the actual movement factor and feeling the stones and sticks beneath their feet to invigorate them.
- Textbook of Ayurveda Vol III - Dr Vasant Lad
- Massage Therapy in Ayurveda - Bhagwan Dash