Walking Yoga

Walking Yoga: Incorporate Yoga Principles into Dynamic Walking Routines for Physical Health, Mental Peace, and Spiritual Enrichment,” is a book I found reassuring. I liked it because often when I decide to take a walk rather than practice yoga, I feel like I am cheating on my true love. This book outlines a strategy to integrate yoga and walking to maximize the health benefits of both.

Yoga in the mountains by lululemon athletica, on Flickr
Authors Ila Sarley and Garrett Sarley are at their best when explaining the rationale for combining both practices. They say, “Walking yoga is about nurturing your body and soul, not about forcing yourself to work out because you think you should. It is a form of exercise that — done properly — reliably produces an experience of coming home to yourself…with walking yoga, we have developed an active practice that will help reduce stress and produce peace of mind for those of you who can’t imagine sitting still to pray or meditate.”

The Sarleys recommend walking three times per week for a minimum of 30 minutes or more. They list health benefits of walking as heart strengthening, increased muscular coordination, stronger bones, weight loss, better posture, reduced stress, improved digestion, and calmer mind.

The Sarleys also say that daily yoga postures are the perfect complement to a walking practice. In addition to improving or maintaining flexibility, they cite increased body intelligence as one of the biggest health benefits of yoga practice. This intelligence means a greater sensitivity to the subtle experiences of the body. My experience is that this is absolutely true.

The next part of the book includes instruction. The Sarleys say you can practice the yoga postures either before or after a walk, as long as you start when your stomach is empty. They explain how to do:

  • Neck Roll
  • Butterfly
  • Supine Leg Stretch
  • Knee To Chest Pose
  • Knee Down Twist
  • Child Pose
  • Forearm Stretch
  • Sun Salutation
  • Warrior
  • Tree Pose
  • Locust Pose
  • Cobra Pose
  • Yoga Mudra
  • Forward Bend
  • Corpse Pose
  • Woodchopper Pose
  • Half Boat Pose
  • Complete Boat Pose

The next chapter offers material about yoga breathing and a nice discussion explaining that both overachieving and underachieving are both ways of ignoring the body’s needs. Next there are sections on “full-on-walking” (peak exertion), walking alone, walking with loved ones, contemplative walking, and walking with gratitude.

The final chapter is, “Yoga and Walking for Life.” This chapter is one of the book’s best. It discusses the challenge of keeping commitments to oneself and gives specific suggestions for how to make walking yoga a priority even during busy and/or stressful life circumstances. The authors recommend group support, experimenting with whether an early morning or early evening practice works best for you, and enjoying nature throughout the four seasons.

The one way this book could be even better is if the Sarleys produce a companion DVD or even better, a smart phone app. I would really enjoy following the poses by watching them dynamically rather than copying them from the pictures in the book, but this is a minor complaint. To date, this is the single best resource I have found to explore walking yoga.

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