Walking is such a common action for many of us that we tend to do it on ‘automatic pilot’. When we wake up in the morning the immediate movement is to start walking to start the day.
It is well known that regular and methodical walking helps maintain optimal health. Among its indications, the WHO recommends at least 30 minutes of physical activity, including walking. Because it makes it easier to lose body fat, improves cardiovascular fitness and muscular endurance, strengthens bones and the immune system, and more.
Our brain will also thank us for walking more in a planned and regular way. This simple and inexpensive exercise supports mood, cognition, memory, and sleep, and reduces stress and tension, says the Mayo Clinic .
But to take advantage of these therapeutic benefits you have to walk with purpose and awareness. Meditating while walking is one way to do this.
The combination of walking and meditation is known as mindful walking or walking meditation. It is designed to synchronize mind and body while we are away from home. The idea is not to walk with your eyes closed, but to walk consciously using a meditative technique , with your eyes wide open, at a pace that suits us and with our attention fixed on the environment where we are.
How many times have we not heard ‘go for a walk to clear your mind’ ? The effect is real, especially when we pay full attention to what is happening around us and thus clear the mind of useless and sometimes harmful thoughts that deplete our mental energy and worsen negative emotional states (such as anxiety or depression ). In fact, according to Psychology Today` , adding meditation to a short walk significantly reduces these states.
It is common for people to first do a sitting meditation in a private space and then go for a walk immediately afterward, to take that meditative state with them. It is a great way to integrate meditation into any walk.
There are other approaches to walking meditation, if you don’t want to sit down and close your eyes. This meditative walk, proposed by Greater Good in Action, of the Berkeley University of California is perfectly suitable for people who live a busy life. It can be done anywhere and at the pace you want. You only need 10 minutes , whether it’s on the way to work, up stairs, or on your lunch break.
Find a location. You need a lane that allows you to walk from one side to the other and is relatively peaceful, both indoors and outdoors. The lane does not have to be very long, as the goal is not to get to a specific destination, just to practice a very intentional way of walking.
Get started. Walk 10-15 steps, pause, and breathe as long as you want. When you’re ready, turn and head back in the opposite direction to the other end of the lane, where you can pause again and breathe again. When you’re ready, turn around one more time and continue the hike.
The components of each step. Walking meditation involves thinking and performing a series of actions that you normally do automatically. You should try to notice at least these four basic components of each step:
a) the raising of a foot;
b) movement of the foot slightly forward from where it is standing;
c) placing the foot on the ground, heel first;
d) shifting the weight of the body to the front leg as the rear heel is raised, while the toes of that foot remain touching the ground or the ground.
Speed. You can walk at any speed, but ideally walking meditation should be slow with small steps. The important thing is that it feels natural, not overdone or stylized.
Hands and arms. You can clasp your hands behind your back or in front of you, or just let them hang next to you, whichever is more comfortable and natural for you.
Focus your attention. As you walk, try to focus your attention on one or more sensations that you normally take for granted, such as your breathing; the movement of the items, or their contact with the ground; his head in balance; sounds near or caused by movement of your body; or whatever your eyes catch in front of you.
What to do when your mind wanders. No matter how hard you try to fix your attention on any of these sensations, your mind will inevitably wander. It is perfectly natural. When this happens, simply try again to focus on one of those earlier sensations.