We all know that walking can be a great exercise for managing our weight and health. It burns calories, releases endorphins and provides a great escape from everyday life. But did you know that walking also clears your head and helps you stay in-tune with your body?
Walking and Mindfulness
You’ve heard the term “mindfulness” tossed around a few times. Walking is a great way to practice mindfulness and know your body better. The results yield great physical and emotional benefits as you develop a greater awareness for yourself and your surroundings.
So what are those benefits, exactly? When you walk for reasons beyond burning calories, you reduce stress levels, lower your blood pressure and strengthen your bones, muscles and joints – just to name a few. When you add mindfulness to the equation, you begin to focus on your individual movements. That focus can can give you a greater appreciation for your body.
As you walk, stand up straight so your back is upright but not stiff. Relax your shoulders. Feel your feet as they touch the ground and distribute your weight evenly. Pay attention to your breathing without trying to control it. Allow your breath to come from the belly and make sure your breathing feels natural. Allow your breath to become rhythmic and fluid.
Watch Your Hands
Fold your hands and let them fall in front of you. This will give you greater balance as you walk, and you won’t be distracted by the constant swinging of your hands in motion.
Drop Your Gaze Slightly
Dropping your gaze will help you focus. Some people find that closing their eyelids halfway helps them focus. Smile slightly and let all your internal worry, chatter and sadness fall away.
Watch Your Feet
Feel your feet swing as you walk and pay attention as they hit the ground – first with the ball of your feet, then your toes. You can also label each movement as “lifting, moving, placing” as you walk. This is a great way to maintain focus and turn down your inner chatter.
Embrace the Experience
There is no “right” or “wrong” way to walk. Just experience how it feels to you. If your mind wanders, bring it back to the sensation of your feet walking. Get a sense of rhythm going to practice awareness. Walk with slow, small, deliberate, balanced and graceful steps. At the same time, try to pay attention to how your body is feeling.
Walk at a steady pace that is slightly slower than in daily life. You don’t have to rush the process. If you do, you miss out on the chance to build a relationship with your body and your surroundings.
Remember that not all movement is about burning calories. Exercise, and especially walking, can be very therapeutic if you give mindfulness a chance to take over. The results yield better health for your mind and body. Make sure you do this often to round-out your overall wellness plan!