Plus, why is yoga done in bare feet, without shoes or socks?
“You want to stand on your head,
and you don’t even know how to stand on your feet.”
Is there a yoga class near me that can help with my problem?
I inherited higher arches in my feet. Before I tell the story of the impact, here’s what I’ll cover. My struggles about where can I find a yoga class or classes near me that can help? The impact of my learnings on what shoes to wear for yoga. Plus, I’ll outline if you wear socks to yoga class. In the answer, I’ll also explain why is yoga done in bare feet.
But back to my story. Inheriting high arches means the main arch of my foot is not the normal curve you can see in the picture below.
As a young adult, after I grew bored with being an academic economist, I followed my gardening passion. It eventually let me to opening no less than three plant nurseries.
The drawback was that running nurseries meant I did lots of time on my feet, attending to customers and staff. I also had to lift heavy pot plants, bags of fertiliser, and the like.
As a result, the higher arches of my feet then led to me developing a painful heal spur.
Moreover, the pain was increased by inflammation of the tissue in the bottom of the foot, in the plantar fascia (pictured).
Heel spurs… & their many causes
Is there any yoga classes near me that can help?
I was by then just starting my yoga journey.
Naturally, my first thought was “is there any yoga classes near me that can help?”.
So, I asked my yoga teachers at the time.
But I got little or no help. They either didn’t know what I later discovered, or they couldn’t advise on it.
My doctor was also no help. He just told me it was old age and I needed to live with it. I was just a little over 40!
My podiatrist recommended some ugly shoes that did help at bit, but the problem didn’t go away.
Even worse, they were ugly shoes I did not really ever want to be seen wearing! Let alone did I want to wear them for the rest of my life.
Orthopedic shoes are not a real solution
There is a yoga class near me! My own!
So, as I was by then a yoga teacher myself, I set about using the principles and practices of the Iyengar yoga that I was studying and doing. In particular, I wanted to see if it could fix my increasingly painful foot problem.
Among many other things, it led me to become more aware of the importance of the arches of my feet.
It also reinforced for me the powerful teachings of the late Mr BKS Iyengar, about how you use your bare feet.
Although it seemed miraculous at the time, I also totally fixed the painful heal spur problem. Plus, at least for as long as I continue to do high quality standing poses, it has never recurred.
The whole episode became just another illustration of the fact that good quality yoga fixes issues in what seem to be new and surprising ways. But, of course, it is all about correctly applying the huge and ancient learnings of yoga.
Fixing the problem with my foot also underlined the importance of doing yoga in bare feet, with no socks or shoes. That’s also what I want to discuss further in this post.
Can your yoga teacher SEE your feet?
Do they offer advice on using them correctly?
Content and questions I’ll discuss
So, in the content of this post below, I will answer questions like:
- Is there a yoga class near me that can help with whatever issue you have?
- So as to get good yoga, what sort of teaching you should look for?
- What’s the impact of doing your yoga from the feet upwards (or building the right foundation)?
- Why is yoga done in bare feet?
- What shoes do you wear for yoga? (Trick question!)
- Do I wear socks to yoga? (Plus, what it tells you about studio or gym if they’re wearing shoes or sox!)
No matter where you are in your yoga journey, even if you’re considering starting it, you’ll get some key yoga tips.
If you’re newer to yoga, they’ll include studios or teachings to avoid, and what to wear at yoga.
If you’re into your yoga journey, you’ll learn some important aspects of why and how the best yoga works.
My key learnings about the arches in my feet
With all the work on my feet, and my growing new career as a yoga teacher, I also discovered some key learnings about the arches in my feet.
For instance, as you get better control of the arches in your feet, you work up into the muscles and structure of your inner thighs, pelvis, spine, and back.
It also helps your organic health. In other words, it helps all the key organs you have in the hip and pelvis region.
For example, the late and famous yoga teacher, Geeta Iyengar, pictured below, said that if the bottoms of the feet go even a little wrong, then the spinal muscles, and the muscles of the pubic region, also go wrong.
How right she was!
So, using bare feet in yoga, without shoes or socks, help you do this best.
Warrior 2 yoga pose
Getta Iyengar, in a Gem For Women, summarised the connections among feet, legs, posture, mind, and alignment, like this.
…the foundation for movement and action are the legs.
The legs have to be trained to make them firm and steady.
Without a firm foundation, a building cannot stand.
Similarity, without the firm foundation of strong legs and feet, [then] the brain, which is the seat of intelligence,
cannot be held in correct alignment with the spine.
Hence the standing poses are introduced.
Why bare feet are important in yoga
So, yoga in bare feet is an important topic.
Plus, the answer to questions like what shoes to wear for yoga, is not as simple or obvious as you may think. It’s about far more than cleanliness.
