Walking is something most of us do everyday. There is nothing unusual or particularly special about it at one level.
However, with very little instruction and practice time you can adapt your normal walking into a powerful and effective healing tool. You can practise regularly at home in a relatively small space, while walking down the street or in nature, and gain real benefits.
Photo © iStockphoto.com/Lawrence Sawyer
Many health organisations endorse walking as the best form of daily exercise available on the planet. Major research backs this claim by finding that walking can help you:
- Manage weight
- Decrease risk of heart attack
- Increase so-called good cholesterol
- Type 2 diabetes
- Protect against hip fracture
Click on any of the above links to review the research for yourself!
Why Refine Your Walk?
Why bother? That’s the attitude many have since they seem to walk just fine already. Although it’s true to some degree, walking is a form of exercise (even on the way to the snack cupboard). Exercising poorly can cause injuries whilst walking with proper body mechanics yields powerful benefits.
Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI), worn discs, damaged ligaments, torn meniscuses and more are associated with exercising poorly and sports injuries. These same problems can arise from continually, over decades, straining and wearing down critical body parts. That goes double for those who’ve sustained previous injury. Suddenly one day it’s snap, crackle, pop and ouch! In some cases it includes a visit to the orthopedic surgeon.
2 Ways to Improve Your Strut
Prevention is the best medicine. If you can avoid damaging your knees and other joints in the first place, you’ll cut down on wear and tear, pain and discomfort—now and in the future. This can be applied not only in walking, but in any activity for which you participate.
Obtaining and maintaining accurate body alignments will help you transfer the weight of your body through the centre of your joints and feet. This prevents uneven pressure on the joints and ligaments that causes wear and tear. One of the most common examples is a torn meniscus. Alignments will also dramatically increase your balance and reduce the risk of accidents.
Stretching Your Back and Legs
Stretching open the long muscles, ligaments and tendons of the back and legs opens up the joints and allows the synovial fluid in the joints to cushion the load from your body. This further protects your joints and ligaments by allowing tiny but very important extra space in the joints. It’ll put a spring in your step and not only prevent, but also help heal diseases, such as osteoarthritis.
Implementing both alignments and stretching begins the process of reducing tension, and increasing blood flow and flexibility. These two principles are the bottom line for anyone who wishes to mitigate damage and get the most from any form of exercise that involves the legs.
Improving Bodily Functions
Once you stabilise your walking, you can upgrade the quality of your walk deeper in your body. It requires refining your alignments and mechanics, but the good news is that if you practise, results are pretty easy to come by for almost anyone in a short time.
The focus here is on opening the inside of the body so that as you walk you:
- Engage and massage your internal organs—especially the kidneys and bowels.
- Improve the functioning of your vascular system.
Both of these aspects are incredibly important for your overall health and vitality, and can be addressed by small yet profound adjustments to your walk.
Massaging Your Vital Internal Organs
Giving your internal organs a gentle yet firm massage is so important to keeping them from becoming stagnant and hard. Otherwise, their function is downgraded. Your organs are on duty 24 hours a day—breaking down food, supplying all the nutrients your body needs to grow and repair, and keeping you alive. The better condition your internal organs are in, the better your chance at enjoying overall health and vitality.
When your walking engages the deeper layers of tissue in the body, the contraction-release cycle of the muscles initiates a gentle massaging of the internal organs and begins to engage the vascular system.
Powerful Non-aerobic Cardiovascular Exercise
Bringing the vascular system on line can be achieved without the need of aerobic activity. Most exercise programmes miss this fact. Non-aerobic cardiovascular exercises, like qigong (energy exercise), take pressure off the heart and improves the supply of nutrients and oxygen to every cell in your body while removing toxins and waste material most efficiently. You can make it happen with very slow walking by gently but firmly stretching through the core of your body using qigong techniques.
As you bring your leg forward to take a step, you lengthen the soft tissues, which directly connect to your blood vessels, organs and spine. From this open position, as you put weight into the leg, a therapeutic pressure wave is created and travels up the body. This action increases blood flow throughout the vascular system. It also engages fluids in the joints that further facilitate the massaging of your internal organs. Over time, you can generate incredible energy just from walking.
From the outside you see almost no visible difference, but your internal experience is absolutely changed.
To achieve this depth of practice requires a live, competent teacher to make sure your unique body alignments and movements are correct and that you don’t strain your body.
