Relieve Stress: Practice Mindful Yoga Walking
I find something very rejuvenating about yoga walking during the peaceful hours of sunrise or sunset; the cool, quiet hours of the day. The morning sun greets me with joyful vitality, a fresh new beginning filled with unlimited possibilities. The evening sun offers quiet reflection on a day well lived, an inner peace.
Yoga walking is when we practice mindfulness (mindful attention). While walking, we are able to reconnect with our body and this, in turn, helps us quiet an overactive mind. The repetitive rhythm of linking the breath with our stride organically induces a state of calm. Stressful thoughts, worries and negativity softly fade away, by simply focusing the mind and being in the present moment.
We also reap the physical benefits of regular walking; we strengthen the heart, burn calories, lower risk of disease, increase circulation and improve stamina. Walking is a weight bearing exercise that helps build bone density. We also are receiving a natural dose of vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin. With the integration of yoga poses, we begin to build strength, improve stability and increase flexibility.
Finding Health & Happiness in Yoga Walking
Try 30 minutes to start.
A Smooth Stride
Take a few deep breaths and begin walking at a slow pace. A slower pace will naturally start to calm the mind. Become aware of the rhythmic stride of your step and how your feet connect with the earth. Be sure to make a solid, but effortless connection with the ground, landing heel first. The heel strike is what helps to build bone mass. Then, roll through to the ball of the foot and push off the inner ball. Practice aiming your second toes straight ahead. This will help keep the knees and hips aligned and ultimately help alleviate pain in these joints. For the first few minutes keep your awareness on your stride and how your body feels.
Stabilize the Core
It is important to focus on stabilizing the core while walking. This helps to support the spine, improve postural alignment, and aid in alleviating back pain. How do I stabilize my core? Start by drawing your navel upward and inward like you are zipping into a pair of pants. Then lift your sternum (your heart) away from the navel and draw your lower ribs inward. Now, you have a stable support system for your shoulders to relax onto. If the main core muscles are collapsed and weak, then the secondary shoulder muscles pick up the slack, causing unnecessary tension in the neck and shoulder area.
Relax the Shoulders
Let the crown of your head float skyward. Relax the shoulder blades down your back and widen the collarbones. Notice how this movement naturally places your thumbs facing forward. Let your arm bones feel heavy and swing freely from the shoulder joint. The shoulder area tends to collect stagnation if there is a lack of mobility; this can lead to a shortened arm swing which stems from the elbow, as opposed to a smooth pendulum sway extending from the shoulder. A full arm swing will help to free shoulder tension.
Link the Breath with Movement
Consciously bring your awareness to the synchronized movement of the body. Notice how the rise and fall of the breath organically starts to intermingle with the rhythmic motion of the body. Begin to rest your mind in the rhythm of the breath. Allow your gaze to naturally soften and begin to absorb the sights and sounds of nature surrounding you. With each inhale, breathe in the beauty of life. With each exhale, allow gentle breezes, Mother Nature’s breath, to carry away your worries. Be attentive to your body and how it is moving. Release any distracting thoughts and bring your awareness back to the harmonic dance between body, mind, and breath.
Tip: If you find that your mind has a tendency to wander, then silently try counting, inhaling to the count of 3 steps and exhaling to the count of 3 steps.
Practice Mindfulness in Yoga Poses
Midway through the yoga walk: strengthen and lengthen.
At the finish: stretch and relax.
For detailed Alignment Tips check out this article.
I wear Nike Free RN Flyknit shoes. Love them! They offer the benefits of natural motion and a flexible, natural stride.
The simple act of mindful yoga walking is liberating to your spirit. Slow down and take time to harmonize with the natural flow of life. Nature has its own rhythm. When your mind slows down and synchronizes with the rhythm of nature it brings inner peace and awakens creativity. We begin to see clearly what is important in life. We no longer worry about the future or fret about the past, but start to enjoy the beauty of living in the moment.