Four reasons why Toesox Suck.

Via on Aug 11, 2010

Want better balance and awareness? Socks off!

If you’ve been reading Elephant Journal over the last few days you’ll have noticed several articles and much debate about the issue of whether or not it’s ok to use nudity to sell yoga.

It started with Judith Hanson Lasater’s heartfelt and courageous letter to Yoga Journal asking them “not to exploit young women’s sexuality to sell products or more magazines.”

Yesterday Toesox, one of the companies at the center of the whole ‘using nudity to sell yoga’ scandal, hit back with this response defending their ads. In that response, Joe Patterson ‘Founder/President
ToeSox, Inc’ states that the “focus” of the marketing campaign is to “inspire people,” and that “The selling of Toesox is actually secondary.”*

(Note: the acronym LOL – Laughing Out Loud – is often used inaccurately. For example, people say LOL when they are only mildly amused, and not, in actual fact, laughing out loud. Similarly, the acronym ROFLMAO – Rolling On the Floor Laughing My A$$ Off – also tends to be overused: it is rare that anyone actually rolls on the floor whiles laughing.)

*In this case, I am not exaggerating when I say LOL. I could almost say (but not quite) ROFLMAO.

I’m not going to get too involved in the “sex sells” debate. I’ll simply say that for some of us, Yoga symbolizes purity, wonder, and the quest for truth; for others it’s a bandwagon to be jumped on to make some fast cash. In the same way that there is disco yoga, yoga boxing, yoga-lates-sex-ercise (ok I made that last one up, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it really exists!) and countless other types of silliness, there are also people who don’t practice yoga yet make good money from it. It’s big business now; let’s not fool ourselves about that.

However, the point that I DO want to make is this: it’s better *not* to wear socks when practicing yoga!

I have been practicing yoga for about 18 years. I have been a full-time yoga teacher for over 10 years. I always tell my students to take their socks off when practicing asana. Why?

There are a number of very good reasons:

  1. The more contact you have with the ground, the more grounded you will feel.
  2. The better you feel the ground directly through your feet, the better your balance will be.
  3. Most people spend most of their day wearing shoes and socks. Free your feet! Let them breathe—they’ll thank you.
  4. One of the main benefits of asana practice is that the energy flow is improved. Every piece of restrictive clothing you wear inhibits that flow. Loose comfortable clothing is the best choice, and don’t wear anything you don’t need. Unless it’s really cold, I don’t wear socks. Period.

So, forget about the whole nudity / exploitation debate for a moment. What’s important in all this?

Answer: your practice.

If you were thinking of ordering some ToeSox, please ask yourself why.

Was it perhaps because you believe their website when it tells you that their “unique five-toe design” (LOL) “allows the entire foot to perform naturally”?

If so let me tell you: what helps the foot perform naturally is natural performance, which means naked.

Or could it be that you buy into their line: “Toe socks increase dexterity and tactile sensitivity and awareness during any activity”.

Sorry, they probably don’t. They will reduce your dexterity and tactile sensitivity, and lower your awareness.

Maybe you agreed with one of their official “reviewers” who said that: “ToeSox are here to free your little twinklers from traditional sock strain”.

To that, all I have to say is: ROFLMAO.

About Ben Ralston

Ben Ralston almost joined the army when he was 18. When he was 32 he almost became a Swami. *** Now he is a healer, Reference Point Therapy teacher, and advanced Yoga instructor in the Sivananda tradition . His work as a healer acknowledges trauma as the underlying cause of almost all human problems, and resolves trauma at the causal level: gut-based survival instincts. The intention behind all his work is to empower others. *** Ben splits his time between his busy international practice, training therapists, and writing. As an experienced Yoga and Meditation teacher he also runs retreats, usually on the beautiful Croatian coast. *** Connect with Ben on Facebook. Read more of his writing on his blog Grounded Spirituality.

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40 Responses to “Four reasons why Toesox Suck.”

  1. Ben Ralston says:

    Cheers Ramesh,

    I’m happy to have made you laugh :) But did you LOL? :)

    Yes, about advertising: my first great yoga teacher said that advertising is all about selling people stuff that they don’t need. I think these ads for Toesux pretty much exemplify that, wouldn’t you say?!

