When people first decide to start yoga they often ask what they should wear for their practice and they can find it off putting that yoga is usually practised in bare feet.
However if you can get over the feeling that you don’t like your feet, that everyone else’s look better than yours and that you’d rather not expose them at all it can feel very nice, as it gives you that sense of being in touch with the earth rather than up in the clouds somewhere. I was teaching someone the other day who I’ve been teaching for several months now and she was standing contentedly in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) when she said to me, ‘This is lovely! Now I can see what you mean about enjoying feeling the feet in contact with the floor and being grounded through the heels.’
But is being barefoot in Yoga essential?
On a practical note for standing postures, including balances, being barefoot makes it safer and easier because we are less likely to slip. We can spread the toes, feel steadier and get an evennness through the feet. We can be aware of our strong foundation which makes us feel more confident and yoga can actually make our feet healthier.
Taking shoes off can also be hygienic as it keeps the floor and your mat clean. It is a mark of respect- like going into someone’s house in India and leaving your shoes at the door.
Ofcourse there are exceptions in yoga and if you have a foot condition such as Plantar fasciitis it might be advisable to have the support of your shoes. If you get cramp you might prefer to keep your feet warm and it’s definitely good to have cosy feet at the end of a practice when you’re relaxing.
And if you’d really rather not take your socks off at all you certainly won’t be the only one -just consider investing in a pair of yoga socks which have a non slip grip.
However Yoga is a lot about self discovery and self study so one day you might find that your relationship with your feet has changed and that you actually start to enjoy practising barefoot.