The Benefits of Going Barefoot
Ever notice how you feel so energized and vibrant while walking on the beach? You probably attributed that to being on a beach vacation where your stress literally evaporated upon sinking your toes in the silky sand, inhaling that salty ocean air and soaking up some vitamin D elixir from the sun’s healing rays, right? Well that’s partially true. But there’s something else going on that’s creating this optimal state of health. What’s the magical ingredient? Electrons.
Our feet contain a rich, intricate network of nerves and acupuncture points and are especially adept at picking up free electrons from the earth’s surface. It’s called barefoot or caveman medicine, and walking barefoot – aka earthing or grounding – may be the easiest, simplest and cheapest way of shifting your body back to an optimal state of homeostasis and health.
Electrons: The Missing Link
The gist of the earthing theory is simply this: the earth is negatively charged, so when you ground, you’re connecting your body to a negatively charged supply of energy. And since the earth has a greater negative charge than your body, you end up absorbing electrons from it. These free electrons intercept the firestorm of free radicals (that create oxidative damage and inflammation) in our body and extinguish this fire. When you walk barefoot, you’re literally soaking up millions of electrons that decoagulate and detoxify your blood. So instead of your blood being all viscous and thick, like ketchup, it becomes free flowing, like red wine. Earthing also shifts the sympathetic nervous system back to the point where it has more tranquility, and clinical studies have shown that earthing helps with everything from inflammation to insomnia, and from autoimmune to heart disease.
You may find that walking barefoot on either moist grass or the beach immediately produces a warm, tingling sensation or a sense of well-being. This contact can trigger health benefits, often within minutes. These benefits include relieving muscle tension, headaches and menstrual symptoms. Earthing can also boost the immune system, combat inflammation, reduce stress hormones and improve blood pressure. For people who are ill – and therefore have the most free radicals – the benefits can be dramatic. Those who are healthy usually report sleeping better and having more energy.
A report in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine confirmed these benefits:
“It is well established, though not widely known, that the surface of the earth possesses a limitless and continuously renewed supply of free or mobile electrons as a consequence of a global atmospheric electron circuit. Wearing shoes with insulating soles and/or sleeping in beds that are isolated from the electrical ground plane of the earth have disconnected most people from the earth’s electrical rhythms and free electrons.”
“A previous study demonstrated that connecting the human body to the earth during sleep (earthing) normalizes the daily cortisol rhythm and improves sleep. A variety of other benefits were reported, including reductions in pain and inflammation. Subsequent studies have confirmed these earlier findings and documented virtually immediate physiologic and clinical effects of grounding or earthing the body.”
The concept of earthing is gaining momentum today because of the efforts of Stephen Sinatra, MD, a holistic cardiologist, and Clinton Ober and Martin Zucker, coauthors of Earthing, a new book about the health benefits of grounding.
For Dr. Sinatra, earthing is the most important health discovery made in his 40 years of practicing medicine. He believes that modern life has disconnected us from the earth in many ways. We live and work in multistory buildings high off the ground and spend our nights on thick mattresses far from the earth. This separation from the surface of the earth reduces our connection to its charge, which has resulted in our bodies being deficient in electrons, says Dr. Sinatra.
At the same time, modern life has brought with it a host of medical conditions associated with chronic inflammation, including heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and cancer. As Dr. Sinatra and his colleagues see it, inflammation in the body is out of control, mainly because we have lost contact with the earth. What a fascinating concept!
How to Get Grounded
Simply slip off your shoes and plant your bare feet in the ground for thirty minutes. When you first start adopting a barefoot lifestyle, it’s best to initiate on naturally softer grounds like grass, dirt paths and sand (instead of cement, asphalt or hardwood). When the muscles and joints of your foot become more stable, and the skin on the bottom of your feet thickens, you’ll be able to handle progressively more time barefoot, and on a wider variety of surfaces. Although walking, wading or swimming in mineral-rich ocean water is ideal (oceans are highly conductive, more so than lakes), the key is to have direct, sustained skin contact (any part of your body will do) with the surface of the earth. This is why gardening, where you put your hands in and out of the earth, does not provide quite the same benefit.
