Breathwalk for Energy and Stress Relief

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Breathwalk is the science of combining specific patterns of breathing synchronized with your walking steps and enhanced with the art of directed, meditative attention. Breathwalk exercises are aimed at producing specific effects to revitalize body, mind, and spirit.

The effects of breathwalking exercises include:

  • Increased energy levels
  • Mood control
  • Refined mental clarity
  • Feelings of connectedness

"The problem is not linking the mind and body—they are linked. The problem is using the body in a conscious way," Gurucharan Singh Khalsa explained at a Breathwalk trainer seminar in Portland, Oregon.

Breathwalking draws on breathing techniques from yoga and adds exercises and walking cadences to create the desired effect. The effects are backed by research that showed the techniques actually produce the desired effects more than when a person is just plain walking.

Khalsa is teaching breathwalking through several means.

  • "Breathwalk" book, available at bookstores or by online purchase.
  • Breathwalk classes: Instructor training is being conducted throughout the U.S. Instructors may then arrange their own local classes and groups. Personal intensive training sessions may be held in coordination with instructor training.

The mental and physical benefits of breathwalking are a perfect match for today's workplaces that combine high stress and low physical activity.

Going on a Breathwalk

Each breathwalking exercise has five steps:

  • Awaken: The awaken exercises are coordinated for the desired effect. Three to five different exercises are done for one to three minutes each. These are simple arm, posture, and conscious breathing exercises. The breathing patterns used include full conscious breaths, the quick "Breath of Fire," and segmented breathing.
  • Align: Now the walking begins. The walkers go outdoors for a few minutes to establish a smooth, comfortable pace. They check proper body alignment and stride. Khalsa recommends that walkers learn a good walking technique as they would for fitness walking. The walkers do a scan of their bodies, feeling each link from foot to leg to thigh and on up.
  • Vitalize: A specific breathing pattern is used to achieve the desired effect chosen by each walker, be it energizing, mood control, mental clarity, or connectedness. Techniques include segmented breathing and the use of primal sounds, either unvoiced or softly voiced. Segmented breathing coordinates with your walking cadence, taking each step in rhythm to the breathing. Most of the breathing techniques are done through the nose rather than the mouth. The breathing-walking combinations, especially when combined with thinking or whispering the primal sounds, clear the mind of constant self-chatter and allow you to feel your walking rhythm. The Vitalizing rhythm is done for three to five minutes, then a normal breathing and walking pace is done for three minutes. This repeated three times or more throughout the walk.
  • Balance: Finish the walk by gradually slowing the walking pace and allowing the senses to expand. Then finish with a good stretch. The triple balance stretch is described in the "Breathwalk" book.
  • Integrate: This is an "innerwalk" exercise to connect mind, body, and environment. Various exercises include "Play and Replay," "Gathering Your Senses," and "Expanding Bubble."

Who Should Breathwalk?

A breathwalk class is enjoyable even for science-based skeptics. The meditation and breathing practices are not buried under mysticism and can be incorporated into fitness walking. Knowing how to breathe properly can help you quite a bit when you are walking fast or going uphill. Going on a complete breathwalk is a great walking workout for "easy" days when you are recovering from a hard or long workout the previous day. A breathwalk also can be a great lunchtime energizer or calmer during the workday, depending on your need and which Vitalizing focus you choose.

Breathwalking may be done solo, with a friend or in a group. It is adaptable for walking groups to use or for use on your own.

Using Walking for Mental Clarity and Stress Relief

Walking can be used to improve your mood, clarify your thoughts, and relieve stress. These effects may be felt when you walk with no particular style or focus, but practices like breathwalk may enhance them. The "MindWalks" book by Mary H. Frakes uses a variety of ways to turn your daily walk into a time for mental and spiritual rejuvenation. Another practice that can be used is walking a labyrinth, which is an ancient practice of both Christian and pagan traditions. It also concentrates on breath and meditation.

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