In previous articles (links are at the bottom) we’ve looked at how pain manifests itself in the body. How, if we don’t fully release the emotional aspect of our interactions, then this gets caught up in the system – in the cells of the organs, consequently causing disruption within the meridians. Overload the system for long enough through movement patterns of tension, and the tissue will breakdown to the point where they show themselves as an injury, and pain.
Connected through our meridians
Different organs of the body process different emotions. The ancients knew this – they understood that the liver holds on to anger, the kidneys hold on to fear, the lungs will store grief, and the heart joy… Traditional Chinese Medicine understands that the meridians which pass through these organs have connections to muscle groups and areas of the body.
Where pain and discomfort show themselves in the body is not coincidental. Pain is a messenger; it’s trying to alert you, to help you recognise that something is out of kilter. It can be fairly brutal in its efforts, in truth – it has to be, to get our attention and to get us to change our ways!
When we try and suppress a message, say with pain relief, or at the far extreme of the spectrum, with surgery, unless the mechanisms that held the pain in that place are also resolved, the pain is going to show up elsewhere. And usually somewhere along the same meridian line.
The importance of our peripheries
Meridians start and finish at the peripheries – our hands and feet. We can get a sense of this when we activate our feet in Tadasana (Mountain posture). When our feet are balanced and lifted through our instep – our inner arch – we can feel that enhanced strength throughout our entire leg, up into our pelvis and further still into our abdominals. Our entire ‘Spleen’ meridian has just been woken up!
Our hands and feet are such phenomenally powerful tools, which can be accessed for our healing, as anyone who has had reflexology (and fallen asleep!) will testify. One’s state can be affected extremely easily through the feet. This applies to the hands too – only our feet are generally less exposed to stimulus than our hands – being housed so often in socks and shoes. Therefore they react to the input of touch with a more noticeable, and often immediate, effect.
One of the reasons why our hands and feet are so powerful is because they are also reflected maps of our entire body. Again, the ideas from reflexology show us that different areas of the body literally correspond to the internal organs and glands as well as the joints and musculature. But these aren’t the only place where reflected maps can be found – we find them at the ears, over the tongue, as well as along the sutures of the skull, and also over the limbs of the body. It’s like some interconnected code to be unfolded…
It’s not just through reflexology, acupuncture or acupressure that we can influence our health through our feet. Taking off your shoes and socks (not only on the mat but also in your day to day activities) can also have a truly positive effect on so many aspects of your physical as well as mental wellbeing…
For one, when we have to negotiate uneven surfaces (in the garden perhaps) with our unshod feet, they have to do some work! And, as with any part of the body that is exercised, the muscles of the feet will become stronger when they’re asked to work, rather than being housed in footwear all day long and travelling over perfectly flat surfaces everywhere.
Not only will the muscles in the feet and ankles become stronger, and more resilient to variation, but the joints in the foot will be asked to move through their entire ranges. This is essential for the release of tension, as with every other body part! In addition, this stimulates movement and flow throughout the connected meridian lines.
Conventionally, shoes have a heel. And not just those with a 3 or 4 (or 5!?) inch heel. All of them Men’s shoes as well as women’s even if it’s just a little heel. The effect of raising your heel just a little off the ground, asks our body to transmit the forces of walking or running, slightly differently. Even the slightest of shifts from the ground up have a knock-on effect higher up the chain and this results in us loading our muscles and tissues differently, and possibly inappropriately.
In turn, this has a cumulative effect on the load and overload of joints and tissues. When we take off our shoes, we not only put ourselves in a place of balance, we also use our moving joints (our ankles, knees and hips) in the shock-absorbing way in which they were intended. Our bodies literally move at their best when unshod….
When we take our feet out of our shoes and begin to feel the floor, we receive a tremendously positive input of sensory information. Feet that are usually housed in shoes and socks have limited stimulation. Increased sensory input benefits all of our systems via neuronal stimulation – our balance and feedback mechanisms, which are essential for maintaining an accurate understanding of where we are in space – a lack of which leads many many people to fall when they get older.
Finally ‘going barefoot’ is phenomenal, and possibly essential for health, because it quite simply feels amazing! Walking around on dewy grass, or feeling the sand between your toes on the beach… we can feel the pick-me-up even by imagining how glorious it feels! Don’t underestimate the effect of your happy hormones roaring around your body!
Part of the feel-good factor will be related to making a connection with the earth’s electromagnetic frequencies. Allowing this flow of free electrons from the electromagnetic field to mingle with our own, enables the healing benefits by having an antioxidant effect, neutralising free radicals and thus helping to reduce inflammation in the body.
Regularly taking off our shoes – outside as well as indoors – and extending our daily yoga practice into our lives in this more connected way, is a win-win all round…
EkhartYoga members – try these classes and wake up your feet!
- 5 minute foot release with Lisa Petersen
- Happy feet with Sandra Carson
- Pada Bandha – wake your feet, wake your spine! with Aki Omori
Read the first five articles in Dawn’s series:
- Posture, alignment and recovering from injury
- Meridians, anatomy trains and music
- Tension, e-motion and breath
- Letting go of emotion
- All of our yesterdays and the beauty of yoga