When considering why bare feet are important in yoga, the late Mr BKS Iyengar, the father of Geeta Iyengar, also said:
“Always watch your base. Be attentive to the portion nearest the ground. Correct first from the root.”
You can only do this if you can fully feel your feet, and any yoga teacher you have, can see your feet.
For instance, Iyengar yoga teaches that should focus on standing on the so-called “four corners” of your feet.
In doing so, you’re balanced evenly across the three arches of your feet.
These arches are the longitudinal arch, the lateral arch, and the transverse arch. Again, you can see these in the picture below.
Your foot has 3 arches
So, the arches of your feet are also a key reason why you should not wear shoes for yoga. You want to support yourself just with your bare feet, not via shoes.
As well as that, you don’t want to compress your foot in ways that prevent you spreading it for the best balance, and more.
In addition, wearing socks will interfere with you feeling which key parts of the feet you’re using, as well as spreading the foot fully.
What shoes do you wear for yoga?
Notwithstanding what I’ve said, beginners sometimes ask what shoes do your wear for yoga. They may also have come from gyms, or places where shoes are sometimes worn for yoga.
As a yoga teacher, I’m also regularly encouraging yoga students to take off their socks, including socks with extra grips on the feet.
To best answer these questions, (and to avoid sounding just pedantic), you also need to look more at why the best yoga is done in bare feet.
As I mentioned, whether you need socks for yoga is another related question, with a similar answer.
So, below, I’ll give the short answer to each of these three questions. Then, I’ll go into more detail about why bare feet are very important in yoga.
In the process, I’ll draw on the writing of another famous yoga teacher who originally worked closely very closely with the Iyengar family.
Use the 3 arches so as to make a dome to hold your weight
Why is yoga done in bare feet?
By way of overview, the best yoga is done in bare feet, for reasons such as these.
- When you can spread out your foot, you’re making the best use of the 3 main arches in your foot (as in the picture).
- Your three arches are a dome that has evolved to support your entire weight. So, yoga in bare feet lets you spread that dome for greatest strength and agility.
- Shoes usually cramp your foot in some way, preventing the best use of its complex bone structure and muscles.
- Shoes have in-built arches that get in the way of using, or strengthening, your own muscles and bones.
- Extra dirt is brought into the yoga studio, or onto yoga mats, where you will be both lying down and putting your hands, face, and head.
After I summarise the use of shoes for yoga, and socks for yoga, I’ll come back to this question of why is yoga done in bare feet.
When I do, I’ll give you the theory behind what I’ve said. If you wish, skip straight down to it now.
What shoes for yoga?
Are you, or others you know, also asking questions like do you wear shoes to yoga class? In short, the quick answer is no shoes for yoga.
Or, are you in a gym or other location that uses shoes for yoga? (If so, look elsewhere for good yoga that will deliver all of the many benefits of yoga mentioned further down this page).
Some reasons that you don’t need to worry about issues like what shoes for yoga, are these.
- Bare feet give you better grip on your mat, including via more spread of your feet, and stops slippage.
- No shoes also reduces grime, or worse, coming into the studio.
- Without shoes, you’re more able to spread the feet for balance, as well as doing better postures of many types.
- You can also use key parts of the feet to exercise muscles as high as your hips, pelvis and spine.
- The teacher can see what you’re doing with your feet, and give you tips on using them effectively.
By the way, not wearing shoes to yoga class has nothing to do with any religious tradition.
Instead, no shoes just helps you do yoga better, and get more yoga benefits.
Online yoga is also one place you can find yoga classes near you.
Do I wear socks to yoga?
For similar reasons, it’s also best to not wear socks in yoga, or to yoga. In summary, some of the reasons to not wear socks, include these.
- Any type of socks will slip more than bare feet, and your poses won’t be as effective if you have less traction.
- Socks at yoga give you less skin contact with the floor, and thereby less of the useful sensation and feedback about how to spread and use your foot.
- Many pairs of socks, especially those with in-built grips, tend to be a little tight. Thereby, they also cramp your foot somewhat, and prevent you spreading it out for balance as much as you otherwise would.
- Others in the yoga class normally won’t usually be wearing socks. So, you’ll be the odd person out!
If you’re in a cold climate, then consider using sox at the start and end of class, when you may be relaxing. But, take them off as soon as the yoga class starts.
Plus, do some of the many yoga postures that will warm you up, or tell the teacher to turn up the heat, or both.
Do you wear socks to yoga class? No. Not even grippy socks.
Why bare feet are so important for yoga
Donna Holleman studied with Mr BKS Iyengar for some years.
In her book “Dancing The Body Of Light”, she explains more about the importance of your bare feet, and their arches.
These three arches must be raised to rebounce the weight of the body back upwards against the downward pull of gravity.
The arches of the feet form the ultimate point where the weight of the body is received.
….As the feet are small compared to the rest of the body, they need a special structure in order not to collapse under the weight of the body. This structure is the arch.
