Advertising
Advertising

5 Reasons That Walking Is the Best Meditation

5 Reasons That Walking Is the Best Meditation

As a health and well-being writer, I am constantly searching for ways that people incorporate meditation into their lives in a practical way. By now we’ve all heard of the benefits of meditation — it can lower stress and anxiety, improve immune function, and decrease pain. Now recently, scientists are even telling us it can increase grey matter in the brain, leading to better memory function, emotional stability, and mindful behavior. In short meditation is a bit of a wonder practice — if you can make it work for you.

The problem is, not all of us can. For some of us (me included) sitting in silence focusing on your breathing just isn’t practical. Not only can it be difficult to find that inner silence you’re looking for; at times, it can be hard to find literal silence if you live in a shared house, or have children, or a partner, or a dog, or a parrot.

Advertising

So recently I went for a walk, and not just your usual walk. Actually it was a hike: six days of walking with nothing to do but just think. Well, that’s the opposite of meditation right? The principle of meditation is to silence your thoughts. The interesting thing was that my brain ran out of things to think about pretty quickly, (particularly when the going got steep and all I could concentrate on were the three steps in front of me). After a few hours of walking, it suddenly hit me like a boulder — I was meditating, and there was no crossed legs or chanting involved.

This is why walking works for me, and can for you too.

Advertising

1. It clears your mind.

Unlike guided meditation, which asks you to clear your head of all thoughts (often producing the opposite effect), walking naturally allows your mind to go quiet. While you might start your walk thinking of everything that you need to do today, or this week, after a while, the rhythm of your footfall and movement acts as a focus, allowing you to just focus on the road ahead of you. Something that helps me with this is instrumental music, ( lyrics are distracting to your brain). The combination of walking while listening to melodic music provides a sense of calm that is difficult to find elsewhere.

2. You can do it (almost) anywhere.

While regular meditation requires you to find a quiet space where you can be alone, a walk can be done anywhere (with the exception of high rise buildings and space stations). You don’t have to trek up mountains, or across barren landscape to feel the effect of walking meditation, I have had equally peaceful walks through busy cities. The important factor is to be alone with yourself, even if you’re not physically alone.

Advertising

Listen to music, but put your phone on airplane mode — don’t check your texts, emails, or social media. Allow your mind to focus only on your walk, not the destination or distractions along the way, but on the act of walking, the rhythm of your footfall, knowing that you are travelling in a direction, but not getting caught up on where that is or when you will arrive.

3. It gets your body moving.

One of my biggest frustrations when it comes to traditional meditation is that my body is restless. It wants to move, or I can feel an ache in my arm, or suddenly have an uncontrollable urge to scratch my elbow. With walking, that is all taken care of already; your body is distracted — it’s moving in a constant rhythm leaving nothing to focus on but your mind. What’s more, because endorphins —those lovely exercise hormones— are being released, it allows your mind to contemplate things in a much more positive way.

Advertising

4. It connects you with nature.

 Studies have shown that connecting to nature on a regular basis, whether that is through walking, gardening, or animal care, can improve your mood and decrease stress, anxiety, and depression. Walking is the perfect opportunity to do this. Even if you live in a city, get to a park. Even if the weather is awful, enjoy the feeling of the wind and rain on your skin. Being in nature reminds us of who we are, of our connection to the world, and can allow us to see some of our more petty problems for what they really are.

5. It gives you the distance you’ve been searching for.

Whether you’re taking a stroll in a local park, or setting off on your own personal mountain odyssey, walking gives you both physical and mental distance from whatever issues may be bothering you. Once you’ve given your mind a chance to clear, and not think for a while, it allows you to approach the issue from a fresh perspective. You can be alone with yourself, and free to think over what’s going on without distraction, or input from an outside source. You often find that you return home with a completely different head on to the one you left with — calmer, clearer, and ready to start again.

