A barefoot runner’s yoga 

I was chatting with a fellow practitioner yesterday who wanted to write an Iyengar yoga sequence for runners. In the course of our conversation, he asked about my running. I told him that I had gone completely barefoot and the inevitable ‘why’ popped up. So I said the first thing that came to mind, ‘stronger feet, better asana’.

Ever since I started running barefoot, my standing poses have more grounding and my feet feel healthier. Better arch support, more open soles and greater foot flexibility, etc. I did go through my share of overdoing before finding my feet though😊. 

An old friend who happens to be a long distance runner sent me a book on barefoot running and I used the principles in it to develop a plan to transition slowly and steadily. I guess it has been successful because even a gap of a few days doesn’t impact the feet or ankles. I haven’t really studied the science behind it and have let my feet be my teacher. It has been a very subjective experience of listening and adapting to the body. 

Sometimes I run loops on a ground as that offers a varied surface; it has mud, stones and bugs besides debris. Running there is an exercise in intense awareness and movement while making my feet ready for any and all kinds of surfaces. Each step is new and fresh despite having run there many times. My senses are sharper and I actually see the ants being industrious as I run. The tiny glass shards and bottle caps are like beacons to stay alert if I want to keep my feet intact for another run.

On one of my runs, an elderly gentleman came upto me and said that he appreciated my running barefoot and warned me about the glass. He then asked me why barefoot and proceeded to answer the question himself. In his answers, I found mine. Mostly, I just reply because it feels good and never go beyond that. That wise man said it is taking energy from Mother earth and releasing all your negative energy into the ground. It must make you emotionally more stable and mentally strong. I nodded yes to all of them. It got me thinking a little and one of the reasons I run barefoot is joy. Feeling the ground so directly, so intimately is very rejuvenating and charges me up.

In a perfect world, I would probably go barefoot everywhere but it would be inconsiderate to step into someone’s home or a class with dirty feet. Although, what others consider dirt is actually probably cleaner than what we accumulate in all our hygiene fetish. I used to be obsessive about clean feet and wore slippers at home my entire life. Little did I realise how much I had disconnected myself from myself. Perhaps that is why tadasana is so dear to my heart. As a popular line goes, root to rise. It is really ascending to the fullest potential in oneself.

Running barefoot has taught me many things, a greater respect for all beings, great and small. It teaches me that equanimity is possible in life situations. Everytime I explore a new terrain or route, I am vulnerable and exposed. It is a delicate dance of faith, awareness and humility to be present. Regardless of the chatter in my mind, I take one step and then another and let the rhythm of the feet find the rhythm of my breath. Sort of like being on my mat and discovering something different with every practice. Both the disciplines have fed each other and continue to do so. They both require a dedicated and balanced approach and reveal their secrets slowly as I become ready to receive. One of my dilemmas was ‘running or yoga’ but with barefoot running, I have found a happy balance, atleast for now. 

Today’s class was brilliant. We had a different teacher, a petite soft spoken lady who actually made me experience savasana in trikonasana, eternity in a moment. That is probably an entire post in itself.

Hari Om

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