When this level of practice stabilises, then aerobic exercise is just a heartbeat away. Smoothly increasing your walking speed will raise your heart rate, and with the vascular system open, will supercharge blood flow and boost your energy, fitness level and health in general. With your alignments and mechanics in place there’s no worry about causing damage. Again, many exercise programmes don’t offer this critical first step of opening the vascular before jumping around, which can leave you susceptible to injury.
Walking Postures to Enhance Practice Results
Next, you learn upper body walking postures whilst walking to open and develop your energy. All of the walking postures can be practised at either slow or progressively faster paces. As your speed increases and becomes fast enough, non-aerobic cardiovascular exercise gets supercharged and becomes aerobic. This adds to the mix all of the well-documented benefits of aerobic exercise, such as:
- Reducing stress
- Boosting the immune system
- Eliminating toxins
- Increasing flexibility
- Improving cardiovascular health.
Infusing Power into Your Walking Practice
As your walking becomes more solid and stable, you continually add more components of power to deepen the internal content of your practice. One major aspect of Bagua Circle Walking is consciously increasing the quantity of fluid motion in your body, including: the blood and synovial, lymph, cerebrospinal and interstitial fluids. They are responsible for keeping the body soft and supple, cleaning, repairing and regenerating your body as well as fighting off disease and illness. They also develop tremendous power for both martial and spiritual applications—if you should choose one or both such paths.
Accumulated tension closes down the body and diminishes the movement of fluid while actively engaging the fluids releases and expels long-term bound tension. The specific techniques for increasing fluid movement and production are responsible for keeping you incredibly relaxed, open and flexible throughout your entire life.
Circle Walking adds real value to your quality of life because when you are immobile, in pain and stressed out it can be more difficult to see the beauty in living.
Building Energy with Circle Walking
Circle Walking is an incredibly efficient container for developing your vital life-force energy. This is because walking in a circle circulates your blood and energy smoothly and strongly, opening, healing and revitalising your body to its core. Walking methods have existed for thousands of years as a sophisticated form of internal exercise.
There are two principles to remember when you want to build and develop your energy or vital life force.
- Stay within 70% of your full effort. Many exercise programmes keep you working out until you’re exhausted or in pain. You don’t need to run a marathon (or feel like you did), and in fact pushing yourself doesn’t work in the long game. Staying within your comfortable range of effort will allow you to exercise another day, but don’t go thinking it’s a prescription for laziness. Neither doing too much or too little includes: warming up and practising at a cruising level for a period of time that is sure to get the blood and energy circulating (at least 20 minutes) without depleting your reserves.
- Walk in a circle. You can practise in a relatively small space and you don’t have to be challenged by the elements—whether indoors or outdoors. When you walk in a straight line, you come to a point when you need to change direction. Walking in a circle allows you to gain a smooth rhythm that doesn’t require a stop or start for turning around. It is this smooth rhythm—without breaks—that generates the movement of energy around your body.
So like a generator spinning smoothly and continuously producing power, you keep walking and use little effort to achieve momentum. With this momentum blood and energy circulates continually without interruption and builds your core energy.
Efficiency at Its Best
You can apply meditative techniques while you walk to help let go of anxiety and tension. Once your basics are in place, you can learn how to focus your attention to release your nerves, relax your mind and drop the stress out of your body. These techniques can yield tremendous benefits, a way of neutalising the negative effects of our face-paced and highly stressed realities.
Right from the start walking with attention to internal details opens your body, stretches the soft tissues, increases blood flow and releases excess tension. It works on your body, mind and spirit to foster balance, relaxation and peace of mind, which are becoming increasingly rare and precious in the modern age. As you progress, the exercises themselves don’t change much, but how you apply them and the aspects you’re able to focus on evolve as you do. The benefits you get from your training continually grow and improve the quality of your daily life.
Where Do You Go from Here?
Classic Circle Walking methods, documented to have existed 4,000 years ago, along with qigong energy exercises, can teach you how to deeply connect the body through alignments and soft tissue stretches of the muscles, ligaments, tendons and fascia until the body becomes one coherent whole. You then integrate these principles into walking.
Once the foundation practice of Circle Walking, with its walking postures and subsidiary energy exercises, has been stabilised, you can choose to expand your practice by learning bagua, a sophisticated art of walking in a circle with multi-directional and varied changes of movement. Read more…
© 2010 Paul Cavel—All rights reserved. Links are appreciated, but please check with me before distributing any portion of this article.