During the lockdown, we’re all allowed one walk, run, or cycle a day to get our daily exercise. This precious time of being outdoors is invaluable, especially for those that live in built-up urban areas.
While on your walk, there are lots of ways that we can practice yoga, through the way that we interact with others, by practicing mindfulness or simply by being present.
Here’s a variety of ways to keep doing yoga, even when we’re off our mats.
Using apps such as Headspace we can enter a state of walking meditation. Instead of the focus being the breath, which is traditional for seated forms of meditation, the focus becomes the rhythm of our gait.
There are various steps that you can take, even without the app.
- First, notice how your body feels.
- Then begin to observe your gait, how your weight shifts from foot to foot, for example.
- Then tune in to what’s going on around you, but without any layers of judgement.
- Become sensitive to your senses, noticing smells, sounds, and physical sensations such as the breeze or temperature.
- Once you’ve tuned in to all these things, keep your attention in the present by focusing on the rhythm of your gait, which keeps your mind from wandering.
Through these steps, you’ll learn to bring your mind into your body, which is just what we’re trying to do on our yoga mat. It will also help tame that chattering monkey mind.
I’ve always been one to stop and smell the roses – too much, according to my family – but now it seems more important than ever to enjoy the senses when out on your walk.
Even if you haven’t got a park in walking-distance (which I find hard to believe in our green capital), then there’s loads of nature doing its glorious spring thing in front gardens, on the trees lining the pavement, even growing out of cracks in walls.
Heading outside every day means that we will start to tune in much more to the seasons; now the blossom is starting to fade and the lilacs are blooming and throwing their scent into the air.
It’s also a great reminder that we are part of the dance of Nature. Just as nature has its seasons, and cycles of renewal and change, so do we. As B K S Iyengar says in ‘Light on Life’:
We too are part of Nature, therefore constantly changing, so we are always looking at Nature from a different viewpoint.
Yamas and Niyamas
Before we even get to our mats, the first limb of yoga is the yamas and niyamas – the moral codes of conduct for our actions towards ourselves and others.
Our daily walk is the perfect place to practice these qualities, for example:
Ahimsa – non-violence
The new considerate when out walking is to stick to small groups, or ideally just one at a time so that it’s easier to keep two meters from anyone else. When my two children and myself go out for a walk, we slip into single file when we see someone else coming, like a mama duck and her ducklings…
Aparigraha – non-hoarding
This is a weird one, but I think it’s easy to take more than we need in any situation. We’re being asked to take one walk for exercise, and if we take more than that, or stay sitting in the sun on benches for too long, then we’re taking up space in the park that others might need.
Santosha – contentment
There is a lot to be sad about at the moment. We can’t hug our friends, do our jobs, go on the holidays we’d booked. But there is also so much to be content about. Our health, spending time with our family units, enjoying our homes and gardens if we’re lucky enough to have one, appreciating nature. Remind yourself that we still have so much to be content about.
Svadhyaya – self-study
Our daily walk is the perfect time to reflect on yourself. Sometimes it’s not a comfortable exercise. Notice your thoughts as you walk. Are you leaping to judge and criticise others? Are you criticising yourself? Self-study doesn’t mean self-criticism, but self-awareness.
Device – FREE
Try doing your daily walk without a device. Our phones are pretty much grafted to our hands these days, and although we’re more grateful for online communication at the moment than ever, there’s only so many online Zoom meetings a person can take.
Make your daily lockdown walk a time to literally switch off from social media, messages, taking pictures or chatting, and take it as a time to be with yourself.
Although most of the time we’re fine, there’s a low-lying anxiety underpinning this whole situation. Our lives and the lives of the people we love are at risk, and although that risk is very small, it’s still there.
Our phones are outward-looking, constantly deflecting our attention from one thing to the next. When we put them down we give our minds and hearts a chance to turn inwards (just as we do in yoga) and start to heal.