This is a practical reminder, to help you notice how the way you walk affects the way you feel. We aim to also shortly make it available as a podcast.
As this practice is written and we can’t read whilst walking, please read it a few times beforehand, and imagine you are walking, so that the suggestions soak in.
The more we practise, the more benefits we feel. So consider even a short walk as an opportunity; the benefits will gradually soak in until it no longer feels like a practice.
If possible be unburdened, except perhaps for a moderate backpack.
For the first few times, alone is best.
Switch off or leave behind mobile devices.
Be in comfortable footwear.
Be outdoors, hopefully in clean air – though large indoor spaces are also suitable.
Remember to appreciate the ability, and the liberty, to walk.
Recognise small opportunities to practise.
Look around as you walk and take in your surroundings.
Pay attention to walking safely, so as to avoid collisions and trips.
Set a moderate pace which allows easy breathing through the nose. Let the mouth softly close.
Stretch the hands as if newly released from tight gloves – then let them relax.
Allow the shoulders to soften, and let go of your arms.
Feel the head releasing upwards as though weightless; let the neck be free of tension.
Let your powerful feet press down; allow their spring to push you forward.
Sense the length of your legs as you enjoy their movement. Resist any habit of tightening the ankles, or of walking from the knees.
Become aware of your breathing. Let your exhales soften.
Feel the breath in your back; follow it out, follow it in.
Imagine the whole of your body being breathed.
Stay aware of your surroundings whilst walking alone. (!) Let ears listen whilst relaxed eyes scan.
Notice the expression on your face – if it’s tight, let it relax.
Can the line between your lips feel soft? Imagine your eyes smiling. Let any frown or furrowed brow melt away.
If the shoulders and neck tighten up, let them go again.
If unwanted tightness or thoughts creep in, imagine them dissolving with your out-breaths.
When walking uphill, put more spring into your step, and push down with your feet. Then imagine your head leading you up and forward.
If outdoors, take in signs of the season, the quality of the light, particular smells and sounds.
Notice your reaction to changes in the weather or to sudden noise – do you tend to over-react, or to hunch up against the cold?
Counter heaviness or lack of energy by feeling more purposeful.
Try quickening your pace, perhaps varying the length of your steps. Discover what you can do to feel more at ease.
Be playful, lighten your heart, be glad not to take life too seriously. So that’s why children skip! Try it yourself, or break into a run.
Remember, this awareness in walking affects how you think and feel. It can change you! Make a positive choice to enjoy and use this power.
From time to time, stop… allow yourself pause. Do nothing. Notice how you feel. Look up at the sky!
Returning to your normal stride, with an easy breath, set a comfortable pace and rhythm.
Avoid rushing, and the urge to simply arrive.
Be open to the idea of receiving the things which come along for free!
When you encounter others, see them in a kindly light, knowing that how they have sat, stood or moved will affect how well they think and feel.
Remember that it costs nothing to smile at strangers.
Continue to focus on these simple things; welcome this breathing space that allows less helpful thoughts to slip away.
Notice how you feel as the practice winds down, and you arrive somewhere. Hopefully you will want to hone these skills by repetition in the future.
And, last but not least, appreciate your fortune that you are able and free to walk.
SEE ARTICLE ON WALKING