In winter time, snow-covered mountain landscapes offer an ideal setting in which to discover mindful hiking: a slow and meditative way of walking that combines contemplation of nature and corporeal sensations to achieve a heightened state of mental and physical relaxation.
More focused than traditional trekking, mindful trekking combines a deliberate awareness of oneself and the surrounding landscape.
Using sophrology, yoga and meditation techniques, mindful trekkers treat each step as a cue to fix their attention on different parts of the body with the goal of achieving a heightened state of relaxation. At the same time, the technique aims to intensify perception of sounds, smells, and colours in the surrounding environment.
Mountain guide and sophrologist, Daniel Zanin, who regularly accompanies groups in the French Alps, the Himalayas and the North African desert, explains the synchronized walking and breathing procedure that trekkers use to enhance consciousness.
Breathe in through your nose for the first three steps, hold your breath as though you were under water for the fourth step, and then, over the next three steps, breathe out through your nose until your lungs have emptied completely. Then repeat this cycle for as long as is comfortable.
Using this technique, trekkers can slow their heart rates and fully oxygenate all of the cells of the body.
Mindful trekking is yet to develop as an organised activity in India. There aren’t any official or registered groups as yet that can slow trek you through the mountains.
However, Not far from Chambéry in the Chartreuse range of the French Alps, new enthusiasts eager to discover the benefits of this contemplative “art of walking” can embark on introductory treks and snowshoe treks, led by Zanin, or shorter walks led by psychotherapist Florence Ratat, another independent trainer in the region.
Zanin is also associated with a team of guides, who came together in 2001 to create the Ecole de la marche hill walking school, who lead half-day, full-day and longer mindful treks in France’s Vosges, Pyrenees, and Northern Alps regions.
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