    With love,

    Ben

    • Ramesh says:

      Yes, Ben, I had a deep LOL, when you pointed out this absurdity: "Was it perhaps because you believe their website when it tells you that their “unique five-toe design” (LOL) “allows the entire foot to perform naturally”?"

      Good to know that we yogis are all so uniquely five-toed qualified and in need of these absolutely necessary socks!

      I knew next to nothing about these ads or the company before these spirited debates, so your piece got me LOLing but not quite on the floor.

      • Hanuman says:

        Thanks for your comment Ramesh about the toesox advertisement. My belief is that your statement in your last line of your comment proves a salient point that the ad has been a success from the advertisers viewpoint, that it distracted you for a brief moment so that a suggestion could be inserted into your mind that something that is actually useless (or even unwise to use) could be worth considering to try out.

        • Ben_Ralston says:

          Hi Hanumna,
          while it's true that one intention behind the ad was undoubtedly to get Ramesh's attention, and that in that sense, the ad was highly successful, there is a deeper, and much more important intention: to get him to buy the sox!
          From that perspective, I'm pretty sure it FAILED.
          Truth is, the sox get produced, and the advertising is as it is, because there is a demand.
          When enough of us are mindful enough to not buy $h!t we don't need, then no one will be dumb enough to make products that no one else is dumb enough to buy, and the need for sensationalist and titillating advertising will be gone. I look forward to that day very much!
          With love, Ben

          • Hanuman says:

            Dear Ben,
            Much thanks for your prompt response to my perspective on the toesox ad, & for affirmation of my point. I truly agree with you on your response about all the useless & not so healthy stuff out there that alot of people buy with their hard earned money!
            I love you too,
            Hanuman

  2. AMO says:

    LMAO;)~
    You're awesome. You're right. Naked girl or no naked girl yogis shouldn't wear socks when we practice…

  3. Ben Ralston says:

    Thanks AMO,

    Damn, it sure is nice to be called ‘awesome’. That’s a rare compliment – feel free to visit all my posts and leave similar compliments… :)

    Much love, Ben

  4. Lopa Brunjes says:

    Love this post. Yes, what the eff do toe socks have to do with yoga? Very little, except perhaps that I'm a yogini and I occasionally like to wear them, and perhaps others to, too. So create a market out of that? With the insinuation that mayhap it will make you a better, (sexier!) yogi/ni? Hmmm…yes, sounds like big biz shenanigans to moi.

    Although, your comment: "Every piece of restrictive clothing you wear inhibits that flow. Loose comfortable clothing is the best choice, and don’t wear anything you don’t need…." might be in support of naked yoganess.

    Ramesh–couldn't agree more!

    Thank you also for pointing out misuse of LOL. I often want to ask someone, "did you really? Did you just LOL? Or just smirk?"

    Best to you, barefoot yogi!

    • Ben_Ralston says:

      Hello Lopa,
      Thanks for your cool comment! Shenanigans indeed :)
      I do support naked Yoganess by the way!! why not? I don't want other people in my face doing it (on magazines or elsewhere), but… a student once told me that she and her friend were practicing at night, naked, in the moonlight. She asked what I thought… ok, it was a little strange, but I told her I thought it was awesome! It's very liberating being naked, and if someone wants to practice like that, I suggest that it might be very good for them.
      Love, Ben

      • Lopa Brunjes says:

        Ah–yes, i missed a word there: "public" naked yoganess. Yes, I myself practice naked often when it is warm. It is lovely indeed–though occasionally slippery =)

        There is a bit of a new fad with naked yoga classes, though, and yes, I do find that a bit odd, and at odds, with true practice…there are very few that I am confident have escaped the conditioning of body-objectification enough to not be, well, weird about it.

        And in the media, well…..(sigh).

        Thanks again. Love your writing style & candor. Looking forward to more posts!

  5. candicegarrett says:

    Love!