Some Dos & Don’ts:
- Do walk on grass that is slightly moist, as the water helps conduct the electrons; dry grass won’t be as effective
- Don’t walk on grass or soil that is littered with dirt, dog/bird droppings etc. Because the soles of our feet are very effective at absorbing the earth’s energy, they can also absorb toxins — use commons sense before you ditch your shoes. Pristine forest or beach soil is ideal
- Do ground, especially after flying, as our bodies bioelectrical rhythms are thrown out of balance in flight and grounding restores that electrical equilibrium
- Do wash your feet with soap and water, after grounding, to get rid of soil detritus that you may have picked up
- Don’t go barefoot if you have any open cuts/sores on your soles, as that can be an entry point for parasites/fungi
Grounding: Radical Discovery or Hippie Hoax?
They say the most radical ideas are the most simple ones but, I must confess, after perusing through all this grounding literature, it seemed too good to be true. Does grounding really work or is it something dreamed up by barefoot radical hippies?
I decided to toss my inhibitions about parasites and calloused feet (along with my trusted flip flops), and give this barefoot medicine a real try. The truth is that I’ve been going through an egregious period of stress with my mom’s lung cancer diagnosis, and have been on an insatiable quest to discover new stress relieving strategies that I can add to my go-to stress toolbox when I’m practically ready to tear out my hair! And I figured, why not give this a try for a month?
A yoga teacher suggested this barefoot medicine, attesting to the sense of grounding it has provided her, “We need to feel the earth – to contact it, to connect to it directly. It brings us back into ourselves and reminds us of our place.”
Impelled, I went home, kicked off my sandals, and set afoot. I took each step slowly, consciously, deliberately. I’ll admit that at first it was because I was afraid of stepping on something sharp or prickly, but then it was because it felt so good to be aware of my feet – and most of all, to be aware of the earth underneath them. There were a million sensations – blades of grass, dried leaves, mud, dew, dandelion flowers – tingling my feet as the over 200,000 nerve endings were actively responding to the ground. It was living reflexology.
I’ve since been walking barefoot in the park across my home every day (keeping an eye out for errant dog poop), and over the past weeks, I must admit, my vague sense of anxiety has all but disappeared and my stress is definitely down from a level eight to a manageable four or five. I’ve also been sleeping better.
Walking barefoot upon the earth is like a silent prayer. Every blade of grass and every dew drop invites you into the present; invites you to be conscious and connected to your world. There is a secret language spoken between the bottoms of your feet and the ground below it – a direct communication between spirit and earth that the mind can barely fathom.
As it turns out, the benefits of barefooting it are not simply of the esoteric spiritual kind either. Walking barefoot, our most natural state of footwear, has been found to cause less impact stress on the body – reducing collision force by promoting a more natural gait. Indeed, studies show that those who run in padded running shoes suffer far more impact stress and are significantly more prone to injuries than those who run either barefoot or in non-padded shoes. Imagine that. Yes, for you shoe addicts out there, I have grim news: shoes are bad. And I don’t just mean those four-inch stiletto heels, or cowboy boots, or any of the other fairly obvious foot-torture devices into which we jam our feet for the sake of fashion.
“’Natural gait is bio-mechanically impossible for any shoe-wearing person,” wrote Dr. William A. Rossi in a 1999 article in Podiatry Management. “It took 4 million years to develop our unique human foot and our consequent distinctive form of gait, a remarkable feat of bioengineering. Yet, in only a few thousand years, with one carelessly designed instrument, our shoes, we have warped the pure anatomical form of human gait, obstructing its engineering efficiency, afflicting it with strains and stresses and denying it its natural grace of form and ease of movement head to foot.’ In other words: Feet good. Shoes bad.”