….Arches are also used in architecture to hold great weights.
As you may know, the highest point of an arch, or the so-called dome, is the strongest point of the arch.
Holleman points out that the 3 arches of your feet form a dome at the top of your foot.
Therefore, this dome is a key point supporting much of your weight.
Could you do this safely if you wear socks to yoga class?
Fully using the genius structure of your body
Holleman goes on to explain how spreading your foot maximises the strength, grip, and agility of the foot.
To lift the three arches, the distance between the big and little toes has to increase, …. so that the triangle of the foot (heel – big toe – small toe) occupies the maximum floor space, and the toes are fully spread.
Holleman then says that using the hands to spread out the feet, such as you see in the picture below, will help you achieve the best spread of the foot, and thereby help key things like better balance, grip, and strength.
Obviously, you can also spread your foot as you’re doing standing poses… providing the feet are not contained by shoes or socks. As you do it, you’ll notice how it changes how your muscles and skeleton move right up as far as you spine.
In the process, it’s also very important to correctly align your ankles, so the force and weight of your body is pointing exactly down through your feet.
In this regard, it also helps to have your feet flat on the ground. For instance, look again at the picture (above) of Getta Iyengar doing the Warrior 2 yoga pose.
Spread your feet… both standing and sitting
How yoga made my bare feet more effective
…Learn to use both the outer and inner arches evenly. With weak inner arches, the outer angles are caved in…
As the weight of the body is transmitted through the legs to the ankles, the ankles have to rebounce that weight back upwards together with the arches…[so] they should not be passive.
The inner and outer ankles should have the same weight.
So, in yoga, especially in so-called standing poses, you’ll find a lot of emphasis on correctly using your feet. They are the foundation of all you can achieve.
This is a key reason why the best yoga is done in bare feet, without wearing shoes or socks.
It’s also why I spent many years dealing with the higher arch of my foot. In doing so, I increased the strength of the dome that supports all my weight, and impacts my physical stability.
Of course, others have arches that are flatter than normal. That’s another challenge. But, or course, even those with normal arches will benefit from improving how they support you.
In summary, don’t worry about what shoes for yoga, or “do I wear socks to yoga”. Instead, keep in mind this answer to why is yoga done in bare feet. In addition, what shoes to wear for yoga is one less thing to worry about.
Where can you find high value yoga classes near you?
Online is one good solution.
Where can I find yoga classes near me to help?
Before I conclude, let’s return to the question I asked myself when I was trying to fix my painful heal spur.
I mean questions like I asked myself, such as “where can I find yoga classes near me” to deal with this problem or issue?
Here are my tips on answering is there an excellent yoga class near you for your particular needs. Check out things like:
- Is the studio’s team of teachers led by an accredited Senior Yoga Teacher and Yoga Therapist?
- Are they teaching high quality Iyengar yoga, including in all classes?
- To get certified, do the teachers have to do at least 300 hours of teaching training, over several years?
- Are the teachers actually taught real teaching skills, such as you might expect in a modern, good quality secondary school?
- Is the teacher’s skills independently and objectively assessed, or is it just a matter of the “say-so” of their (paid) trainer?
- Is it yoga in a dedicated, high quality YOGA studio? Or, is it masquerading as yoga, but more about a different issue, such as fitness (often led by a personal trainer with as little as a Certificate 3).
- When you look at a class, are any of them wearing shoes or socks? (If so, flee!)
- Do you get helpful, interactive feedback or adjustment during classes (or later), so as to help you progress, or deal with your personal issues?
- Does the teacher ever appear to even “see you” and what you’re doing, or not doing?
- Do students in the class have bent knees, or slumped postures, so as to indicate they’re not at least being coached on the important alignment issues I’ve outlined?
- If you’re able to speak to the teacher about your own particular issues, can they actually help, or direct you to someone who can?
- Have you read some of the studio’s reviews… and do the dates etc indicate they were obtained genuinely, and without overt rewards or gifts?
Where can you find excellent yoga classes near you?
Some yoga classes near you that are options
If there are no yoga classes near you physically, then consider Flametree’s online yoga. So long as it’s interactive, with good coaching and feedback, it’s highly effective.
Of course, the advantage of online yoga is that you’re always getting “yoga classes near me”. Nothing is closer!
But, if you’re in the Darwin NT region, then also consider Flametree’s 3 locations.
Once you get underway, or if you want to extend the yoga you’re doing, then the best value options are the pay-by-the-week packages. They can be cancelled or paused at any time.
But, even as a continuing yoga student, you can stay on the flexible ten packs for as long as you like.
Last, all newcomers, or those lapsed 6 months, get a FREE first class, so long as you reserve in advance.
See our most popular passes at the orange links below.
Plus, for any occasion or event where you need a gift for a friend or loved one, check out Flametree gift vouchers.