What is the Practice of Meditation Walks & What Are Its Benefits

People often think that meditation involves hours of sitting passively at one place. However, daily meditation does not have to mean that you only sit in one place. Regular practice of meditation has many health benefits, both for your physical health as well as your mental health. Meditation can improve the quality of sleep, your relationship skills, reduce your stress, enhance concentration, and also help establish a deeper connection to your spirit. There are many forms of meditation, and walking meditation is one such form of meditation that has its roots in Buddhism. Walking meditation is often used as part of a mindfulness routine, and this method of meditating comes with many benefits for your health, while also making you feel more grounded in life. Read on to find out more about what are the benefits of meditation walks.

What is the Practice of Meditation Walks or Walking Meditation?

Meditation walk is a form of meditation that is done by walking in a circle, back and forth in a labyrinth or in a straight line.(1,2) You can also choose to do a session of walking meditation over a significantly longer distance, but most people choose to practice it over a short-range only.(3,4) Walking meditation is done at a slow pace and varies depending on which specific technique you are following. Usually, practitioners of this meditation technique do a meditation walk session in between their seated meditation session.(5) Some of the examples of meditation walk include:

  • Theravada(6)
  • Vipassana(7)
  • Kinhin(8)

Walking meditation is seen as a perfect complement to the seated meditation routine and is often also referred to as ‘meditation in motion.’ Walking meditation is especially good for beginners because walking is a well-known part of anybody’s daily experience.

The techniques of meditation walks can be as simple as just strolling mindfully in a particular space, or it can be as detailed as breaking down and segmenting each step into six parts.(9) Some people also try to incorporate their breath or a mantra into their walking meditation routine.

Walking meditation is sometimes also known as mindful walking because this practice requires you to be consciously aware of your environment while moving, instead of sitting down with closed eyes.(10) This is also a simpler and comfortable form of meditation for those who prefer to practice a more active form of meditation.

What are the Benefits of Meditation Walks?

Here are some of the many potential benefits of meditation walks:

Improves Your Overall Well-Being

The many benefits of walking are already well-researched.(11) Whenever possible, taking a walk in natural surroundings such as a garden, park, or a place surrounded with trees, helps enhance a person’s overall feelings of well-being. This also helps you feel more grounded and balanced.

A prime example of this is the practice of forest bathing, which is very popular in Japan for its many benefits like enhanced brain activity, relaxation, and activation of the immune system.(12)

A 2018 study found that people who walked even for just 15 minutes in a bamboo forest had significant improvements in their anxiety levels, mood, and blood pressure.(13)

Lowers Anxiety and Stress

Meditation is very useful in wiping away a full day’s stress. Stress can make you anxious, worried, and tense. Spending even a couple of minutes in meditation can help restore your inner peace and calm. Doing a seated meditation before you start your meditation walk is usually recommended if you want to reduce anxiety and stress.

In fact, a study from 2017 carried out on young adults found that walking is significantly more effective in decreasing the symptoms of anxiety when it is combined with meditation.(14)

The participants of the study who experienced the most dramatic changes in their stress and anxiety levels were found to be practicing meditation, meditating before walking, or walking before meditating. The control group and the group of participants who only walked did not experience such great improvements. Each walking or meditation session in the study was for ten minutes only.

Increase in Blood Circulation

Meditation walks are usually used by people who are used to sitting for long periods of time, mostly for their work. The meditation walk helps them get their blood flowing, especially to the legs. Walking meditation also helps reduce feelings of stagnancy or sluggishness that is likely to set in after sitting for long periods.

Mindful walking is an excellent technique to boost blood circulation and to increase your energy levels if you have a job profile that involves you to keep sitting for long hours.

Reduces Depression

The importance of remaining physically active as you age cannot be stressed enough. Regular physical activity helps increase your fitness levels, and at the same time, is known to have a dramatic impact on your mood. Exercise helps improve your mood and has been found to have a profoundly positive effect on anxiety, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and more.(15,16,17)

A small study done in 2014 found that older people experienced lesser symptoms of depression after practicing the technique of walking meditation at least three times a week for a period of 12 weeks.(18) The study also found that the elderly participants experienced improvements in their blood pressure and functional fitness levels.

Helps Improve Digestion

Practicing meditation walking after eating is an excellent way of boosting your digestion, especially if you are feeling too full or bloating.

This physical movement helps the food move through the digestive tract, and also prevents constipation.

Helps Improve Blood Sugar Levels and Circulation

A 2016 study discovered that Buddhist-based meditation walks could have a significant positive impact on blood sugar levels and circulation in people with type 2 diabetes.(19)

Participants in the study practiced mindfulness walking for half an hour at least three times a week for 12 weeks. The participants that practiced meditation walking experienced more significant improvement than the group of participants who followed only traditional walking technique.

Better Sleep Quality

It is not always necessary to do intense work out just to reap the benefits of exercise. Even walking for 10 to 15 minutes every day can be great for your health. A study carried out in 2019 found that regularly doing moderate exercises can have a positive impact on your sleep quality.(20)

Walking not only helps improve your flexibility but also reduces muscle tension allowing you to feel better physically. At the same time, walking meditation also reduces feelings of stress and anxiety. All these benefits help you have a calm and clear mind, allowing you to get better quality sleep each night.

Improves Balance

A 2019 study done on older women found that meditation walks can help encourage better balance and also increase ankle coordination and awareness in the elderly.(21)

This particular technique of meditation walking focused on being conscious about your leg and ankle movements while walking at a slow pace.