Featured photo credit: to move seasonally by aya padrón via flickr.com

More by this author

11 Truths About Depression That Everyone Should Understand 5 Reasons Why “Lonely” Seems To Be The Hardest Word (And Why We Should Be Saying It) 5 Reasons That Walking Is the Best Meditation

Trending in Exercise

1 8 Yoga Poses to Help You Achieve Strong and Toned Inner Thighs 2 5 Breathing Exercises for Anxiety (Simple and Calm Anxiety Quickly) 3 3 Home Exercises To Fix Your Rounded Shoulders In One Month 4 Workout Every Day: Thursday Music Playlist 5 Cut down on drinking! Time for a post-holiday detox

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Published on March 8, 2019

How Adding Flow Yoga to Your Workout Routine Boosts Your Gains

How Adding Flow Yoga to Your Workout Routine Boosts Your Gains

When we fall into a workout routine, our moves become automatic, and the body quickly adapts. This is called muscle memory.[1] While teaching your body how to properly execute squats, push-ups, or crunches is a benefit, overly relying on these moves to consistently grow gains won’t yield the kind of results you want. That’s because the muscles work in the same way every time.

Simply put, they’re not being “surprised,” so they get lazy.

Supplementing your routine with flow yoga is one way of surprising your muscles, especially if you are new to the yoga practice and have never tried the postures. It’s like taking a new road home when you drive, deviating from your usual route. Science has found that by doing so, you’re creating new neuropathways in your brain.[2] The same is done in your muscles when you try a new routine.

How is this done? Let’s dive right into it.

How Flow Yoga Boost Your Gains in Your Workout Routine

Think about your current workouts:

If you lift weights, you rely on external tools to engage your various muscle groups. Over time, your shoulders, legs, or biceps will come to expect the weighted plates or dumbbells, in the repetitive sequences that you remember.

In flow yoga, we use the body as the weight. Add gravity and hundreds of different postures and combinations, and you have a workout that uses the same muscle groups, but in many different ways.

A pose such as plank is a full-body workout, with every muscle engaged to keep the body in one long line. While it’s a stationary pose, it requires muscle control and activation, with no room for passivity.

    A Flow sequence, on the other hand, requires your muscle to switch from one pose to another swiftly, providing you with a more balanced and wholesome use of your major muscle groups.

    Advertising

    Not only do these poses and routines re-energize the body in a refreshing way, they also allow you to learn something new, which is powerful for the mind.

    Bottom line? Complementing your exercise regimen with flow yoga is like hitting the shuffle button on your workouts, using your muscles in ways that “surprise” them, which in turn boost their growth and performance.

    Energizing Flow Yoga with Added Cardio

    Flow yoga is also known as “Vinyasa.”[3] In Sanskrit – the sacred language of the practice and its Indian roots – Vinyasa is roughly translated to “one breath, one movement.”

    This guideline, first and foremost, enhances your breathing, and teaches you how to go from our typical shallow, chest-only breathing, to a more deeper, belly-chest breath that uses the entire lung system.

    Not only is this beneficial for a myriad of healthcare reasons (combat allergies, eliminate toxins, reduce stress, ease anxiety), it also greatly impacts our muscles,[4] and therefore our workout.

    Flooding your muscles with rich oxygen will only keep them healthy, while the cardio benefit will get you warmed up to take on the more challenging postures in a flow yoga class. This prevents injuries and cramping.

    The best example of energizing cardio in flow yoga is the Sun Salutation sequence. Each pose is completed on an inhale or an exhale, until the sequence is finished. One full sequence may be repeated several times, encouraging you to take fuller and deeper breaths. The cycles warm up and loosen the body and prepare the muscles for stationary poses that are held longer.

    Here’s how to do a Sun Salutation Flow:

    Advertising

    Due to the Sun Salutations, the muscles are not thrown into a challenging workout, but rather primed and prepared with energizing breath.

    Why is this important, you ask? Because happy muscles are warmed-up muscles.

    The Best Thing About Flow Yoga

    The best thing about practicing flow yoga? You’re building strength and flexibility.

    Strength and flexibility are like the Mecca of a wholesome workout routine. Before we get into why this is important, let’s break these two down individually to see how they stand up on their own:

    Meet Strong Stan

    Strong Stan is at the gym, doing bicep curls with massive dumbbells. His muscles have peaked in size, and he proudly displays them.