So ditch those rubber-soled shoes (that insulate you from the earth’s healing energy) the next time you walk out the door. Your feet certainly won’t miss them, and I doubt you will either. And remember, barefooting doesn’t have to be an all or nothing decision. Simply incorporate a few minutes here and there and you’ll naturally find yourself kicking off your shoes whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Now, I’d love to hear from you regarding your barefoot experience. What positive changes have you noticed?
May you enjoy the ripe abundance of a barefoot summer and revel in the bliss of this sultry season!
5 Methods for Energy Healing
The one thing that is undoubtedly universal amongst all of us is energy. It is the pervasive force that allows for life to exist and flourish, yet our Westernized minds are often reluctant to embrace it as something that should be considered in medicine. Meanwhile, it is the focus of many ancient Eastern health practices and remedies for the things that commonly ail us, and it can be used as a supplement to the prescribed medicine that we know to be tried and true. So what is energy healing, and how can you implement it into your life to benefit your health and wellbeing? These five different methods should give you a good idea.
How Does Energy Healing Work?
Depending on the method, energy healing focuses on the life force that flows through all of us; that force that dictates our mood, health, energy, and ability to connect with other beings. In Chinese and Japanese culture that force is referred to as ki or qi (pronounced: chi). In India, it is known as prana the energy that spins and flows through the chakras, an intangible force that cannot be comprehended in the materialist sense.
Although the perspective of western science and medicine often labels energy healing as pseudoscientific, the perception is starting to change as scientists and academics begin to understand the principles behind the techniques and benefits that have been known to eastern cultures for centuries. The learnings and breakthroughs in quantum physics have brought the understanding of the pervasiveness of energy to the forefront of western thought. Not only do our bodies consist of and run on energy in every aspect of their function, but there is an omnipresent field of energy throughout the universe that is now being studied via quantum field theory. This universal energy known to eastern cultures and the newly discovered quantum field are talking about the same thing, disagreeing simply over semantics.
Influencing this flow of energy by implementing physical and mental awareness and intention, can bring about profound and replicable results. Through meditation, physical touch, and exercise our energy bodies can be altered to provide higher states of health, consciousness and, you guessed it, energy. These energy healing techniques can help you find an approach that is right for you and lead you on a path to healing and sustained health, either as a primary or supplemental modality.
One of the fundamental practices of energy healing and exercise based on the Chinese concept of qi, qigong is concerned with balancing the flow of energy throughout the body. Much like Tai Chi or yoga, qigong cultivates the life force through a series of body postures, breathing, and meditation. It is also used as a foundational practice for martial arts, as it develops balance, agility, and muscle strength.
Qigong practitioners aim to develop higher levels of awareness, reduced anxiety, and a clearer vision of one’s purpose in life. It is often used as an effective practice in sports medicine, particularly with the elderly, due to its slow and controlled movements that aim to develop stability and ease tension. It has even been endorsed by the Harvard School of Medicine for its therapeutic benefits.
Qigong works by opening up blocked meridians, or the routes through which qi flows, in order to allow for unimpeded movement of energy throughout the body. The philosophy of qigong posits that blocked energy is the cause of illness and disease. By opening up these passages, we can prevent ailments or reopen the flow of energy to begin the healing process when we are sick.
Chinese Meridians and Acupuncture
The meridians are a map of routes within our body, through which qi energy flows. These meridians correspond with the connections and routes of muscles, endocrine glands and the nervous system. There are over 600 points on the body that acupuncture targets with thin needles that are directly connected to major organs and bodily systems. These connections are made through the meridians and collaterals, the vessels associated with meridians.
Knowledge of these meridians and collaterals is thought of very highly in Chinese culture and is considered equally as important as a doctor’s knowledge of our anatomy. Acupuncture is thought to promote the release of certain adrenal hormones like ACTH and cortisol that can help with certain bodily pains and organ function. It is even thought to have the potential to cure or help with overcoming addictions.
