Walking is one of the healthiest exercises.
However its not so much what you do it the way you do it.
Your body loves the flowing, perpetual rhythm of walking, but have you noticed, it doesn’t always feel that way. We often feel the compression of time, rushing to get to a particular destination, head cluttered with thoughts, breathing stilted, stiff joints and muscles; and not very present in the activity of walking – particularly if is a very familiar route.
Walking can be a very natural easy activity, however we bring our own unique habits and characteristics into walking.
Consider for a moment your particular way of walking, and what habits and patterns may accompany your walking?
I was out walking recently and need to ask for directions to a well known venue, I knew I was very close by, however what I noticed was nearly all the people I was going to approach had headphones on. This really made me wonder what they were listening to, where were there thoughts were. I imagine they were listening to music, radio, podcasts, audio books and lots of other interesting things.
Look around today and so many people are using mobile phones, their heads pulled down into these devices, (causing potential damage to the body), narrowing their field of vision, often clutching bags with tight hands, arms, shoulders and shuffling or waddling on their feet.
Think for a moment of some the strange walks you’ve noticed – how and why do people get into these awkward habits? Most people aren’t even aware of the way they walk.
Our habits and patterns of walking and moving are influenced by how we feel, our self- image, our view of the world, our culture, fashion our communities, family, job/title, peer group, celebrities and popular culture.
We have an innate desire to imitate and model those around us we admire or aspire to be like. Think of people that may have influenced how you walk or move, this could have been when you were a teenager, or even your earlier formative years.
The way you think and the way you feel and your self-image have a big influence on how you walk and carry yourself.
So the quality of thinking and we bring to the activity of walking is fundamental – this awareness then enables you to distinguish and identify habits, so you can choose them instead of them choosing you. Remember most of your habits are blind spots. Walking is one of the best ways to practice and implement principles of the Alexander Technique.
This first thing is to become very curious about walking, begin to notice your rhythm and pattern of walking, what are you thinking or feeling when walking?
How do we become present and poised in the process of walking?
You can make a commitment and declaration to be present to your surroundings, your body, your senses, your thoughts, actions and reactions.
Becoming present will have an immediate influence on how you walk; it will take you out of your automatic pattern/habit, which will have you be more purposeful, poised, balanced and coordinated in your movements.
These are some thoughts and directions you can bring to walking.
Think of your head floating up on top of your spine. Think of being light, think tall, think of your shoulder being open and wide.
Your eyes affect the balance of head and the body which influence you movements.
Let your eye line be level with the horizon. Don’t look down at the floor – it displaces your head and puts you out of balance. The rest of your body then has to compensate.
If you do need to look down, think of your eyes rolling down or your head releasing on top of the tip of your spine – so your whole head and neck isn’t pulling down.
Mindfulness walking and the Alexander TechniqueKeep a sense of the space all around you.Use your peripheral vision, think of expanding your vision
Keep a sense of the space all around you.
Think of everything coming towards you, rather than you walking and pulling (rushing) towards everything. You can think of the future coming towards you.
Think of the ground- the earth giving you support. Sense the feet meeting the ground and the ground meeting your feet – allow the feet to roll spread, open and widen as they meet the ground
Notice the weight that falls into each foot, is it equal? Is it light?
Notice the movement in the pelvis and shoulders when you walk.
Ideally there will there be a counter rotation of the pelvis and upper torso/shoulders, which provides a natural mechanism for maintaining a natural spiral movement thought the spine when you walk.
Are your arms swinging freely at the sides, are your hands clenched, is your jaw tight, are you frowning. When walking let the knees bend easily and release forwards and away from each other.
When this is all working well is like a four wheel drive, the cross pattern of your two arms and legs are synchronized and flowing
We always move easier when we smile; be playful, your just collecting information, gathering data, cultivating awareness and presence. Think of your back life is always pulling us forward, we are so front orientated we forget our backs. Your not judging, comparing, just observing.
When all this works well gravity becomes your friend; gravity works to support you.
So remember to think tall and light, so as to walk more freely and easily, with poise and balance. As well as being great exercise, walking is a wonderful time to work with some Alexander Technique ideas. It doesn’t have to be a walk in a special place, just your regular walk
Here are four tips to try out:
1) Don’t keep looking down at the floor – not only is it boring, it displaces your head forwards on top of your spine and puts you out of balance. The rest of your body then has to compensate.
2) Use your peripheral vision. Don’t glaze over, or tunnel vision in on one thing.
3) Keep a sense of the space all around you – beneath your feet, above your head, in front, to the sides and behind you.
3) If you are walking well, you are moving forward whilst releasing downwards and falling upwards. This stimulates postural reflexes that send us up against gravity – we ‘fall up’ in an easy and free way while walking.
Take a moment to think of indigenous tribes and cultures; they often characterised a very natural walk easy harmonious walk.
Remember we always move better with a smile.