Improving balance and reducing risk of chronic illness: Learn walking meditation and its health benefits
Meditation is not half as daunting as it sounds. Nor does it require decades of disciple to practice. It is the simple practice of mindfulness and situational awareness that can have tremendous benefits for the body and mind. You do not need any special equipment or spend hours sitting in the same position to achieve a meditative state. There are various other forms of meditation that you can practice which do not require you to sit still. Walking meditation is one practice perfectly suited for even beginners as walking is a part of our day to day.
Religions like Buddhism and Hinduism have pilgrimages to sacred places and these essentially serve as guided meditation walks, where throughout your journey you focus is on the spirituality of the religion and the very physical act of walking. Nimish Dayalu, a yoga practitioner and teacher, talks about how the objective for all meditation is to take your energy or focus which is outside the body and bring it back inside. This is achieved through walking meditation as it focusses your concentration on movement and breathing.
This form is ‘meditation in motion’ is different from simply walking around. All forms of meditation require continuous mindfulness, that is to be in a state where you are aware of all the sensations and thoughts that your body is experiencing. The application of meditation remains the same no matter which physical manner you choose to practice it in.
How to practice walking meditation:
The first thing to note is that walking meditation is different from mindful walking. A stroll around the neighbourhood with your thoughts will not count as deliberate meditation. To practice this requires a precise technique which is easy to do once you take out time for it.
•The first step it to chart out a line that you are going to walk on. The length is no issue, it can be 50 metres or 10. The path should be clear of obstructions. The location is also up to your choosing, it can be in a forest, park or even indoors.
•While walking, the next step is to observe each step while you are taking it. There should be no purpose behind the walking apart from focusing on the movement on each step. It should be slow and deliberate.
•As you walk, observe the movement of your feet, how you lift your foot and place it back on the ground. The key is to complete one step in its entirety before starting the next.
•Walk the line back and forth as slowly as possible for about 10 minutes.
•If your mind begins to wander, acknowledge whatever thoughts are coming to your mind and come back to focussing on your movement.
The time duration for practice is up to your convenience but this is not something that can be done while listening to music or while taking a walk with a friend. Each movement has to be slow and deliberate and should have your undivided attention.
Meditation and walking individually have various benefits for the mind and the body. When combined, it can have many more benefits.
•Due to the deliberate concentration on each step, walking meditation can help in improving the overall balance of the body. As you ground yourself before taking each step, this practice helps you understand the movement of your body and how best to stabilise it.
•As you slowly increase the duration of your practice, walking meditation also has positive effects on the mind, increases the strength of your legs, regulates your heart rate. Yoga expert Nimish Dayalu, who is also a mountaineer, talks about how he spends months in the Himalayas by himself, trekking through the mountains in a meditative state, which have benefitted his health immensely.
•All forms of meditation have immense benefits for mental health. While talking about the benefits of walking meditation, the Yoga expert adds, “When my concentration and focus go inward, what happens is that I become more grounded in the moment. As a result of being grounded, I am not anxious about the future events and neither am I upset or depressed about the past events.”
This being in the moment can help relieve stress and focus on things that you can change in the present.