Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ross_goodman/4429317906/sizes/m/in/photostream/Firewalking is an extremely fun and seemingly mysterious ritual that has been practiced for millenia.People in many diverese cultures have firewalked for various reasons. The oldest accounts appear 3,000 years ago in India and it is has been said that Kahuna people in Hawaii have even managed to walk across lava flows.
Numerous people perform firewalks everyday foregoing injury and completing the seemingly impossible. It is an experience that has been known to change people and can be amazingly uplifting. Some come out on the other side having totally defeated all of their old fears and limiting beliefs. This ancient rite of passage can be used as a tool to shatter what we have previously thought possible about capabilities.
Several have theorized about how it is even possible to do this. Some argue that it takes many tries to build large calluses while others have said that it is entirely through power of the mind that we can firewalk. The famous Dr. Andrew Weil is a big fan of firewalking, and his favorite book Firewalk talks about the psychology surrounding the practice.
What you should know:
- There is no actual fire involved during these rituals. It would be impossible with fire, and nobody could avoid vicious burns on their feet.
- The walks are actually done on smoldering coals. While the coals often smolder around 1,000 degrees fahrenheit, it will not necessarily feel that hot to the skin. We often think of touching very hot objects such as a hot pan and getting burned, however these are constructed of metal. Coals are very poor at conducting heat compared to metal and this is why it is possible to perform firewalks.
- Your blood continues to move as you are walking, which helps to carry away the heat gained and keep your feet cooler throughout the duration of the walk.
- The coals of the walk are not evenly distributed so that the part that you actually rest your foot on is small. You will also find that walking in a certain manner will assist with this.
- In general, firewalkers keep moving and do not linger in one place for long. Hence walking, not standing. The relative amount of time that the feet are actually in contact with the coals is small.
- One of the biggest factors is the Leidenfrost Effect. When your feet touch the coals, the moisture present on them vaporizes and creates a kind of protective blanket between your feet and the coals and protects the tissue from damage.
Doesn't seem so bad, does it?
Keeping this in mind, firewalking seems like an overexaggerated ordeal that just about anyone can do with minimal risk. However, there is still plenty of danger involved and many people go to the hospital every years seeking treatment due to the burns they acquired during this practice. It is a not a task to be taken lightly. Once you are standing in front of 1,000 degree coals, it would probably be hard to do this anyway.
That being said, if you simply keep moving across the coals and they have been poured and maintained properly you will probably be fine. Unless you are one of the people who chicken out right beforehand, then you might have a bruised ego, and will have missed out on a super cool experience.
If you want to attempt this for yourself, you should seek out F.I.R.E (Firewalking Institute of Research and Education) certified trainers. They will be able to ensure that you perform the walks in a safe manner, with properly tended coals and the necessary walking methods. They will know what to do if something goes wrong and you are burned during the ritual as well.
I encourage anyone interested in firewalking to jump in for an amazing experience!