How to Practice Walking Meditation: A Beginner's Guide
Written by Christoffer Kaltenbrunner
Here's how to practice walking meditation:
- Find a private place where you can walk back and forth.
- Stand at one end, close your eyes, and tune into your environment.
- When you feel ready, walk slowly to the other side while being mindful of every step.
- Turn around and walk back mindfully.
- Continue for 10-20 minutes.
Let the natural movement of your body cultivate mindfulness and awareness of your body.
Walking meditation can be practiced to calm your mind down and become aware of your body. It can be practiced before and after sitting mindfulness meditation, indoors, or outdoors.
Movement meditation connects the body and mind -- it's a chance to be mindful and connect to your surroundings. Often we're in a hurry and forget the importance of rest.
This is the definitive guide to walking meditation. It covers the benefits of walking meditation, how to do it, as well as answers to frequently asked questions.
What Is Walking Meditation?
Simply put, walking meditation is mindful walking.
In buddhism, the practice is known as kinhin which litterary means "to walk back and forth," and is often used between sessions of seated meditation. Kinhin is typically practiced walking clockwise around a room. Each step is followed by a full breath.
I'd like to generalize the concept of walking meditation to include more forms of movement meditation. Thus, it can be defined as a practice where slow movement of the body cultivates mindfulness.
This is the most natural form of meditation, I'd argue, since our bodies are built for movement.
(Long-distance runners can testify that repetitive movement can cultivate mindfulness.)
In his book, How to Walk, the buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh writes, "When you walk, arrive with every step. That is walking meditation. There’s nothing else to it."
I believe this shows how simple the practice actually is. If it feels complicated or overwhelming, you're probably trying to much. Relax! And don't forget to smile.
Benefits of Walking Meditation
However, walking meditation seems to have additional benefits compared to seated meditation.
A study published in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies showed that walking meditation improves balance performance among elderly people.2
Another study published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine showed that both traditional walking and walking meditation reduces blood glucose levels and increased cardiovascular fitness in patients with type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, walking meditation had additional benefits not observed in the traditional walking program, for example reduced arterial stiffness and cortisol level.3
Summing up, walking meditation
- improves anxiety,
- improves depression,
- improves pain,
- improves balance performance among elderly people, and
- produces favourable effects in patients with type 2 diabetes.
With all of these benefits, let's learn how to do it...
How to Do Walking Meditation
When practicing seated meditation, it's common to focus on one's breathing. When practicing moving meditation, on the other hand, it's common to focus on the movement of the body.
Finding a Place
It's a good idea to find a private place when practicing walking meditation for the first time since it will probably feel a little akward.
However, you don't need a special place -- practice in your living room or in a forest. The only requirement is that you are able to walk a few meters (or 10 steps) back and forth.
I prefer to practice in nature because it helps me to relax.
When you have found a place, it's time to center yourself...
Stand at one end of the path, preferably without shoes.
Tune into your environment by taking some deep breaths. Put your attention on the ground under your feet. How does it feel? Notice how the ground is carrying your body.
When you feel ready, walk at a slow natural pace to the other side while paying attention to the movement of your body. Be mindful of every step you take. When you reach the other side, slowly turn around and walk back.
Continue in this mindful manner for as long as you like, at least 10-20 minutes is recommended.
It's important not to tense the body. Relax your shoulders and let your arms hang naturally by your sides. Keep your head up and look further away, but not at anything particular.
Feel how your steps and breaths become harmonised. This is your natural rhythm of walking and breathing.
Be mindful of the sensations of walking and let yourself arrive in every step.
After some time, you will find that your mind wanderes. That's nothing to worry about (it's normal!). Note feelings and thoughts, and gently bring your attention back to the present moment.
With practice you'll find that your mind wanders less often.
Mindful Walking in Everyday Life
It is one thing to practice meditation for a specific time every day. And it is a completely different thing to be mindful whatever you do -- to embrace every task in your day with passion and awareness.
Mindful walking is a way to reduce the gap between meditation sessions and everyday life. Whenever you move your body, you can be mindful of the movement.
- Be mindful of your body when you walk to the coffee machine at work.
- Take a walk during your lunch break and be fully aware of every step.
- Do your chores mindfully and be consious of the movement of your body.
You don't need to live in a monastery or meditate for hours every day to live a mindful life. Every moment is a possibility to be mindful.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Long to Do Walking Meditation?
It's recommended to practice walking meditation for at least 10-20 minutes. Practice for as long as you like.
What to Do When the Mind Wanders?
Don't judge yourself or worry about it. It's normal to loose focus. Whenever you find that your mind has wandered, and gently put it back to the present.
Does Walking Help Stress?
Yes. Many studies suggests that walking reduces the experience of stress. Furthermore, walking meditation has numerous additional health benefits compared to traditional walking.
Where to Practice Walking Meditation?
Walking meditation can be practiced anywhere: in your home, in the nature, or in the city. Try to walk mindfully instead of looking at your phone or listening to a podcast.
Goyal M, Singh S, Sibinga EMS, et al. Meditation Programs for Psychological Stress and Well-being: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA Intern Med. 2014;174(3):357–368. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.13018 ↩
Apsornsawan Chatutain, Jindarut Pattana, Tunyakarn Parinsarum, Saitida Lapanantasin, Walking meditation promotes ankle proprioception and balance performance among elderly women, Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, Volume 23, Issue 3, 2019, Pages 652-657, ISSN 1360-8592, doi:10.1016/j.jbmt.2018.09.152. ↩
Atikarn Gainey, Thep Himathongkam, Hirofumi Tanaka, Daroonwan Suksom, Effects of Buddhist walking meditation on glycemic control and vascular function in patients with type 2 diabetes, Complementary Therapies in Medicine, Volume 26, 2016, Pages 92-97, ISSN 0965-2299, doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2016.03.009. ↩
Published on 2020-06-22. Last updated 2020-07-25.