“Gardening is an instrument of grace. ” May Sarton
“Everything that slows us down and compels patience, everything that puts us back into the tempo of the slow circles of nature, is a help.” ~~ Randy Eady, Sole2SoulHealing.com
I have a dear friend who loves to walk barefoot in her garden. I know she enjoys the sensation but I wonder if she really knows how good it is for her health?
Have you ever heard of the Chinese tradition of Stone Stepping and the notion of “grounding” or Earthing?
This ancient practice recommends walking barefoot on a surface of rounded, small stones for a variety of health benefits.
When the scientists at the Oregon Research Institute doubleblind, randomcontrol tested Chinese cobblestone stepping they found the older adult participants “experienced significant improvements in mental and physical wellbeing and improved circulation.”
Their study suggested this basic activity could be an answer to the quest for a “simple, convenient, and readily accessible exercise program that will reduce health problems and improve quality of life of the aging population.”
Foot Chi Garden Walkers
The names for this cureall vary: stone stepping, cobblestonemat walking, pebble path, foot chi path, Reflexology or Barefoot Health Path. Whatever it is called, this idea has captured the attention of several integrative health institutions and facilities and the imagination of many gardeners.
A renewed interest in the West for this ancient Eastern practice has also been spearheaded by a Jesuit priest who heads a congregation in Taiwan Father Josef Eugster (a Catholic priest, born in Switzerland in 1940 and a member of the Swiss Missionary Society of Bethlehem). Fr Eugster writes: “In nearly every village in Taiwan they have built special paths of pebbles and every morning people walk barefoot around the pebble path for a half hour before they go to work. Hundreds, even thousands do this. It has become a way of life. I think this is very important… For me it is like praying or quiet meditation. I need it for my bodily health and I think everybody needs it.” (Father Josef Eugster, (British) Reflexions , March 1995, pp. 1617.)
Father Eugster was introduced to cobblestone walking and reflexology in 1977 when he suffered from Rheumatoid Arthritis in his knees. It cured him. He gradually developed various techniques and has taught his techniques around the world. (I had the good fortune to attend a training session in Europe in the late 90’s.)
Father Josef has also taught techniques to blind and mobilitychallenged people in Taiwan, assisting them in finding an ethical means to support themselves. Since this acupressure technique is highly sensitive to touch and intuitive feel, he feels their natural “exceptionality” can be turned into a significant advantage. A true winwin.
With the distinction of the lips, the bottom of the feet have the highest concentration of nerve endings than other parts of the body. These are also connected to the various organs that play a significant part in moving lymphatic fluid around the body….so it follows that stimulating these nerves stimulates these as well as collateral organs.
Cobblestone walking, in itself, can help relieve tiredness and provide a general boost to well being. This idea opens up so many opportunities for gardeners and designers alike and has been presented at several health design conferences and professional landscape association meetings. To deliver a sensationally good therapeutic effect related to balance, improved circulation and improved range of motion movement healing gardens should incorporate this idea.
About the author: Randy Eady, a USbased rehabilitation specialist, Intern’l Council on Active Aging member and practicing pedorthist, has designed both unique barfuss treks in Europe (currently reformatting one in Kassel, GE) and was a consultant on the first reflexology path in Florida (placed in the medicinal garden at Nova Southeastern University near Fort Lauderdale). He is an affiliate of Generations United building bridges across agespans and facilitating a better understanding of the diverse makeup of older active adults. He also created a minigolf barefoot path near a Senior Living Center in a small resort village on the Rhine (Bad Breisig) so grandparents and grandchildren could interact in the outofdoors barefoot, naturally that flourishes today.