By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500, YACEP
The art of combining Yoga and walking, while integrating mindfulness techniques into both activities, will help you to integrate and resolve emotional difficulties – providing your body and mind with a great holistic exercise. Spending some time outside in the fresh air, and sunlight every day, will also help to regulate your circadian rhythms (body clock) and increase your serotonin levels, which will help to increase your energy level and support a positive outlook on life. Practicing Yoga asanas and mindful walking together, or in tandem with each other, will benefit your body, heart, and mind.
According to Ayurveda, the sister health science to Yoga, it is optimal to begin one’s day with a bath or shower, a brisk walk in the fresh morning air, followed by the practice of Yoga postures, breathing exercises, and a period of meditation. Some Yoga practitioners may prefer to take a walk first and then engage in their practice, while others may prefer to warm up and energize their bodies prior to taking a walk. The order is not as important as the regularity of their practice. Yoga asanas increase strength, flexibility, and balance. Walking exercises the entire body through moderate cardiovascular conditioning. Walking also balances the left and right hemispheres of the brain, through bilateral movement, while giving us the opportunity of becoming mindfully aware of both our internal and external environment.
Walking in a mindful way is also a wonderful way of becoming aware of the natural beauty that surrounds us and the changing of the seasons. Many of us spend a lot of time in our cars, offices, and homes, and not as much time outside in the natural environment. Taking the time to walk every day, in a mindful way; and if possible, in a beautiful natural setting, will help us to become aware of the rhythms of the earth and our presence on the earth. The grounding effect, of becoming aware of the rhythms of nature, will also help a Yoga practitioner to become more solidly present in day-to-day life. Taking the time to slow down everyday, and take a walk for a half an hour or longer, will also allow an individual to check in and gauge the health of the body, through monitoring his or her heart rate and walking speed.
Additionally, combining Yoga asanas and mindful walking practices, gives us the time and space to become aware of our internal environment and thought processes. Witnessing the thoughts that stream through our minds, during a challenging Yoga practice or during our daily walk, will allow us to become aware of thoughts that may not be uplifting or helpful to us. This awareness will allow us to choose more positive thoughts. Through the bilateral stimulation of walking, sticky emotional issues may also be more easily resolved, by bringing the situation to conscious awareness during a walk and witnessing the event in a more objective fashion. This mindful walking practice has the potential of helping us reframe a painful or unresolved issue in a more constructive way.
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