Before we enter a yoga studio we take off our shoes.
It might seem like a small, unnoticeable and habitual action, but consider when the alternative happens. When, on the rare occasion, an odd newbie happens to trot in unknowingly with his Nikes on, we all look on in dismay as if to say, “I can’t believe he just did that!” We’re shocked, as if something had been desecrated.
That is because there is something truly sacred about a space where one must take off their shoes before entering. A mosque. A temple. A shrine. They all have people’s shoes lined up outside their doors letting outsiders know that there’s something special in there, so special in fact that one must strip to their feet bare in order to enter.
When we are barefoot, we do more than strip our feet of our shoes—we strip ourselves to a more bare and vulnerable state. When we remove our shoes, we connect to the ground––skin to wood––in a submission of reverence to whatever may lay in between the four walls we are about to step into.
Before I walk into the studio I always take a glance at the line of shoes that lay at its doors and I think of all the different people who are in there. Shoes of all different sizes, some old, some new, some brand-name, some generic, men’s shoes, women’s shoes, flip flops, work shoes and moccasins. All different kinds of shoes belonging to all different kinds of people who all flock to the same place and strip themselves bare-foot in submission to a practice they all have in common.
Such is a great testament to the power of the yoga space, to the power of any sacred space for that matter. The power to attract people from all walks of life. The power to relegate them to equals. And, the power to unify them in the name of something greater.
So tomorrow, I will strip my feet bare, as I do every morning, and place my shoes alongside those of all the others who, just like me, wish to enter that which is sacred.
Author: Lulwa Bordcosh
Editor: Alli Sarazen
Photo: courtesy of the author