  6. Ben_Ralston says:

    Ah, another barefoot yogi. Good on you, and I hope you enjoyed the blog :)

  7. Nancy says:

    read this, sock-free and giggling. thanks for breaking it down Ben and making something that is just going crazy more down to Earth. methinks too many people are wearing socks regarding this issue and not feeling the grounding of their feet regarding these ads. Really made me laugh, and I think you are rocking!

  8. Ben Ralston says:

    Aww, thank you Nancy. I agree, and I’m making a mission to get more people barefoot about this. Watch this space ;)

    Love, Ben

  9. JoLinda VanHaren says:

    I took my first yoga class 9mos. ago in CA. When returning home I saw yoga socks on sale at a Dept. store and almost purchased them(it was Dec. and snowing here)but I remembered my yoga teacher telling us in my first class to take off our socks and she also stated the same four reasons that Ben listed. p.s.wher can I find a yoga teacher who looks like Ben?

  10. nicole says:

    Thanks for calling a spade a spade Ben. Valid points and great humor! lol :)

  11. ARCreated says:

    I am VERY glad my yoga teacher doesn't look like Ben…I have a hard enough time focusing sometimes…and I think my husband might get suspicion if I upped my class attendance :)

    Great post…I have to say I am all about barefoot ANY time I even do personal training barefoot…HOWEVER I wore "toe" socks years ago ( think it was more an 80's bad fashion statement) but I loved them with sandals when I camped (felt barefoot but warm) so I was excited to see them again and will wear them around the house when it cools off. The sticky stuff makes them great slippers!

    Viva la barefootedness

    • Ben_Ralston says:

      Thank you all for making me blush!
      By the way, for the record, I am not sock-ist. I have nothing against toe socks. I just thought this particular company needed calling out for trying to fool people into buying their stuff for the wrong reasons.
      I'm sure they do make great slippers though!!
      Viva la barefootedness indeed :)

  12. Tangled says:

    They may interfere with contact, but on the bright side, toe socks do apparently remove all body hair. ;-)

  13. Ben_Ralston says:

    @Tangled – that's the bright side?!

  14. YogiOne says:

    Ben,

    While I agree with you in general about advertising and consumerism, you may have missed part of the point of these Toe Sox. I don't wear them myself, so I went to their website to see what the fuss was about. Its always good to check things out before you criticise. So, anyway, the socks have a grabby/grippy treatment on the bottom to keep you from slipping. I can see a use for that in some situations. If I was traveling without a yoga mat, they may help. It may help folks who do hot yoga too (again, I don't do that kind of yoga, but I hear it can get kind of slippery). I guess it may help some people separate their toes a little, though I am unclear on the benefits of that. So, in this case, there may be some merit to the product. Would that change your opinion at all?

  15. Ben Ralston says:

    YogiOne,

    Rest easy: I didn’t miss a thing ;)

    I also looked very closely at their website (as I’m sure you’re aware after reading the article).

    As i said in response to one of the comments above – these things are useful for something! I mentioned slippers, and yes, perhaps you might like them as replacements for a missing mat (although I often enjoy asanas on the naked ground. They didn’t have lovely eco non-slip mats for the last 5000 years, I don’t see why yoga is so dependent on non-slippery surfaces now).

    But yes, each to his own, and I have nothing against people who may find them useful.

    I just wanted to point out in a lighthearted way the inherent hypocrisy, deceit and greed which appears to me quite evident from a casual glance at their website.

    Thanks for challenging though!

    With love,

    Ben

  16. Natalie says:

    i have found a use for toe sox! i am a primary montessori teacher and spend my day on tile floor working with 25 very young children. we all love to be barefoot, but i find that the hard floor and cold make my feet achy and, i just don't like the feeling of a sandy cold floor. enter TOE SOX!!!! i bought them thinking i'd use them at work to do some yoga at school (we all do yoga at school) but ended up just keeping them on. regular socks slip around. any montessori teacher who is on the floor barefoot with her kiddos and has cold sore feet might find these a little gift. waldorf teachers, you too!!! public school teachers, clear it with the board first.

