If you’re committed to holistic health and wellness, you’re probably interested in meditation. After all, it’s scientifically-proven benefits range from lower blood pressure and improved digestion to reduced anxiety and better sleep.
But one less-than-ideal aspect of meditation? It’s usually practiced sitting down. In fact, most people probably associate meditation with sitting still for long periods of time. And in a society that spends way too much time sitting, many of us are looking for activities that are less sedentary, not more so. Of course, the amount of sitting you’ll do in meditation is probably fairly negligible, and it’s worth considering whether you would otherwise have been doing something active with that time (or spending it sitting anyway).
Still, if sitting for meditation just doesn’t appeal to you, the good news is that, despite the stereotype, it definitely does not have to be practiced sitting down. In fact, you can meditate while you walk – and many find that this enhances the experience, especially when done outside. The easy and repetitive motions of walking actually make it ideal for meditation.
While you can take a meditative walk by simply focusing your breath as you move, making your walk a sensory experience can take it to the next level.
Creating a Sensory Experience
During this walking meditation, you’ll bring your full attention to one sense at a time as you walk. Consider starting with the one least likely to stand out during a walk: taste. Bring your awareness into your mouth and onto your tongue, and notice how it feels. Do you taste anything in your mouth? Maybe a hint of garlic from a particularly pungent dish at lunch, or the aftertaste of coffee or tea from breakfast? Or even just a minty flavor from having brushed your teeth?
Then move your awareness to another sense you might not otherwise pay much attention to: smell. Take deep breaths through your nose, and notice the air moving into your lungs. Are any smells coming from the environment around you? Maybe an appetizing scent wafting out of a restaurant or up from some nearby flowers? Or a less appetizing one, like exhaust from passing cars?
Next, come to focus on the sounds around you. Most people find sounds more obvious than tastes or smells, but might hear them without really noticing or only notice the loudest ones. Bring your attention to the first sound you hear, and see if you can identify what it is and where it’s coming from. Then try to put that one aside, and see what sound comes to your attention next. Take time to focus individually on each sound you hear, eventually noticing ones that are fainter or farther away.
Since you’re walking, you’re probably naturally paying attention to what you see – but now, make an effort to bring your full attention to looking at the things around you. Look at whatever is directly in front of you, and notice what you can see with your peripheral vision. Then look down at the ground below and up at the sky above, and finally to the left and the right. Instead of just moving through your surroundings, or noticing only enough to make sure you don’t trip or bump into something, use this time to really take everything in.
Lastly, a big component of many meditation techniques is paying attention to how your body feels, and that’s especially true in a walking meditation. To notice the sensations you’re feeling, work through a body scan from your feet up to your head. To start, bring your attention to the bottoms of your feet, seeing how they feel with each step. Then move up to your ankles and then your calves, taking notice of each one every time you move. Repeat this exercise until you’ve covered your whole body, ending at the top of your head.
While walking might not stereotypically be associated with meditation, using a technique like this one to meditate while you walk offers a unique experience that can be profound – and it also keeps you from spending even more time sitting down.
About the author: Kosta Miachin is the creator of VIKASA Yoga method – a unique, challenging and effective approach to yoga. He is also the founder of VIKASA Yoga Academy. You can find him online: http://www.vikasayoga.com