Why walking on uneven ground can improve your overall health.
This week I'm teaching a yoga class that focuses primarily on the foot. We manipulate and maneuver the feet and stand unsteady in many familiar poses. The purpose is to highlight how much we are NOT using and focusing on the feet in everyday movement. Even in a practice that invites a deeper relationship to move our bodies with intention.
My goal as a yoga teacher is to encourage students to break out of the constraints of everyday yoga and use it as a template or starting point for teaching a broad range of movement and body dynamics.
Longtime practice and scientific investigation have shown increased health benefits of walking on uneven surfaces. These include improved balance, increased mindfulness, greater energy consumption (up to 26%), lower blood pressure, and more responsive healthy joints, to name only a few.
Our bodies and brains evolved whilst our ancient ancestors lived a nomadic life walking and wandering in the natural terrain for hours and miles a day. Think about it...natural terrain is rarely flat. There is a natural mild to challenging unevenness in the ground we evolved walking on. Think back to when you walked on river rocks or hiked a steep incline. Each step would have taken focus and concentration. Your whole body, including a good deal of brain power, would have been focused on the placement of your feet, balance, and stability being challenged moment to moment.
Walking on uneven ground activates the joints and soft tissue far above the feet. Each joint will adapt to the slightly off balanced position. Muscles will respond, and work to position the body and the head upright over and over again. This is a far cry from today's' world where almost all of our walking surfaces are flat, paved and clear. Imagine scrolling through your social media feed while trying to hike across river rocks!
Scientists have mapped the brain's allotment of real estate as it relates to the body in a graph called the homunculus. The foot gets a large share of the brain power, suggesting the sensory-motor demands of walking and standing are significant. I wonder what happens to the areas of the brain that don't get used in the way they were designed.
Add to this the fact of wearing shoes and socks that reduce even further the need for strength and inherent structural support in the feet themselves as well as significantly dampening the afferent sensory input to the brain.
The takeaway? Take off your shoes and socks more often. Walk the earth, the grass, the rocks where and when you can. And of course, do more yoga!
Classe Schedules, Upcoming Retreats can be found at www.denazimbelyoga.com