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I've been thinking about skin a lot lately. There was a time in my life where I valued soft, smooth hands and feet. Until I started to value the benefits of "toughening" up my skin, skin that receives plenty of circulation as a result of exposing it to a variety surfaces and textures. I remember as kid when we started to go barefoot at the beginning of each summer as a kid, we would say that we had to build our "summer feet." You know, those strong, tough feet that could easily walk over any surface?
Well, those are my feet now. And I love it. Developing the strength of the skin of my feet by being barefoot as often as I can over a variety of textures and surfaces has made my feet healthier than ever. The "toughening up" aspect of barefoot walking are the development of calluses. Calluses are a good thing. Really. Callused skin has better circulation, which means not only am I mobilizing my feet on all those varied surfaces, they are receiving more oxygen and nutrients. Hurray!
And ever since I've been playing around with hanging, the skin on my hands have grown some great calluses (and a few painful ones along the way). As great as monkey bar time is on your hands, just like your feet, they need varied terrain as well. Different textures will grow the calluses more evenly across the hands. For me, to give my hands more diversity, I've been climbing and hanging from trees with different types of bark. I've been doing a whole lot of crawling around in grass, on fallen logs, on gravel (ouch!) and anywhere else that looks fun and interesting.
One of the results of the varied terrains for my hands and feet is that my view of the world around me has changed. I can't pass by a fallen log or curb without balancing across it in some form or another. Or notice the perfect branch in a tree that is just calling out to be hanging from. One of my favourite times was this summer on the ferry crossing over to Washington, when the boat was a rocking from side to side, we were up on the deck, hanging on a sort of overhang and swaying with the boat.
But what's got me thinking about skin lately is that as the skin on my hands and feet have strengthened, it has made me wonder what the rest of my skin would be like in a more natural setting. Natural meaning living fully in nature, as our paleolithic ancestors did. Where way more areas of the skin were being "toughened" by nature everyday. Not only from the elements such as wind and rain, but crawling though various types of grasses and brush, the rough textures of rocks, and carrying heavy logs in arms or shoulders. Compare that for a moment to our modern skin. For centuries, soft skin- especially for women- was a luxury, a sign of wealth demonstrating that you didn't have to be outside and interact with the elements. And currently we have all sorts of gear and high tech clothing to keep us the perfect temperature, where rolling around in grass and sand is only for kids and dogs, let along climbing trees and scrambling over rocks.
Sadly, winter is on the horizon which means my outdoor barefoot and skin on nature time is going to be padded with warm clothing for many months. And I'm not that hardcore yet to get all skin in nature in the snow. Maybe next year. In the meantime, I'm soaking my natural environment into my skin as much as I can. For inspiration, check out this great MovNat video illustrating just how varied your skin in nature can be if we only let it. For further reading about strengthening your skin click here and here. Enjoy!