Yoga can seem like a complex activity for newbies, but it doesn’t have to be. Although yoga is full of different traditions, poses, and styles, it’s fundamentally simple. Yoga focuses on exercise, healthy breathing, relaxation, diet and nutrition, and thinking and meditation. Beyond that, don’t overthink it.
However, that’s easier said than done, especially if you just signed up for your first yoga class. Perhaps you’re stressing over what to bring, what to wear, and how to act. We get it – new things can be stressful. However, yoga is meant to improve your body and mind, so try to relax.
As far as what you should wear, we’re here to help. After all, are you supposed to wear shoes during yoga, or can you keep your shoes on? Ultimately, it’s up to you, but we’ll explain more in the following sections.
Do You Wear Shoes Or Socks For Yoga?
For the most part, people don’t wear shoes or socks during yoga. Although this comes down to personal preference, many folks find it easier to practice without shoes. Shoes and socks can be restrictive. For example, moving through certain poses might be challenging, as your shoes may limit foot flexion.
Or, socks might make you slip around on your yoga mat. This could potentially result in an injury, such as a pulled muscle from trying to stop a fall or a bruise from being unable to prevent a fall.
Of course, you can always keep your shoes and socks on if you prefer. In some cases, you might have an injury or ailment that requires the extra support and protection offered by shoes in socks. So, keeping your shoes on might be more comfortable for you.
That said, most people take their shoes off immediately upon entering the yoga studio. This is done to minimize the amount of dirt and grime that enters the studio but also displays respect for the studio. The practice of yoga came from India, where removing your shoes is a common practice upon entering a home.
Should Yoga Be Done Barefoot?
Shoes are an essential part of our daily lives, and we wear them to protect our feet on hikes, strolls through the city, and meandering through shopping centers. However, in yoga, they’re left on the sidelines.
Generally, it’s good etiquette to remove your street shoes at the door of the studio. This way, you don’t track in dirt, which helps the studio’s floor remain clean. After all, many yoga poses bring you up close and personal with the floor, so grime is unwelcome.
Many individuals find it easier to practice yoga without shoes. You might find it’s easier to balance and maintain stability as you have better contact with the floor. Shoes are often clunky and inflexible, which hinders movement in certain poses. On the other hand, socks are slippery, which sounds like a recipe for disaster.
Advantages Of Practicing Yoga Without Shoes And Socks
Although practicing yoga without shoes or socks may seem somewhat strange to a newbie (we wear shoes in the gym, why not in the yoga studio?), doing so offers an abundance of benefits. From better balance to improved foot strength, here are the benefits of practicing yoga barefoot:
Balance is a finicky thing. For some folks, it seems to come naturally. However, balancing work is tricky, and building solid balance takes time. Our feet play a vital role in our ability to balance. When practicing yoga barefoot, we force our feet to find stability and become balanced with the floor.
Practicing this way can help strengthen our feet, allowing us to build our skills and become more comfortable within the flow. Yoga also helps target even weight distribution, meaning equal weight on the heel and the toes.
In some cases, this weight distribution forces the participant to slightly grip their toes to maintain balance. With shoes, gripping your toes would be useless; without them, you can adjust as necessary to balance your body.
The reasoning behind proper weight distribution falls on stability and balance as a way to avoid potential injury. Like many other parts of the body, improper alignment in the feet can affect the alignment throughout the body as certain areas try to compensate for the misalignment. In the long run, this may lead to injury. So, practicing yoga barefoot is an excellent way to challenge this.
Good For Your Feet
Moving around barefoot is an excellent way to strengthen your feet. Obviously, shoes have their place – we don’t want to walk around shoeless in areas that could damage our feet. That said, working on strengthening the tiny muscles in your feet isn’t a bad idea.
Yoga is the perfect scenario to target foot strength. As we balance in poses and move through flows, our feet flex and move to accommodate our body weight. Our feet are full of nerve endings, and when we practice yoga barefoot, we can connect different parts, points, and nerve endings with the floor. In doing this, we may feel more grounded.
When we wear shoes, many of these little muscles remain inactive. By removing our shoes, we force these muscles to work. Remember to keep your feet grounded with evenly distributed weight as you practice.
Easier For Teacher To Give Cues
Shoes and socks can hide improper form in yoga. Without shoes, the teacher can visualize how you’re dispersing your weight and balancing. For example, you might be placing too much weight on your heel while you should be evenly grounded.
Your instructor can offer advice to improve movement and mobility in the pose, allowing you to advance your skill and feel more comfortable in the flow. Sometimes, your teacher may give hands-on adjustments to guide you into the correct form.
Promotes Feeling Grounded
Practicing yoga is an excellent way to feel grounded, as it allows us to feel our physical connection with the ground. While this might sound silly to someone unfamiliar with yoga, grounding is a mental shift.
This shift allows us to take a step back from the chaos of our daily lives, forcing us to focus on the moment, sensations, and movement. Our daily lives can be busy and chaotic, so this break may affect us psychologically on a deeper level.
Some instructors will talk you through grounding, telling students to imagine a specific scenario. For example, they might tell students to imagine they have roots that extend from the soles of their feet deep into the earth. This gives participants a moment to breathe and refresh, taking a step back from problems that plague their daily lives.
What If I Want To Wear Shoes In Yoga?
If you want to wear shoes for yoga, go for it. Some folks don’t feel comfortable removing their shoes for class, which is entirely okay. While you may not have the same balance and foot mobility as you would barefoot, you can wear shoes for yoga.
If you prefer to wear shoes but enjoy practicing yoga regularly, you might want to consider yoga socks or shoes. The socks are designed with grippy parts on the sole to help with balance. While they cover your feet, they don’t negatively impact foot mobility. Some types feature a toeless design, while others cover the toes.
Or, if you want to stick with shoes, you could invest in a pair of yoga shoes. These shoes feature a design friendly to yoga, so you won’t sacrifice balance or mobility simply because you prefer wearing shoes.