Do I have to do yoga barefoot? Why do I have to take my shoes off before entering the studio? I hate not wearing shoes, and let's be honest here, sometimes my dogs stink.
That's a question I often hear from many of my guy friends who have never done yoga. Let me help...
Stepping onto the yoga mat wearing your favorite kicks is like playing dodgeball with flippers on. Even if you get pretty good at it, imagine how much better you’ll be once you take them off. Plus, you’ll receive a lot less funny looks from the other people in the room. Yoga is meant to remove distractions and excess from your range of awareness. Physically, an unobstructed connection to the world during practice helps to develop the body without the need for weights or excess props.
Yoga focuses a great deal on finding inner balance. It helps to minimize the distraction between your physical body and the world around it. Yoga mat notwithstanding, it’s best to keep the socks and shoes out of your practice so you can really connect every part of your foot with the earth below it. Shoes may offer support and grip, but deaden the sensation of the floor while blocking a true connection to the soles of your feet. Socks might keep your feet toasty, but tend to slide on most surfaces and make balancing much harder. Anyway, most studios are usually pretty warm, and the body tends to heat up fairly quickly once it starts to move (see also SWEAT).
The bottom line is that you want to give yourself a full range of motion in the whole foot, not just in the ankles or toes. See for yourself: try taking a few steps—eyes closed—with shoes, with socks, and then barefoot. Which way do you feel more sensation? Each one of those sensations will help you develop a better relationship with the world around you.
Yoga studios take all of this into consideration for your practice, but often the real reason why we’re asked to remove our shoes is so we don’t track dirt into the sacred space they’ve created for people to practice in. Consider it the yogic equivalent of the old adage “We don’t swim in your toilet, so don’t pee in our pool.”
And, bro... if your dogs stink so much you don’t want to take off your shoes, here are a few suggestions that may help:
-Get new shoes. If you can’t remember when you bought the shoes on your feet, there is a good chance that it’s time for a new pair. Bacteria and fungus love warm, dark and moist places. Consider this if you don’t like to take your shoes off very much—you’ve literally become a walking high school biology project. Congratulations!
-Wash your socks regularly. See above.
-Regularly clean your feet. We’re guys. We shave. We brush our teeth, bite our nails from time to time, and give ourselves a good once over down there every so often. What else is there to do? I’m not saying you need to get a French manicure every Sunday with the ladies, but scrubbing the soles and toes a few times a week not only feels good, but will help to cut down on stank. Bonus points if you use soap.
-Talcum powder. Shoes and sock hold moisture in. Sweat is moisture. Talcum powder absorbs moisture. Give it a try. Just don’t apply it right before yoga. Do it in the morning, after the shower and foot scrubbing. I’m quite partial to Gold Bond’s Medicated Powder. It’s heavenly.