Have you heard of Breath Walking?
Here’s why this practice is the latest trend in healthful workouts
Have you tried meditation and failed because you couldn’t “still” your body? We hear so many complaints from patients whose body won’t stop twitching, itching, shifting when they are trying to stay still and focus on their breathing. Breath Walking may be a very simple solution that combines some exercise as well.
Just step, breathe, count, repeat a mantra. Easy as one, two, three, four.
“Breath Walking” is a kinesthetic meditation that allows you to calm yourself through movement and meditation. Walking allows you to bring your focus inward, tune out external distractions and quiet your mind. By focusing on your breath, this mindfulness practice allows you to enjoy the present moment without judgement. You can “center” yourself and combine exercise with meditation to tune out and destress from your busy day.
Breath Walking Benefits include:
- Increased energy levels
- Mood control
- Refined mental clarity
- Feelings of connectedness
This practice takes zero equipment and no special training. You can walk barefoot or with good walking shoes, it’s up to you and your comfort level. It really couldn’t be easier. After all, we’ve been breathing and walking at the same time for most of our lives. Here are some tips to realize the full potential of Breath Walking.
The Right Place: You may feel a little self conscious in the beginning. So consider doing walking meditation first in your backyard or in a secluded place where you won’t be too distracted or disturbed as you start this practice. Obviously, you will not want to start out on a city street, or in a busy park. Likewise, walking with your dog may also be too much of a distraction. Once you get more practice, you may be able to branch out into other place where you feel comfortable.
- STEP: Take small steps, don’t go for your usual long stride or speedy walk. We aren’t trying to get anywhere fast.
- BREATHE: Your breathe should start in the belly. Drawing the belly out brings the diaphragm down, inflating the lungs. Next, the rib cage is expanded to draw in more air. Finally, the shoulders and clavicles (collarbones) are drawn back to bring in the final small increase in lung volume. To exhale, it is the reverse. Many people keep their stomachs sucked in and tight continuously, thereby depriving themselves of the belly-expanding major portion of each breath. As a result, most people breathe very shallowly using only the shoulders/clavicles and the rib cage for inhalation and exhalation. While shallow breathing will keep you alive, it is a hindrance in getting the full benefit of a workout.
- RHYTHM: Seek out a comfortable rhythm. Inhale for 2 steps, exhale for 2 steps find a pace where you can match your steps to your breath. Try different rhythms 3 steps to one breath, or 2 inhales 3 to exhale. Do this until it feels natural.
- TAPPING: Begin with touching the index finger to your thumb on an inhale, followed by your middle finger to your thumb on the next inhale and so on until you finish with the pinky. You may also try Mala Beads.*
- CHANTING: When breathing, walking and tapping are in a comfortable rhythm, introduce a mantra. Chanting the mantra or repeating it mentally will deepen your focus and center you even more. Our mind can only hold one thought at a time, so when you say your mantra, there is no room left for any other thought to distract you.
Mantras to try:
SA-TA-NA-MA: (derived from SatNam which means True Divine Nature). Each syllable is a metaphor for birth, life, death and rebirth and combining it with tapping creates powerful mudras that bestow the following benefits:
- index finger + thumb = wisdom
- middle finger + thumb = focus
- ring finger + thumb = energy
- little finger + thumb = connectedness
Aham Prema (ah-hem-pree-mah): “I Am Divine Love” “Aham Prema” helps us connect to the divine love we all have within.
Om Mani Padme Hum (ohm-mah-nee-pahd-may-huum): This mantra connects with the embodiment of compassion.
Or some simple affirmations:
- Breathing in, I breathe in love …. breathing out, I breathe out love
- With each step I feel the energy of the earth supporting my every move.
- I am one with the elements and the animals around me
- Each part of my body moves freely as a walk
- My awareness is on my center with every step I take.
*Mala Beads: The use of Mala Beads aids you in your repetitive motion/mantras. When you walk, you can start by draping the Mala between your middle and ring finger. Using your thumb to hold it in place, find the bead next to the biggest bead or charm. Next, recite your mantra on the first bead. Then, use your thumb and middle finger to move to the next bead, recite your mantra again and continue for 108 repetitions, or beads.
By using this synchronized breathing technique with your walking steps, you will soon achieve the art of directed, meditative attention. Breathwalk is simple, natural and effective. Once you know how to choose and do a breathing pattern as you walk, you will have an effective path to physical and mental fitness.
Remember, with every practice, consistency always wins. You should set aside some time to practice your Breath Walking. Just 15 to 20 minutes a day can make a difference in your life. Breath Walking — as with any meditation technique — does not mean you have to “get it right” all the time. The point is to cultivate openness, relaxation and awareness, which can include awareness of your wandering mind. Be patient and gentle with yourself as you pursue this practice, and you will soon enjoy the twin blessings of a more peaceful mind and a more fit physique. Happy Breath Walking!