Helping You Enjoy Exercising

Including a mindfulness technique into your fitness routine can help make exercising more enjoyable. A 2018 study discovered that people who were listening to a mindfulness recording while walking on a treadmill for 10 minutes found the exercise more enjoyable. The study concluded that mindfulness helps connect the brain with exercise in a different, more enjoyable manner.(22)

Stimulates Creativity

Meditation walks or even practicing mindfulness techniques can increase your clarity, allowing you to better focus on your thought patterns. This, in turn, has been shown to stimulate creativity in people. A 2015 study found a link between creativity and mindfulness. While more studies are required to look at exactly which aspects of creativity are connected to mindfulness but exploring a mindfulness practice has been found to help cultivate new ideas and enhance a person’s problem-solving skills.(23)

Conclusion

There is no doubt that walking by staying mindful of each step you take is a challenging habit and will take time to cultivate. If you want to incorporate meditation walking in your day to day life, then begin by bringing your mind back to the present moment whenever you are walking at any time in the day. Try to focus on your breath, the sounds around you, or any bodily sensations. You should tune into your thoughts and observe them changing with time. Observing how the practice of meditation walking varies when you are walking in a rush versus while you are walking at a slow pace will help you focus on the changes you feel during meditation walks. Simply slowing down your pace for a couple of minutes, even when short on time can make a huge difference to your health and overall well-being.

References:

  1. Hanh, T.N., 2011. The long road turns to joy: A guide to walking meditation. Parallax Press.
  2. Prakhinkit, S., Suppapitiporn, S., Tanaka, H. and Suksom, D., 2014. Effects of Buddhism walking meditation on depression, functional fitness, and endothelium-dependent vasodilation in depressed elderly. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 20(5), pp.411-416.
  3. Hanh, T.N., 1985. A guide to walking meditation. Fellowship, 51(10-11), p.23.
  4. Silananda, S.U., 1995. The benefits of walking meditation. Bodhi Leaves.
  5. SITZMAN, K., 1999. Walking meditation-relaxing step-by-step. Home Healthcare Now, 17(8), p.496.
  6. Gunaratana, H., 1988. The jhanas in Theravada Buddhist meditation. Kandy,, Sri Lanka: Buddhist Publication Society.
  7. Chiesa, A., 2010. Vipassana meditation: systematic review of current evidence. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 16(1), pp.37-46.
  8. Riggs, D.E., 2008. Meditation in motion: Textual exegesis in the creation of ritual. Zen Ritual, p.223.
  9. Gunaratana, H., 2001. Eight mindful steps to happiness: Walking the Buddha’s path. Simon and Schuster.
  10. Jung, Y., 2014. Mindful walking: The serendipitous journey of community-based ethnography. Qualitative Inquiry, 20(5), pp.621-627.
  11. Barton, J., Hine, R. and Pretty, J., 2009. The health benefits of walking in greenspaces of high natural and heritage value. Journal of Integrative Environmental Sciences, 6(4), pp.261-278.
  12. Tsunetsugu, Y., Park, B.J. and Miyazaki, Y., 2010. Trends in research related to “Shinrin-yoku”(taking in the forest atmosphere or forest bathing) in Japan. Environmental health and preventive medicine, 15(1), p.27.
  13. Hassan, A., Tao, J., Li, G., Jiang, M., Aii, L., Zhihui, J., Zongfang, L. and Qibing, C., 2018. Effects of walking in bamboo forest and city environments on brainwave activity in young adults. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2018.
  14. Edwards, M.K., Rosenbaum, S. and Loprinzi, P.D., 2018. Differential experimental effects of a short bout of walking, meditation, or combination of walking and meditation on state anxiety among young adults. American Journal of Health Promotion, 32(4), pp.949-958.
  15. Archer, T. and Kostrzewa, R.M., 2012. Physical exercise alleviates ADHD symptoms: regional deficits and development trajectory. Neurotoxicity research, 21(2), pp.195-209.
    North, T.C., McCULLAGH, P.E.N.N.Y. and TRAN, Z.V., 1990. Effect of exercise on depression. Exercise and sport sciences reviews, 18(1), pp.379-416.
  16. Guszkowska, M., 2004. Effects of exercise on anxiety, depression and mood. Psychiatria polska, 38(4), pp.611-620.
  17. Prakhinkit, S., Suppapitiporn, S., Tanaka, H. and Suksom, D., 2014. Effects of Buddhism walking meditation on depression, functional fitness, and endothelium-dependent vasodilation in depressed elderly. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 20(5), pp.411-416.
  18. Gainey, A., Himathongkam, T., Tanaka, H. and Suksom, D., 2016. Effects of Buddhist walking meditation on glycemic control and vascular function in patients with type 2 diabetes. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 26, pp.92-97.
  19. Wang, F. and Boros, S., 2019. The effect of physical activity on sleep quality: a systematic review. European Journal of Physiotherapy, pp.1-8.
  20. Chatutain, A., Pattana, J., Parinsarum, T. and Lapanantasin, S., 2019. Walking meditation promotes ankle proprioception and balance performance among elderly women. Journal of bodywork and movement therapies, 23(3), pp.652-657.
  21. Cox, A.E., Roberts, M.A., Cates, H.L. and McMahon, A.K., 2018. Mindfulness and affective responses to treadmill walking in individuals with low intrinsic motivation to exercise. International journal of exercise science, 11(5), p.609.
  22. Edisciplinas.usp.br. 2020. [online] Available at: <https://edisciplinas.usp.br/pluginfile.php/3312692/mod_resource/content/1/Meta-analysis%20Criatividade.pdf> [Accessed 5 June 2020].

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