At an Ayurvedic retreat in India recently, it was recommended that I walk on the grass barefoot. Later when I was wandering around the garden, post thunderstorm, it felt a tad awkward to discard my flip flops, but when I did, it felt so good. Surprisingly good in fact. The grass was velvety and springy underneath me, my feet and toes free to spread, my legs and whole body open to move naturally. I had this plugged in sensation and was totally energised as a result. It wasn’t just physical, but emotional too. It reminded me of all the long hot summers as a child being able to run around barefoot – the freedom and joy it gave me. Back then, the Doctor had recommended to my mum that both my sister and I walk around without shoes and socks whenever possible as a way to exercise our feet and toes, to develop strong arches. The Indian Ayurvedic Doctor had advised it more as an emotional experience – to feel connected to the earth – for a sense of grounding.
The idea of ‘grounding‘ is much talked about in yoga. That each posture works by a gravitational pull – feet rooted to the floor, the weight of the lower body from pelvis down pushing into the earth, the rest of the spine extending upwards towards the sky (or it might be hands and feet on the ground, sit bones reaching upwards in the case of Downward Facing Dog, the classic ‘v’ shaped inversion). Yogis call this the two way stretch, and it has a deeper spiritual meaning too – transcending our earthly selves to higher consciousness. The Lotus flower being the visual analogy, with its roots extending deep into the mud beneath the water, disguised by its flat leaves floating on the surface and beautifully exotic petals opening up to the light.