Meditation & Health #21- Foot Soak: Nourishing Body and Soles
Foot Soak: Nourishing Body and Soles
By Xin Kuo & Dan Shan
Emperor Qianlong (1711 — 1799) was the longest-lived emperor of the Qing dynasty. It was believed the attention he paid to foot health led to his longevity. His daily regimen included taking 300 steps in the morning and soaking his feet nightly.
Throughout the Four Seasons
Since ancient times, the Chinese have believed that the benefits of regular foot soaks far exceed those generated by many other health practices. It has been regarded as a simple way to wellbeing.
According to ancient Chinese records, foot soaks were enjoyed during all four seasons: “Foot soaks in spring increase one’s vitality; foot soaks in summer rid the body of dampness; foot soaks in autumn moisten one’s airways and lungs; foot soaks in winter keep the body warm.”
The Roots of Our Health
The human body is sometimes compared to a tree: The torso is the trunk, the arms are the branches, and the feet are the roots. Similar to a dying tree that withers first at its roots, our ebbing health will be first felt in the feet.
A foot soak is a much-deserved treat after a long day. Revive your tired soles by submerging your feet in a tub of warm water to reduce swelling due to long hours of standing or walking. As the muscles relax, the aches and pain melt away.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), there are several meridians that converge at the soles of the feet: three “yang” meridians (bladder meridian, stomach meridian and gallbladder meridian) and three “yin” meridians (spleen meridian, liver meridian and kidney meridian). Through regular foot soaks, the congested meridians in these vital organs are stimulated, allowing the qi to flow unobstructed. Free-flowing qi balances the workings of our organs and increases our body’s immunity.
Increase Blood Flow
There is a muscle in the lower leg that anatomists refer to as the “second heart.” Care must be taken to ensure that blood continues flowing well in this area of the body, as the lower legs and feet can be prone to poor circulation. A warming foot soak can stimulate the nerves at the soles of our feet. The dilation of the blood vessels increases circulation and improves metabolism, soothing fatigue and promoting quality sleep.
Rid Internal Dampness
In a TCM context, internal dampness causes several illnesses. Many places are air-conditioned, and foods which have a chilling effect are frequently consumed. This results in many people suffering from cold hands and feet, diarrhea, and susceptibility to coughing. The heat from a warm foot soak will permeate the feet and spread throughout the body, dispelling the dampness if the soak is done regularly. After the foot soak, drink a bowl of warm soup, or a glass of warm water or ginger tea to promote sweating.
Care Must be Taken
The benefits of a foot soak are many, but precautions must be taken.
Not soon after a meal
After a meal, the flow of the blood will be concentrated in the digestive tract. Soaking your feet immediately after a meal will shift the blood flow to the lower part of your body, affecting digestion. It is more effective to soak your feet at least half an hour after a meal.
The right water temperature
There is an assumption that the higher the temperature of the water, the better its effects will be. A high temperature can cause scalding of the skin. For those with a weaker body constitution, dehydration may set in. The recommended water temperature for a foot soak is about 36 to 42 degrees Celsius.
Foot soaking is not for everyone
Diabetic patients should avoid foot soaks as their nerves are insensitive to temperature and thus scalding can occur unless precaution is taken. Foot soaking for those with heart conditions or low blood pressure may bring about insufficient blood flow to the brain and result in dizziness. A person with swollen feet or ankles, severe foot pain, or bleeding should avoid foot soaks and seek medical advice.
Avoid near bedtime
Soaking one’s feet near bedtime doesn’t help with falling asleep, as the improved blood circulation keeps the body in an active state. Foot soaking helps improve one’s sleep quality after your body temperature has cooled down slowly following the soak. Allow an hour to pass before going to bed.
The appropriate length of soaking time
Foot soaking increases the heartrate and boosts blood flow to the lower part of the body. Blood flow to the brain is therefore reduced. Foot soaking for a long period of time may cause chest tightness, heart palpitations and dizziness to set in for those with a weaker constitution. It is best to soak for only 15 to 30 minutes. When you feel your body perspiring lightly, it is an indication that the qi is flowing well along your meridians.
Wonders for the Feet
Our feet endure considerable stress: supporting the entire body, bearing our weight, maintaining our balance, and taking us everywhere. Foot soaking in warm water rewards our unsung heroes, along with our other organs, in a practical and loving way.
According to TCM, our body’s blood circulation is the weakest at 9:00 p.m. Soaking one’s feet at around this time gives a needed boost to blood flow. This timing is also ideal since it is after dinner and before bedtime.
Soaking one’s feet in the morning is a great way to relieve poor blood flow brought about by a sleep position the previous night. The warmth helps to prepare our system to meet the demands of an active day. Towel-dry your feet completely after each soak.
Use a wooden pail
It is best to use a wooden pail to soak your feet since wood is a natural material, and it distributes the water temperature evenly. The pail should be deep enough to soak above the ankles but below the knees.
Various foot soaks
Epsom salt soak
Epsom salt is comprised of magnesium sulfate, which can help flush toxins and heavy metals from cells, reduce inflammation, increase circulation, and ease muscle cramps and joint pain. This soak can also banish foot odor, help heal fungus or ingrown nails, and soothe dry skin.
Lavender essential oil soak
Lavender is a natural pain reliever that can soothe sore muscles and joints, and a favorite for relaxation.
Add two slices of lemon to the water for refreshment and skin brightening.
Adding three tablespoons of white vinegar, apple cider vinegar or rice vinegar balances the body’s acidity, moisturizes the skin, softens corns on the feet, and increases the skin’s elasticity.
A simple daily act of care not only revitalizes our tired, neglected soles, but soothes and uplifts the soul. Be nice to your feet and the therapeutic effects will serve you well. A pair of happy, beautiful feet is part of healthy living.