Many spiritual traditions believe the body and soul are connected to—and even embodied in—the soles of the feet. Devotees around the world touch, wash, or kiss the feet of their teachers as a way of showing love and respect. Vishnu’s footprints are worshipped in temples and holy sites across Asia. And in ancient Egypt, undertakers removed the soles of the deceased during mummification to liberate their souls from the physical plane.
The ancient healing traditions of China, India, and Egypt also recognized that the feet serve as mirrors for our overall wellbeing. Today, the American Podiatric Medical Association echoes this wisdom, stating “Such conditions as arthritis, diabetes, nerve, and circulatory disorders can show their initial symptoms in the feet—so foot ailments can be your first sign of more serious medical problems.”
Whether you have collapsed arches or simply feel sore and tired at the end of a long day, try setting aside five minutes for ayurvedic foot massage, which not only alleviates stress and fatigue, but activates the immune system, eases emotional imbalance, and balances all three doshas. By nurturing and connecting with your soles, you set a foundation for vibrant health of mind, body and soul. Follow these step-by-step instructions, courtesy of ayurvedic expert Vasant Lad, and excerpted from Sleep Better Tonight! 6 Bedtime Rituals by Shannon Sexton.
Sitting on a chair or bed, rub your hands with comfortably warm sesame, brahmi, or jatamansi oil. Alternately using the flat of your hand and your fingertips, make small, circular motions along the surface of your scalp for two minutes. Then switch to your feet.
Put more oil on your hands and in small, circular motions, rub the top of your right foot from the ankle to the toes; from the ankle to the heel; and on the soles.
Press your thumb on the top of the foot at the base of the shin. Gently and slowly drag your thumb toward the big toe.
Return to the base of the shin and drag your thumb toward the second toe. Repeat this motion to the third, fourth, and fifth toes.
Cross your right ankle over your left knee, place your right hand on the top of the right foot, lace your fingers between your toes, and push the foot inward, outward, and in a circular motion.
Unlace your fingers and, using your right thumb, apply pressure along the inner border of the sole from the big toe to the heel.
Drag your thumb along the outer border of the sole, from the root of the fifth toe to the heel.
Make a fist and massage the sole of the foot in little circles. Slowly pull each toe away from the foot as though you are “popping” the joint.
Repeat the entire process on your left foot.
When you’ve massaged both feet, soak them for five minutes in a bucket of warm saltwater to draw out the dislodged stress and toxins. Put on cotton socks, place a towel on your pillow, and settle into sleep. (In the morning, leave time for a longer shower; it will take a few shampoos to remove the oil from your hair.)