The Yoga of Walking:
Exploring One Way to Bring Yoga into Daily Life
by Drew Perry
Teacher and Partner at Yoga North – Iyengar Yoga Winnipeg
Through our Iyengar yoga practice we come to appreciate how a pose that begins as a physical action can develop a meditative quality. When the asana is performed with the complete involvement of the mind, there’s no room left in our consciousness for the buzz of extraneous thoughts, or the push and pull of memories and desires that can easily draw us out of the present.
The unique skills developed and refined through Iyengar Yoga can also be applied to everyday activities with yogic-like benefits. If we look closely at only one type of daily activity – walking – we can understand how it can be possible to cultivate a yogic frame of mind outside of a yoga practice.
The next time you go out for a walk, try it out:
- Slow down your steps and bring your full attention to the real and present feeling of exactly how each foot hits the ground. Notice just the soles of the feet: does the left heel feel heavier or firmer when it hits the ground than the right? Or is it the right that feels different? Does your foot meet the ground on the outer, mid or inner heel first? Is that contact firm, medium or soft?
- Observe the full experience of weight transfer from heel to toe/back to front. In which places and in what other ways are there differences between left and right? Study the sensations within each foot and between the left and right sides.
- After observing for a while, notice how the experience of your gait has or hasn’t changed? Does the act of observing change the way the feet hit the ground, how the legs feel, or how the pelvis is positioned or moves?
- Introduce small adjustments and then observe the results of those deliberate changes.
Many other aspects of the gait can also be observed, depending on the particular day and your willingness to explore. For example, you could focus primarily on the top back part of the calf, just below the knee. Begin to initiate each step from that point of focus, lifting the leg from that place, then moving the leg forward from there. Or explore how a focus on the front thigh, or the tailbone, or the shoulder blades changes the experience of walking.
As with any new experience, the first several attempts can be challenging. It can be difficult to sustain your attention on something new. For several days just repeat the same observations or adjustments for the same length of time. Gradually, you may find that your attentiveness becomes easier to maintain; you can notice more subtle sensations and make increasingly finer adjustments.
With this type of conscious walking (or another conscious everyday activity), you may find that the mind is more fully attentive and absorbed in that activity, even for a little while. When that happens, you’re able to experience some of yoga’s “meditation in action” in daily life.