The Health Benefits of Walking Meditation—Plus, How to Implement the Practice Into Your Daily Routine
Meditation is a practice that is beneficial for the mind and body. Taking a little time to relax and clear your head is important for a balanced life. The dictionary defines meditation as engaging in contemplation or reflection, or practicing mental exercise (like the concentration on breathing or repetition of a mantra) for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness. If you prefer to move while doing this kind of deep thinking, walking meditation might be the best method for you.
While some practices require you to sit still or lay down, walking meditation is a chance to move around with a concentration on your body and how it feels. According to Peloton yoga instructor and meditation coach Dr. Chelsea Jackson Roberts, "Walking meditations are specifically designed to cultivate awareness and mindfulness while moving." Whether you move along a path indoors or head outside to be one with nature, walking meditation is one way to center yourself while getting some exercise.
Preparing for Your Walking Meditation
Before you begin your walking meditation journey, consider what you'd like to get out of the experience. "Be intentional about where you want to walk, how long you will walk, and make sure that you are dressed comfortably in order to reduce any distractions. Make a plan [for] your intention during the walk," suggest Dr. Jackson Roberts. After you've prepared yourself it's time to figure out where you want to go. Travis Eliot, yoga instructor, meditation teacher, and co-founder of Inner Dimension TV, suggests finding a spot where you feel the most comfortable. "To prepare for walking meditation, find a quiet place where you can walk comfortably back and forth for 10-20 paces," he says. "It can be indoors or outdoors but it should be an environment where distractions are minimal and you feel at ease."
How to Practice Walking Meditation
Once you've chosen your location and set your intentions, it's time to start moving. When asked about the steps of walking mediation spiritual teacher and author Mathew Ferry acknowledges that meditation can take many forms. "There are no rules to meditation, and you have full discretion to be creative," he says. But if you really need a jumping-off point, Eliot suggests choosing a path and getting in proper alignment. "Begin by standing at one end with your feet spread about hips distance for stability. Allow your arms and hands to rest comfortably down along your sides. Close your eyes, and take a moment to feel grounded and centered. Feel the physical sensation where your feet make contact with the ground," Eliot explains. Then, when you're ready, slowly open your eyes in what Eliot calls a relaxed state of alertness.
Begin to walk slowly along your selected path and relax and let your walking feel natural. "Bring awareness to each step as you experience the sensations of lifting and placing your foot on the ground. Move at a pace that keeps you most present and aware. When you get to the end of the path, pause for a moment—center yourself, slowly turn around, pause again and when ready, proceed with awareness back along the path," Eliot says. Continue this practice for 10 minutes or longer. You can customize these steps as you see fit, as long as you focus on the point: inner peace.
The Health Benefits of Walking Meditation
More than its obvious physical pros (we all know walking is a great form of exercise) walking meditation can have many health benefits. "The intention of walking meditation is to develop and nourish an embodied awareness as you move. A walking meditation practice connects your mind and body to the present moment," says CorePower Yoga master trainer Amy Opielowski. The benefits of this practice include a calm and clear mind and supporting your ability to focus and to be fully present in each moment, explains Opielowski. "As you learn how to show up fully for each moment of life you will experience an overall expansive sense of wellbeing."
Ferry points out that letting go of negative interactions, gaining insight, and getting clarity about the next steps in life can be obtained through the quiet time you spend with yourself during walking meditation.