As a young girl in Poland, during the spring and summer months I often heard, “Go outside and walk barefoot on the grass”. At that time, I didn’t quite understand the reasoning for walking barefoot, but I did it anyway because the moist, soft grass felt good as it gently tickled and massaged the soles of my feet.
Walking barefoot was one among many holistic practices my parents, and other Polish people performed to maintain their health, prevent diseases, and recover from illness. As I later became interested in holistic health, I researched and learned the science behind these practices. I was happy to find out that walking barefoot was not only an old tradition from around the world, but it was also a well-researched and studied science called “grounding” or “earthing.”
What is grounding and earthing?
Clint Ober, a retired cable TV executive, and Dr. Stephen Sinatra, a board-certified cardiologist, have performed and documented many research studies on grounding/earthing in the United States. Interestingly, two other famous researchers on this subject, Karol Sokal, MD. Ph.D., and his neurosurgeon son, Pawel Sokol, came from my native country.
According to researchers, earth has an unlimited amount of negatively-charged electrons (that are good for us) that can be transmitted to the human body through direct contact by placing any part of the body, especially soles of the feet, on the ground. Our skin serves as a conductor for the earth’s electrical energy, and transmitting this energy becomes most effective when we place our feet on a slightly moist, conductive surface.
How does grounding affect the human body?
Our bodies are electrically charged and are often filled with free radicals* and positive ions linked to many chronic diseases and inflammatory health conditions prevalent in the modern world. We no longer walk barefoot (or wear leather-soled shoes), sleep on the ground, and work the land, but instead we spend most of our time indoors, high above the ground, disconnected from the earth. Additionally, in recent years, we have been overexposed to electronic devices of every kind. These behaviors limit our ability to balance our bodies’ electromagnetic fields that create a state of health and well-being.
Toxic air, processed foods, chemicals in the soil, high levels of physical and emotional stress (excessive high-intensity exercise), smoking, inflammation, and radiation generate too many free radicals that, if not neutralized, circulate in our bodies causing oxidative stress, more inflammation, and ultimately damaging our cells. Grounding is one of the proven strategies to reduce the adverse effects of free radicals and create an energetically- balanced environment so our bodies can heal and thrive.
What are the benefits of grounding?
Walking barefoot and feeling the ground under our feet improves the state of our health, whether we do it for pleasure, prevention, or healing, and there are many well-documented benefits from connecting to the surface of the earth. Most of the benefits are related to the helpful effects of the earth’s energy for reducing inflammation (chronic and acute), balancing the autonomic nervous system, and normalizing stress-hormone levels; all main contributors to many health complaints.
Grounding can be beneficial for anyone looking for the following results:
• Improving quality of sleep and normalizing circadian rhythms
• Reducing the effects of stress and promoting a sense of
calmness and emotional well-being
• Reducing fatigue and increasing energy levels
• Easing chronic and acute pain
• Lowering morning stiffness and soreness
• Relaxing muscle tightness and releasing tension
• Speeding recovery from athletic activities and injuries
• Improving blood circulation and normalizing blood pressure
Where and how to get grounded?
My favorite place to practice grounding is at the beach. For the last several years, as soon as the school year ends, my family travels to Florida for a few weeks to rest and recover from our busy lives back home. Every year I look forward to the opportunity to practice earthing by walking on the beach at least twice a day. I notice people wearing rubber-soled shoes and I am tempted to approach them and say: “Please take off your shoes, you are missing out on the chance to become grounded!”
There are many other ways to incorporate grounding in your daily routine besides walking on the beach. It takes the right kind of surface and a form of practice to which it is easy to commit.
Here are examples of surfaces that are good conductors:
• Any place with sand
• Moist grass or a lawn
• Gardens or other sites with bare soil
• Concrete or brick areas without chemical seal or paint
• Solid rocks and natural stones
Wood, asphalt, plastic, rubber, vinyl, and tar are not good conductors; therefore, these surfaces will NOT work for grounding.
And here are some other fun ways to incorporate grounding in your daily routine:
• Outdoor yoga (any standing, seated, or supine poses
• Tai chi practiced barefoot
• Seated meditation with feet or other parts of the body
placed directly on the ground
• Dancing without shoes (indigenous people are a perfect
• Playing with kids on conductive surfaces (grass, sand,
• Gardening (even with shoes on we make the connection
through our hands by touching the soil and plants)
For people who are not able to spend 20 minutes a day grounding outdoors, or for people who need more than 20 minutes to notice visible shifts in their state of health, there are grounding products available for purchase online. Some of these products are: a conductive desktop pad, foot mat, or bed pad to be used while working at the desk, exercising, or sleeping.
Is grounding worth the trouble?
As a yoga teacher, I often encourage my students to become more “grounded” through performing certain poses, breathing deeply, and envisioning connecting with the ground through their feet or other parts of their bodies. Being grounded means to be centered, balanced, strong, and calm. Regularly reconnecting with the earth through these practices can be an excellent tool for staying physically and emotionally stable, and to improve overall health.
Grounding can complement and add benefits to anyone’s self-care routine. It is easy to implement, fun, safe, inexpensive, and can be done during travels to exotic places, or in the backyard. I practice grounding as much as possible and I always feel and look better when I do it. It is my favorite anti-aging strategy; it works and doesn’t have to cost a penny.
* Free radicals are a molecular chemical species containing unpaired electrons ready to accept or donate an electron from another molecule (for example, an antioxidant). There are two sources of free radicals in the human body: normal metabolic process (converting food into energy) or external sources of air pollution, x-rays, and chemical toxins. Free radicals can be unstable, independent, and highly-reactive molecules. In excess, especially when it comes from external sources, is damaging to human DNA and other molecules in our body such as proteins, lipids, and nucleic acids, thus harming our cells and creating disruption in homeostasis.