Yogis are well-known for their tendency to practice barefoot wherever they go, whether they find themselves in the yoga studio or the local park. This inclination toward abandoning socks and footwear is a part of the footloose and fancy-free image that many associate with the modern-day yogi. Many people don’t even realize the real reason why yogis remove their socks before they begin their practice.
Traditional yoga outfits are comprised of any combination of elements: Yoga pants or leggings, high-waisted Capri leggings, tunic tank tops, or light sweaters. Socks and shoes are always conspicuously absent from any of these pairings for a number of reasons.
- Socks prevent yogis from being connected to the earth.
Even the thinnest pair of socks can dull the nerve endings of the feet to the feeling of the earth beneath them. While the yogi can still feel the support that the earth has to offer, it isn’t quite the same as grounding down through the feet. The extra tactile sensations that yogis experience when there are no socks between their skin and the yoga mat or the earth helps to ground them further in their practice and the moment.
- Socks prevent an excellent grip on the yoga mat.
Security in standing poses is a significant concern for yogis. Having a firm grip between your feet and the mat can lead to a reduced risk of slipping and falling. Most yoga mats are designed to offer a better grip for bare skin on the rubber-type mats. A sock, particularly one that isn’t designed for yoga, can loosen the foot’s grip on the mat. In some poses, this can lead to stretching a stance further than intended or falling out of a pose altogether. You can instead use yoga socks that are designed only for yoga.
Even a slight injury or a muscle pull can prohibit a yogi from practicing for days or weeks at a time. These accidental injuries rob yogis of the daily nourishment they receive from their time on the mat.
- Removing shoes keeps your space hygienic.
Shoes carry all kinds of germs and bacteria, which could be transferred to your mat if you practice in socks and shoes. Imagine spreading that bacteria all over your mat only to lay down on it later on. Removing these items allows you to rest peacefully during all portions of your practice, including resting poses and seated poses. You can practice better health overall by practicing this one simple act of preparing before your yoga class. It also helps to protect and prolong the life of your yoga mat.
- Yoga is a sacred practice.
Removing the shoes (and socks) is meant to symbolize the fact that yoga is a sacred practice. It honors the space in which a yogi practices, protecting everyone around them from insult. Many cultures feel that exposing the sole of the shoe to someone or to an area considered to be holy is an insult. Removing the shoes from the practice space keeps the potential for this perceived slight at bay.