Most people think of yoga as the poses done on the mat, the thing we go to a yoga class for, perhaps even a workout. But the practice of yoga is much more expansive. It actually permeates the entire aspect of self. If we go back to the meaning of yoga, it means union – union with the high self, union with the divine, union with the whole. We are just a part of that whole. And so we explore yoga through every encounter we have, whether that’s a person, an animal, how we respond to an event in life; yoga happens every single day.
So how can we begin to further develop the yoga in our life, off of the mat? One way is to develop a mindfulness practice by starting to tune in with a deeper sense of awareness of who we are, how we view ourselves in this world. We do this by becoming the observer, by zooming out and experiencing life from the perspective of the high self. And through mindfulness, we have the opportunity to be completely present – to disconnect from the past, to give up living in the future, and to just be purely present. This is the first step to experiencing more joy and peace in our lives and less stress and anxiety.
One way that I like to explore mindfulness is through meditation walking. It is essentially taking your meditation practice on a walk! It is best to start this in a quiet place with limited distractions and with no real destination. The goal is to relax the body, develop greater conscious awareness of self and learn to walk (and live) with greater ease. Once developed, it can even be applied to walking in and out of the grocery store – anywhere! And it can truly become your own secret mindfulness practice and a way to re-center yourself throughout your busy day.
So how does it work? It’s really no more complicated than walking, often times in nature, with full present state awareness. And so to do this, you pick a nice spot, like maybe the park, and just begin to walk. But as you are walking, you feel all of the sensations of the body. So you think about one leg moving forward, the other leg moving forward. Think about the experience in the body as you move. Tune into the breath and feel each and every movement – muscles contracting and lengthening, the arms swinging. Is there pain in the body? Does it feel gentle and easy? Feel the weight of your body as it sinks into your heel and feel your foot roll across the ground as your weight shifts forward. Allow all of the senses to just take in what’s around you. Take in a nice deep breath smelling the air, smelling the dry leaves of fall. Absorb as many details as you can through sight, taking in the colors, the colors of the leaves, the brightness of the sunrise or the beauty of the sky on a sunset. You take in the feelings of the air blowing across your skin. Is it cold? Is it hot? How do you feel in the environment? Are you sweating? Take in the sounds. What do you hear on your walk? Do you hear the crackling of gravel under your feet or the rustling of leaves, the sounds of kids playing or dogs barking, birds chirping? Absorb every possible sound to the greatest level that you can. Allow the mind to find stillness as it stays truly anchored in the present continually bringing your attention back to the breath. Allow the breath to deepen, drawing you deeper into the meditation. Invite in the gentleness of spirit to fill your soul and speak to you. This is your quiet time. This is the way to make space so that you can start to hear the gentle whispers of spirit.
Doing your walking meditation is often inspiring and grounding. As energy beings and as human beings who give off an energy frequency, we spend so much time bustling around often in an urban setting. So when we go into nature, we are surrounded by the energetic qualities of the trees, the plants, the frequencies of the earth that are so much bigger than us but yet that we are a part of. So when we tune into this type of environment, our frequencies resonate with the frequencies of nature. And so it’s easier for us to find stillness and rest. It’s easier for us to welcome in spirit because there is less resistance. We experience ourselves as part of the greater whole.
Give nature walking a try. It can be a wonderful way to renew the spirit and find stillness, especially for those who have a difficult time sitting in the more traditional style of meditation with eyes closed trying to find the quiet in a busy mind. By moving the body you are also allowing the body to release energy, release resistance, release negative emotions and the things that become an impediment to the traditional ways of sitting quietly. I personally like to do my meditation walk in the morning. I find that there is something very soft and inspiring about the gentleness of morning, the day that hasn’t yet begun. It holds so much potential and it’s a wonderful time to set an intention for the day, to ground yourself and to start the day with peace. So try it. See what you think. You might find that it’s a new way to connect for you, to more deeply connect.
Sarah Balmer, BS, RYT-200
Certified Holistic Health Coach, CPT
Yoga I.S. ® Instructor