Definition – What does Yoga Walking Meditation mean?
Yoga walking meditation is the walking meditation practiced in the yoga tradition. Walking meditation is less popular in the yogic tradition than it is in Buddhism, but there are yogic walking practices advocated by yoga gurus such as Swami Sivananda and Swami Satyananda. They either coordinate pranayama or mantras with walking. This can make them more challenging than other forms of walking meditation due to the effort and focus needed to control the breath while moving. It may be helpful for the yogi to practice the pranayama while seated and master it first before combining it with walking.
Yogapedia explains Yoga Walking Meditation
Before any yoga walking meditation is begun, it is recommended that the yogi calms his/her breathing and begins the pranayama while stationary before starting the walk. There are several different techniques suggested for yoga walking meditation:
Breathing 4-4-4-4. In this, the inhalation, retention, exhalation and hold on empty all last for four steps. The number of steps can be adjusted to the individual’s capacity, but it should always remain in the same pattern; for instance, 5-5-5-5 or 3-3-3-3. More complex variations can be introduced that involve splitting the inhalation or exhalation into four mini-breaths or puffs of air.
Breathing 1-4-2. This pattern is more challenging because the length of the breath is different for inhalation, retention and exhalation. It should follow a pattern of inhale for one step, retain the breath for four steps, then exhale for two steps and repeat. Again the number of steps can be adjusted up to lengthen the breath, but this must be done in the correct ratio; for instance, 2-8-4 or 3-12-6.
Mantra. This practice is known as chankramanam and it involves coordinating the mental repetition of a mantra with steps. It may be that a short mantra is used for each step, or a longer one spans several steps.
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Often, the concept of meditation conjures the image of a stationary, cross-legged yogi surrounded by candlelight, solitude, and plenty of time. But when your days are full and your mind is cluttered—flitting from errands to emails to the latest family drama—that type of meditation might seem unappealing or downright impossible. In reality, meditation can be done anywhere, including while standing or even walking.
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“When starting a meditation practice, one can feel daunted by the expectation to sit still and totally quiet the mind. Even though neither of these need be true for a seated practice, the idea that they are mandates often keeps people away from it,” says Nicole Katz, a structural yoga therapist and co-founder of the New York studio Yoga 216. And that’s where walking meditation comes in.
Walking meditation is also a good pick for anyone whose thoughts seem to be racing a mile a minute, because if your mind is overactive, your body often follows suit, says Katz. And while it might sound counterintuitive, moving your body can make it easier to tame your cluttered mind, says Ted Meissner, a mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) teacher and a manager at UMass Medical School’s Center for Mindfulness.
“The mind can only focus well on one complex task at a time, so paying full attention to even the simple process of walking removes a bit of momentum from mentally spinning.” (Psst! Anybody can do these three quick meditations.)
A different path to calm
So what does a walking meditation look like? That’s really up to you. “There are many ways in which someone might approach walking meditation, from a light and informal awareness of one’s surroundings while hiking or walking the family dog to a formal meditative practice for personal or even spiritual aspirations,” says Meissner. The common thread, however, is that you should aim to be “wakeful and present, instead of on auto-pilot.” If your mind wanders, that’s OK, but the goal is to bring your attention back to the “the sensory experience of the present moment,” he says.
If you’re not sure where to start, keep it simple. “For a gentle and informal walking meditation, just go for a walk!” says Meissner. “Give yourself permission to not have to do anything else; just be as aware as you can of your surroundings and inner experience.”
Check out these amazing benefits of walking outside every day:
And don’t worry if you’re short on time. “ Almost every human will walk at one point in the day—to work, to a meeting, to grab a coffee,” says Yunha Kim, founder of the app Simple Habit, which offers 5-minute meditations designed to integrate mindfulness into the most stressful parts of your day.
If you’re looking for a more formal, guided experience, scout out a location where you’ll be able to practice in safety and absolute solitude. It can be a wooded area, a quiet neighborhood street, or even a space the size of a yoga mat. Make sure to turn off phone notifications and anything else that might distract you. Pop in your headphones and listen to one of the many guided meditations available through apps like Headspace and Simple Habit, or try this sequence designed by Meissner specifically to clear the mind: