Meditation isn’t always sitting in silence for 20 minutes. Meditation, or mindfulness, can be practiced anytime. Walking meditation promotes movement and mindfulness, similar to mindful exercises like yoga and tai chi.
The benefits of mindfulness are numerous. Walking meditation is a great method for beginners who struggle with restlessness during traditional sitting meditation. Walking meditation also has a few extra benefits when compared to sitting meditation.
What Is Walking Meditation?
Mindfulness. Walking meditation is different from sitting meditation, but they both have a focus on mindfulness. Mindfulness can be practiced anywhere. You can do it at your desk, while cleaning, and especially while on a walk.
Not just walking. Mindfulness is a state of awareness and focus. It’s an awareness of every small experience, physical sensation, and emotion you experience without judgment.
Walking meditation is being mindful while walking. It involves paying attention to your body’s movements, surroundings, feelings, and thoughts.
Benefits of Walking Meditation
Walking meditation possesses many of the same benefits provided by practicing mindfulness. Because it involves movement, it also provides some physical benefits.
Reduces stress. Practicing mindfulness leads to emotional regulation. You can more strategically experience your emotions and process them in controlled ways. Feelings like anxiety and stress are experienced selectively and on your own terms.
Studies show that mindfulness significantly reduces anxiety and depression symptoms. People who practice mindfulness also tend not to respond to stressful triggers as intensely.
Improved focus. A common misconception about meditation is that you’re supposed to clear your mind. Instead, you’re supposed to focus your attention on a single thing like your breath or a flame. For walking meditation, you typically focus on your movements.
When you practice aiming your attention, you gradually increase your ability to focus. The more often you practice, the better your focus becomes, like a muscle.
Improved Memory. When practicing mindfulness, you often have to deal with intrusive thoughts and a wandering mind. Like improving focus, learning how to steer away from those intrusions also helps your memory by preventing old memories from interfering. This allows your short-term memory to work without as many interruptions.
Emotional regulation. Practicing awareness of your emotions allows you to have greater control over them. Focus your attention on positive emotions rather than negative ones. This trains your brain to emotionally react to certain triggers in a positive fashion.
Improved physical health. Moving your body will get your blood flowing. Walking meditation will wake up your body if you’re feeling sluggish. It can also improve your physical strength, stamina, and balance.
Walking Meditation: First Steps
Like most mindfulness practices, you can change the methods to suit your particular needs. Walking meditation differs from taking a stroll by posing limitations to your walk. A traditional form of walking meditation requires purposeful, slow steps in a smaller space.
Find a quiet place. An indoor or outdoor space about 25 feet long (10-15 steps). Preferably, finding a space that’s without distractions or hurdles will help you focus easier.
Relax. Walking meditation is meant to be relaxing. Being aware of your posture and body is an important part of the practice:
- Stand up straight without stiffening your back.
- Relax your shoulders.
- Distribute your weight evenly across your feet.
- Clasp your hands behind your back, in front of you, or let them hang at your sides.
- Let your gaze relax and drop slightly.
- Breathe naturally from your diaphragm.
Be mindful of your standing position. Feel your feet touching the ground or floor. Acknowledge the weather or sounds around you. Observe whether your body is tense anywhere. You can follow traditional breathing practice and focus on your breath for a moment, or try a body scan meditation by mentally feeling the different parts of your body.
Take your first steps. Without changing your mindset of mindfulness, slowly step forward with your left foot as you inhale. Walk with purpose. Feel each step fully as your foot touches the ground or floor. Walk as if your foot is “kissing the Earth.” Feeling your weight shift, step forward with your right foot.
Focus your wandering mind. Your mind will wander, and there’s no stopping it. However, you can reel it back in by focusing your attention on one of your senses. Feel your feet touching the ground with each step. Listen to the sounds of your body moving. Feel your breath in your belly or nose.
Pause, breathe, and repeat. After you’ve taken about 15 steps, take in a mindful breath. Turn around, and then walk the path again. Follow this practice for about 5 to 10 minutes.