Ever since I was a young girl, going for a daily walk has been part of my life. I remember as a child, after eating dinner, my parents would announce to my brother and me: “Time to go for a walk!!”. On our walks through our busy neighborhood and city streets, we would often explore different areas, take undiscovered pathways and most of all connect with one another as a family. Not only did I feel more relaxed after these walks, but I felt happier, more clear headed and more connected to myself and the earth around me.
As I grew up and became a teenager and young adult, I continued these walks and fit them into my schedule religiously. Going mostly on my own at this point in my life, I had time to reflect on my chosen path, think about tough decisions I had to make and really come to terms with who I was and who I wanted to be. What I did most often though, was just walk, I didn’t really think too much about anything! I got to see and explore this beautiful earth from forested trails, to beaches, to urban boardwalks – all of these places had beautiful discoveries to offer.
Now, years later and approaching 40, I am a children’s yoga teacher, along with a Mother and have a background in teaching nursery school and nutrition. Along the way, I have uncovered a deep, and anything-but-dark, secret. Walking is a form of meditation! Before I started practicing yoga and learning about all the different wonderful practices within yoga, I thought of meditation as something that perhaps monks did in a faraway land while chanting and sitting for hours and hours until their bodies ached. “No thank you,” I said to myself! However, as I educated myself, I learned that yes, what the monks do certainly is a type of meditation, but meditation can be so many different things!
Some of the benefits of meditation are:
- Reduces stress, anxiety and depression
- Increases optimism , confidence and self esteem
- Improves mood and emotional intelligence
- Helps with creative thinking, memory retention, focus and decision making.
- Lowers blood pressure and improves heart and brain issues
- Helps improve breathing and heart rates
- Gives you more energy
- Plus many, many more!
Meditation is about clearing your mind and many people do this by listening to music, driving down a country road, sitting looking at the stars in the night sky and yes, by walking. What better place to clear your mind than on a beautiful trail in a lush green and fragrant forest? Or along a gorgeous seaside beach as you watch the waves of the ocean softly and rhythmically collide over and over again with the shore? What about when you are in a huge city walking amongst the tall buildings and lights of the night and you are just a face in the crowd? As you can see, no matter where you choose to walk, as you get your heart rate up and blood pumping, and as the endorphins are released into your brain, you will naturally feel more relaxed, focused and connected to yourself. As you continue along, if you can begin to quiet your thoughts one by one and just focus on your breath, you will begin to see that you are actually, indeed experiencing a form of meditation.
This is especially a wonderful thing to introduce children to at a young age. Not only is it one of the best exercises on the planet, but it will also teach them to be calm, more focused and more self-aware. In addition, it’s an excellent family activity! Try having a fun purpose on your walks, like who can count the most pine trees, or who can find a red car first. But also, and just as importantly, try not to have a focus at some point in your walk other than your breath. Perhaps for the last 10 minutes of your walk, you just focus on breathing it all in. This is a great time to hold hands with your little one and just breathe and smile at the beauty around you.
So, if you want to try something other than the traditional forms of meditation, set your intention that you are going to calm and clear your mind and strap on your walking shoes! Also, bring your little one(s) or teenagers with you. It’s never too early (or late) to give them the incredible gift of meditation, along with the incredible gift of spending time with you. Namaste everyone!