For years, my dad has been devoted to staying active, even now at 96 years of age. His commitment to self-care provides an excellent example for others; he performs daily workouts, determined to maintain optimal health.
In 1990, a back injury and surgery prevented him from continuing a running program, so walking was his approach to sustaining his active lifestyle. No matter what crops up to confront him, my dad now carries on with his walking and yoga practice. In addition, our 15-year-old dogs, Buddy and Tika, relish a daily trek with me throughout our neighborhood; our half-hour walk gives me time to connect with nature, to calm and collect myself, preparing for the day.
There are innumerable physical approaches to becoming more active, yet walking has been found to have the highest success rate as a simple and trouble-free way to improve health. Research tells us that if we walk 30 minutes per day, we can improve blood pressure and blood sugar levels, as well as blood lipid profile (total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein [HDL], low-density lipoprotein [LDL], and triglycerides). These are primary markers of good physical health, from the standpoint of physical assessments. Probable reduction of the risk of coronary heart disease or stroke is another advantage of committing to a walking program, also shown to decrease osteoporosis, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and colon and breast cancer.
Bringing purposeful awareness to slowing down, aligning with one’s body and moving in the present moment with each breath is an easy way to practice mindfulness in daily life. “It is sufficient to just be with each step, realizing that you are just where you are,” according to J. Kabat-Zinn. Attending to our body’s physical, mental, emotional, energetic and spiritual needs through practicing walking meditation can help us develop a strong connection with the world around us, using the “natural movement of walking to cultivate mindfulness and wakeful presence,” according to Jack Kornfield. Practicing mindful walking connects us with our environment. All of our senses are highly activated when we focus on walking with purpose.
We embrace our surroundings more fully when we contemplate the beauty of green meadows with a backdrop of steel blue, snow-capped mountains. Our ears “perk up” when we listen more closely to the sound of a mother robin’s warble, steering us clear of her little ones. As we are gardening, the moisture-rich earth beneath our feet and on our hands magnifies our sense of touch. The sweet scent of wildflowers carries us entirely into springtime in the Rockies!
Warm days are upon us, the perfect time to explore mindful walking. Around Sheridan County, we have numerous pathways and parks. Try this simple mindful practice of walking, just for the sake of walking. Then extend it into your day, when shopping, running errands — wherever you walk. This “mindfulness-in-action” helps keep body, heart, mind and soul in sync as we move through life, moment by precious moment.
The weather is perfect … get in step with your life today!
Teresa (Teddy) E. Araas, PhD, C-IAYT, CHES, E-RYT500, CYT700, RPYT, a globally-certified Yoga Therapist, owns local businesses Balanced Living Health & Wellbeing Consultants, LLC and Santosha Yoga. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.