What if instead of walking to get somewhere we all woke up one morning and walked to be right where we are? There are many yoga meditations, but one of my favorites is walking meditation. In a nutshell, it’s a way of flowing into the present moment. It’s a simple meditation for all levels, and great for yoga beginners, but the key is staying present.
I first “stumbled” upon a walking meditation at a hatha yoga class a few years ago. In a large yoga studio, the teacher asked us to divide into two groups and stand facing one another on opposite walls. We were then to walk slowly back and forth across the room, paying close attention to the placement of our feet (and not bumping into each other!). I was surprised at how this simple meditation exercise seemed to center everyone in the group.
When I began practicing Kundalini yoga a few years later, I ran into the practice again. This time, we walked in single file around the yoga studio, again focusing on the placement of our feet and being mindful of our connection to Mother Earth. This time we walked to music; specifically, to “Sacred Healing Walk” by Hari Bhajan Kaur, a beautiful piece. Again, I found that the practice brought a sense of calm and inner peace. Although I was moving, I felt completely still inside.
If you haven’t tried walking meditation before, why not give it a whirl? Here are a few pointers to help you along your path:
You can walk in silence or use a walking meditation mp3. Unless you have a spacious area, it’s probably best to walk outside, preferably in an area where you can have some privacy. A beach is a great place for a walking meditation, especially in the early morning or late afternoon hours. Keep in mind that you’re walking to walk meditatively—not to run errands or make any side trips.
A few other tracks that can be great for a walking meditation are “Walking up the Mountain” by Guru Dass and “Flowers in the Rain” from the CD of the same name. Any calming sacred chant music will work as long as the rhythm is steady and not too fast or too slow. Or you can press your fingers together and chant “Sa Ta Na Ma” as you walk.
Whether you’re wearing sensible shoes (if you’re walking in the woods, for instance), or barefoot, pay attention to the placement of your feet. Feel your connection to the earth; sense the cool blades of grass, the warmth of the sand, or ground. Be aware of your sensations.
As with any meditation, thoughts will come. Simply observe them, and move on at a steady pace.
Walking without music is lovely, too. If you’re outside you’ll notice the sounds of birds, crickets, or crashing waves. As you consciously place one foot in front of the other, the sounds will fade, and your mind will settle.
If you have access to a labyrinth this is an exquisite way to do a walking meditation. Unlike a maze, a labyrinth is a single, circular path, which leads to the center. I am fortunate to have one in a nearby park. There is also a beautiful labyrinth made of stones nestled into the earth at Guru Ram Das Puri in Espanola, New Mexico; I made a point of walking it during Summer Solstice this year.
Whether you practice your walking meditation in your home, in a studio, or outside, to music, or in silence, I’m sure you’ll find, as I did, that it’s a beautiful way to calm your mind and travel deep within.
You may also want to explore the Breathwalks Audio Program by Gurucharan S. Khalsa PhD which uses specific exercises that combine walking and breathing to achieve specific benefits.