I’ve always been a fast walker. I usually have my eye on the destination and have likely mapped out the most efficient way to get from Point A to Point B. I’ve even been guilty of this on a hike – zipping up the trail (how fast can I get to the top?) and practically running back down. Don’t get me wrong – I love the outdoors and I always notice the trees and the birds and the view, but I’m also mentally writing my shopping list, thinking about the upcoming work week… you know, your typical Crazy Monkey Mind. I’ve been practicing meditation for a while, but it’s only recently that I’ve discovered the joys of a walking meditation.
A walking meditation is not that different from a seated meditation, except you’re, well, walking. As you’re walking. You’re aware of your breath and the different sensations in your body. When you find your mind wandering, you gently bring it back to the walk. No grocery lists allowed.
Walking meditation can be a fun activity in a kids’ yoga class. Movement is a great way for children to connect their minds and bodies, and self-regulate. The walking meditation can be done indoors or outside. It can be a 20 minute walk in the woods or a two minute walk on their yoga mats.
When leading children through a walking meditation, use the steps below as a guide:
- Stand up and root your feet down into the earth, back straight.
- Take a few slow, deep breaths.
- Start walking, and notice your feet- how they feel inside your shoes (or on your mat), how they strike the ground… heel to toe, heel to toe.
- Notice the way your arms are swinging as you are walking.
- Bring your awareness to your breath… fall into a rhythm and notice how many steps you take on the inhale vs. the exhale.
- How do your toes feel now?
- Can you feel the muscles in your legs working?
- How do your neck and shoulders feel as you walk? Release any tension you may be feeling.
- If you feel your mind wandering away from the walk, simply bring it back.
Ask the children to tune into their senses during the walk – what do you hear, see, smell, feel? Is the air still or is there a breeze? How many different colors do you see? Is the bark of that tree rough or smooth? What are the different sounds you hear – crunching leaves? Singing birds? If you’re inside, what do you feel under your feet? What other noises can you hear besides walking feet?
Afterwards, sit in a circle and have the children tell something that they experienced during their walk, or how their bodies and minds felt before, during, and then afterwards.
On a recent trip to Colorado, I had a chance to go hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park. I was so happy to be there (I currently live in Eastern Pennsylvania, where I thought we had mountains – turns out, they’re just hills) and, not knowing when I would get a chance to return, wanted to remember every detail of the experience. I started off focusing on my breath and how my body was feeling with each step. I honed in on all my senses: smelling the clean, crisp mountain air, touching pinkish-green boulders along the path, listening to a waterfall in the distance, and watching snow fall on a distant peak. I kept my mind in the now. Toward the end of the hike, I sat down on a boulder near a lake and sat in silence for a few minutes. I can still feel the warmth of the rock, and clearly see the sparkling sunlight bobbing on the water – because I was so there in that moment, it’s imprinted on my mind forever.
You certainly don’t need a backdrop as stunning as the Rocky Mountains to experience true connectedness during a walking meditation. That feeling of calm and peace radiates from within you as walking mindfully can happen anywhere, anytime you want.