If you’ve ever tried meditating and found it more challenging than expected, walking meditation might be a better option for you. It’s easy, practical, and just as beneficial (and free!) as the seated variation of the practice. Here’s all you need to know.
Mediation is more than just sitting down in a quiet place for an extended period of time. It’s about connecting your body and mind to develop self-awareness and cultivate a wakeful presence. Given the number of distractions we’re constantly surrounded by in our everyday lives, it’s not something we get to do very often. Walking meditation gives us the opportunity to do just that while actively moving.
What Exactly Is Walking Meditation?
As the name would suggest, it’s the act of meditating as you walk. Typically, practitioners will walk in a circle or back and forth in a straight line while holding hands behind their backs. The pace can be either slow or brisk, and it can be done indoors or outdoors. Though it’s generally used to complement long sessions of seated meditation to give the body a break, it’s also commonly practiced in its own right.
Walking meditation is an ancient practice rooted in many forms of Buddhism. Back in the day, in India, it was a common occurrence to see Buddhist monks perform their daily tasks while actively meditating. Whether they were fetching water from a far-away well or going on their alms rounds around the village, they would be practicing mindfulness surrounded by an aura of peace and calm.
Nowadays, our fast-paced and busy lives often prevent us from finding enough time (and, let’s be honest, patience) to learn and fully engage in meditation at home. And that’s exactly where walking meditation differs: It doesn’t involve learning a new technique, and it’s so incredibly practical that once you master it, you can practice it anywhere you want, anytime you want.
Many prefer it to seated meditation as they find that the repetitive action of walking helps them focus more easily than being still—they’re more aware of their bodies in motion and they’re more conscious of every physical sensation. This is why it’s a great option for beginners who are looking to get into meditation.
What Are the Benefits of Walking Meditation?
According to the Buddha’s philosophy, the purpose of this practice was to fortify your perseverance, improve your resistance and your posture, boost your digestion, and support your immunity. Quite the spiritual and physical cure-all!
Research in the medical field has been able to provide a substantial amount of support for a fair number of these claims. This is not particularly surprising given that both exercise and mindfulness are widely known to improve our health.
On the one hand, there’s walking, which boosts digestion by helping food move along your digestive tract and improves blood circulation after long hours of sitting at a desk. On the other, there’s meditation, which can lower stress levels and trigger a sense of well-being by helping you practice self-awareness and attend to your emotional needs.
More specifically, walking meditation has been found to be particularly beneficial for patients with type 2 diabetes. In a 2016 study, diabetic patients who participated in a 12-week walking meditation exercise program showed significant improvements in their blood glucose levels, blood pressure, and even cortisol levels.
Similar results were reported by another group of researchers who showed that walking meditation was effective in reducing symptoms of depression and improving both cardiovascular health and functional fitness.
More recently, in a randomized and controlled clinical trial, a group of elderly reported significant improvements in their sense of balance, ankle awareness, and coordination after 8 weeks of walking meditation practice.
Needless to say, there’s a lot to be gained from this simple way of meditating.
How to Practice Walking Meditation
The beauty of this practice is that it doesn’t require any special setup or tool, and it can be done anywhere you feel comfortable. All you really need is your own two feet and the willingness to be rooted in the present moment to fully connect with your body.
If you’re interested in learning how to practice walking meditation, the team at the UC Berkley’s Greater Good Science Center has a detailed walk-through to get you started.
A fun alternative for nature lovers is forest bathing, which combines the benefits of mindfulness and the fresh air of lush greenery. Those who prefer the stillness part of meditation should also check out intermittent silence meditation.