  17. Rock My Soles says:

    Love this Ben! Allowing your feet complete freedom of movement. What more can we say don't restrict your body but restrict your feet.. Why not smear rubber cement on the bottoms of your feet before class? Wait all's we need is a hot naked chick and this could be a new business!

  18. Don says:

    A young Buddhist monk walked with an elder monk on their way back to their temple after several days of travel. On the way, they came to a creek bed, the banks of which had softened to a wet, slushy mess. At the edge of the creek stood an attractive young woman dressed in traditional gowns, who was obviously wanting to cross the water but had no idea how to contend with the mud. If she attempted to traverse it, her legs would surely sink shin-deep into the muck.

    As they approached the young lady, the younger monk averted his eyes and looked down, for theirs was a stern discipline, and monks were not allowed to gaze upon a woman, let alone speak to or interact with her, particularly when the woman was as fetching and young as this one. To his horror, however, the older monk walked straight toward the woman and asked her if she needed to cross. The woman shyly said yes, and without another word, he hoisted her piggy-style onto his back and carried the woman across the creek. The younger monk followed them across the creek, stunned. Once on the other side, the woman profusely thanked her new friend, shook his hand, and resumed her journey, disappearing into the trees.

    The young man was aghast, but respectful of his elder, he held his tongue. For three hours they walked side by side, all the while the student confused as to how his companion could so flagrantly violate one of the cardinal rules of their temple. The older one had, after all, not only engaged the woman, he had spoken to her, and then not only did he touch her, he carried her on his back! How could such a thing be justified?!

    For another hour they walked in total silence, and finally came the point when the young man could stand it no longer. He stepped forward two paces and then whirled on his walking companion to face him in anger. "How could you do that?!" he shouted.

    "Do what?" asked the older monk, looking at him.

    He rolled his eyes. "It is a sin to touch a woman, a violation to even gaze upon her, and yet you spoke with her. You…you…shook her hand!" He sputtered in his anger. "You carried her across the creek! YOU CARRIED HER!!"

    "And you still carry her," said his older friend, smiling the faintest of smiles and bowing slightly. "I left her back at the river."

    The point being, some things will never change, why bother your mind with things that cannot be changed.

  19. Rhianna says:

    i just love having bare feet :)

  20. Irisblooming says:

    Ben I enjoyed reading your genius point of view on this subject; something that is so obvious and yet overlooked by so many. Also it was interesting how you broke it down about the lol and the ROFLMAO. I did neither…instead it bought out an inner smile as I felt my lips curled ever so slowly….as if this inner knowing was there before it was even thought. Ben, you are a gifted writer because you know how to truly connect with your audience. Thank you. I have been reading up on the controversy and it can been seen from so many angles….naked feet are sexy in the act of connecting with the ground… nakedness in yoga can be very Artful when done tastefully (the Artist in me always sees this)…it will go down in her-story this way…and for those who disagree; it too will go down in history as another point of view….and so it goes on. We carry what we carry and perceptions change at the blink of an eye….so happy for bare feet in yoga as I am happy for warm feet with toe sox.

  21. Nrgy says:

    LOVE IT!!!! While I do agree with Judith Hanson Lasater’s letter to YogaJournal I also love your point. In all the yoga classes I’ve taken I’ve NEVER seen anyone wear socks… it’s a BIG LOL to picture someone wearing them in Bikram!! ;)

  22. Rhonda Leigh says:

    yeah I tried them…gave me Yoga toe… seriously skinned up little toes… LOL

  23. ELG says:

    Just want to point out that some of wear the yoga socks because of problematic conditions — I have plantar warts on the soles of my feet, and I choose to wear yoga socks because those warts are contagious . I already feel quite embarrassed about wearing them, and this blog post and comments have made me feel even more uncomfortable. so…should I stop wearing yoga socks?

  24. Kara N says:

    Well, exactly. Advertisers aren't so stupid as to merely "cater to people's needs." We can thank Edward Bernays for that.

  25. Ben_Ralston says:

    Great point Rick – I was wondering whether the feet would slip in the socks, and of course they do. Unless you have really tight socks I guess, but I'd rather not…
    Love, Ben

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