For some, meditation comes easily. For others, such as myself, it can be more… difficult. If you fall into the latter category, breathwalking (a technique derived from Kundalini yoga that combines the simple acts of continuous stepping, measured breath and a focused mantra repetition) can be a welcome alternative to sitting still. Activity can actually help to quiet the mind. Breathwalking allows you to move your body in order to bring your focus inward and away from distractions.
Breathwalking is simple – there’s no prep time or equipment required. All you need is a good pair of shoes (I love Dr. Andrew Weil’s Integrative Footwear Rhythm Walker – SO comfy) or go barefoot in your backyard! You may be a little distracted at first, but with time you’ll begin to consciously focus your attention inward. You will also benefit from reduced stress levels, increased circulation in the brain, focus, clarity, and an enhanced mind-body-soul connection.
How to get started:
“Stairs” Breathing. Take four short inhales through your nose and release four short exhales either through your nose or mouth. This is known as “stairs” breathing (think of your breath as if it’s walking up and down a set of four stairs). Repeat until you have achieved a rhythm. Begin walking by synchronizing your strides with your breath – inhaling through your nose every step for four paces.
Finger Tapping. Once you’ve got the breathing down, you’re ready to tap your fingers with each breath. Start on an inhale, and touch your pointer finger to your thumb, followed by your middle finger to your thumb on the second inhale and step, your ring finger to your thumb on the third inhale and step, and your pinky to your thumb on the final inhale. On your exhales, repeat the finger taps, starting with your pointer finger again.
Longer Breaths… Continue breathing and tapping, but on your exhale, let one long breath out for four counts. Or, if you prefer, switch to inhaling one long breath as you take four steps and continuing to synchronize your four exhales with four steps.
…And Longer. Transition from a four-step inhale to a four-step exhale to one long inhale and exhale, envisioning waves of breath in a count of four. Lock into a flow of deep, rhythmic breathing. Just make sure you adjust the length of your breath with the speed at which you’re walking. You want to completely fill your lungs and your belly with oxygen before you exhale.
Mantra. Incorporating a mantra with your breathing and finger tapping will help deepen your focus. Kirtan Kriya, also referred to as SA TA NA MA meditation or chant is a great breathwalking mantra. For example, if you are doing stairs breathing, say one syllable per step, breathe, and finger. You can also create your own sounds or phrases.
Have you tried breathwalking? What’s your favorite meditation practice? Leave a comment below!