Meditation is about paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment.
While most people associate meditation with sitting in a lotus position on the floor for 20-30 minutes you can actually meditate by making a few simple adjustments to your walking or running workouts. You can convert walking and running into moving meditations if you change your focus.
Walking and running meditation are forms of moving meditation that use your body movements and breathing as the focal points of your attention. When you get distracted during your walking or running you merely note the distraction mentally and then redirect your attention back to your body movements and your breathing and continue for at least 20 minutes.
Unlike traditional meditation, which is practiced while sitting quietly, moving meditation uses the movements that accompany any repetitive continuous physical activity as the focal point. Walking, running, swimming, bicycling, and cross-country skiing are examples of repetitive, continuous physical activity that typically is sustained for at least twenty minutes and can provide an aerobic training effect as well as a meditative benefit.
Walking and running are excellent activities to use to learn moving meditation because they are safe, can be practiced by almost anyone, and can be done both indoors on a treadmill and outdoors. During walking and running meditation you focus on the individual components of each step (lifting the leg, bending the knee, stepping forward, heel touching, toe touching, etc.), the process of walking and running (feelings in the feet, legs, back, etc., one’s balance and sensation of movement), and your breathing. Regular practice of walking or running meditation will not only help you release your stress through meditation, they will help increase your fitness level.
During walking or running meditation you walk or run at a pace and for a sufficient duration of time to obtain an aerobic training effect. You focus your attention on each footfall, extension, bend of the knee, and redirect your thoughts back your walking or running when they stray. You can use your cadence of footfalls and your breathing pattern to help you minimize distracting thoughts while you focus on what is going on in your legs, feet, and hips as you walk or run. You can count “one, two, three, four” in synch with the beat, time, and rhythm of your steps. You can also determine how many steps you take with each inhalation and exhalation and synchronize them. For example, I take six steps with each inhalation and six steps with each exhalation when I am walking. When I am running I take three breaths with every inhalation and three with every exhalation. This helps me keep my thoughts on my breathing and my footfalls rather than the thousand and one other things running around my brain when I walk or run.
Walking and running meditation are strategies I use to help people release their stress-related tension and energy in healthy ways. Release is one of my five lines of defense against stress called the Five R’s of Conquering Your Stress.
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