    While he loves to lift weights, Strong Stan often skips stretching or warm-ups. He just doesn’t see how that could help him continue his muscle gains, so he jumps right into a heavy workout.

    While it’s not evident to a passerby, Stan’s muscles are hurting. Without sufficient flexibility or deliberate stretching, Stan’s muscles are shortening and getting tighter. This eventually leads to joint injuries,[5] because un-stretched muscles have limited range of motion.

    Big muscles are a sure indicator of strength, but here’s the kicker – choosing not to prioritize flexibility will keep them inherently at risk.

    Meet Flexible Fiona

    Flexible Fiona is in a flow yoga class, easing herself into a backbend.[6] She effortlessly gets into the pose, and “hangs” out there for a few breaths while the teacher cues the class.

    Even though the teacher instructs the students to engage their glutes and be mindful that this is an active pose, Flexible Fiona opts otherwise, and relaxes into the posture by sacrificing the strength she ought to be building.

    Advertising

    To many in the class, Fiona’s execution of the backbend would be a success – maybe even something to envy. However, what Fiona doesn’t realize is that her excessive flexibility is actually a detriment to her joints.[7]

    Flexibility has been defined as the “absolute range of motion” by Tony Gummerson, Martial Arts instructor. For people who are naturally flexible, that line of absolute range is often blurry and, in practice, overlooked.

    It’s very easy for Fiona to go above and beyond her range of motion, since her flexibility parameters are much wider than what Strong Stan may experience in a similar pose.

    Because she doesn’t feel the stretch in the same degree of motion as other students in class, Fiona has to push the envelope of her flexibility. This puts too much pressure on the joints that are already overworked, and it overstretches the muscles that are now prone to tearing.

    Your goal is to create muscle and joint balance and wholeness.

    What Strong Stan and Flexible Fiona have in common is that they’re both missing vital pieces of muscle awareness.

    In Stan’s case, heavy and tight muscles crave flexibility. Without it, not only would Stan hit a plateau in his gains because of a sure injury, but he would miss out on having the lean and toned muscles that we all want to have.

    In Fiona’s case, her overstretched muscles are not getting a workout at all. Rather, her excessive flexibility is resting on her joints, which leads to definite injury.

    So what can you do? It’s quite simple.

    You have to give your muscles the opposite of what they’re used to.

    If you’re a Stan and hate stretching, focusing on your flexibility is key. You will lengthen your tight muscles, and you’ll create new muscle memory by practicing routines that are new to you and your muscle groups.

    If you’re a Fiona and hate strengthening, focusing on this priority is vital. Your muscles are used to being passive as you stretch, so shaking up the usual and putting them to work will not only keep you injury-free, but that much closer to the muscle gains you’ve been looking for.

    Fortunately, flow yoga is the whole package, and can be the one-stop-shop for both Stan and Fiona.

      Final Thoughts

      If you’re serious about using flow yoga to supplement your workout routine to boost gains, sign up for a class at your local gym or yoga studio. There are a number of styles of yoga to try, but as we’ve discussed in this article, the Vinyasa style is your best bet to complement a moderate exercise regimen.

      Many studios offer beginner-style Vinyasa classes, where the instructor will explain the basics, and break down the sequences in a pace that is suitable for entry-level students. From here, the student can build upon their practice, and opt for more challenging, fast-paced classes, such as Power Flow or Ashtanga.

      Working out is a lesson in teaching your muscles. The gains that we grow are the result of that experience, and it all comes down to conditioning our body in a way that is healthy, efficient, and balanced.

      With a practice like flow yoga, we can offer supplemental training to our current regimen that will work our muscles in ways that are new, refreshing, and “surprising.” This method will keep our muscles toned and lean, as long as we prioritize the balance between strength and flexibility to ensure that we’re meeting both of these needs. Our muscle gains and body health depend on it.

      More Resources About Yoga and Fitness

      Featured photo credit: Edit Sztazics via unsplash.com

      Reference

      Read Next