Of all of the different types of Traditional Chinese Medicine, acupuncture has gained the most notoriety, specifically as a complimentary modality to modern medicine. It has been widely embraced by doctors and patients throughout the western world, and could be one of the keys to a broader acceptance of eastern alternative medicine. Though needles are involved, the process is virtually painless and often relaxing.
Acupuncture has been found to treat a number of mental ailments like depression, anxiety, and negative moods. It has also had a positive impact on deeper physical issues like digestive problems and chronic pain.
Reflexology finds its roots in the Chinese focus on balancing the flow of qi, but primarily targets the hands, ears, and feet. Different locations on our feet and hands are thought to have direct connections through the meridians to different organs and systems in our body that can be detoxed and positively influenced. Through a targeted and sometimes intense massage, reflexology frees up blocked energy through stimulation, muscle relaxation, and the encouragement of lymph flow.
Reflexology is said to cleanse the body of toxins, boost the immune system, balance energy, and increase circulation. After a reflexology foot massage, one might feel like they are walking on air or feel lighter in their stride. Though these immediately noticeable effects can be fleeting, the unseen, internal effects can provide a longer lasting benefit.
The Chakras are the ancient Indian conception of our body’s primary energy centers and are very similar in nature to the ancient Chinese conception. The word chakra translates literally to wheel and is thought to be one of seven spinning centers of energy found in our bodies. Our chakras, based on their location, are connected to key endocrine glands and areas of nervous system function throughout the body, much like the Chinese meridians.
The seven Chakras are located in alignment from the top of our head, to the base of our spine and, when functioning in synchronicity, allow for a steady flow of energy throughout the body. Much like the Chinese yin-yang balance of qi, the energy in our chakras must be properly balanced. It doesn’t make sense to have an overabundance of energy in one chakra and a deficiency in another. Chakras also have the ability to open and close, allowing for the outward and inward flow of energy. Our chakras tend to close when we experience negativity, sadness and anger. In order to open up chakras we use breathing techniques, meditation and intention to eliminate negativity and open up to the flow of positive energy.
The seven chakras are as follows:
- Muladhara or Root Chakra: Base of Spine (tailbone)
- Swadhisthana or Sacral Chakra: Two inches below the navel
- Manipuraka or Solar Plexus Chakra: Three inches above navel
- Anahata or Heart Chakra: Located at Heart
- Vishuddhi or Throat Chakra: Located at Throat
- Sahasrara or Third Eye: Center of Forehead/Middle of Eyebrows
- Brahmarandra or Crown Chakra: Top of Head
This Japanese technique was developed in the early 20th century by Mikao Usui based on the five principles of Japan’s emperor, Meiji. They are:
- Don’t get angry
- Don’t worry
- Be grateful
- Work diligently
- Be kind to others
Reiki is also based on the idea of the flowing life force known in Japanese as ki. The practice was developed to help people realize the importance of making an intentional effort to heal and be conscious of their health. This concept of self-improvement and self-discipline, that is a characteristic of Japanese culture, encourages Reiki practitioners to incorporate energy healing into their lives, but to also take an active role in healing oneself.
Reiki is a spiritual practice with its root word, Rei, roughly translating to “God’s wisdom” or “a higher power’s wisdom,” though it is not religious. Rather, it is based on this recurrent concept of the unseen life force that flows between us that can be channeled and used for beneficial means. Reiki uses palm-healing or hands-on-healing to transfer, balance, and realign energy from the healer to the recipient. Some universities throughout the US have even begun to incorporate reiki classes into certain curricula.
There are many commonalities that can be seen between these different methods of energy healing and it makes sense that they are all so similar. Though these time-tested traditions varied semantically, they all understood the flow of energy throughout our bodies and its importance in our health and wellbeing. Which one of these methods have you had success with and which will you implement in your life?