Walking is instinctive to the human species. The act of walking is as natural as breathing. However, proper walking technique requires more than putting one foot in front of the other. Gaining the full benefits from walking requires breathing properly as well. This is true whether you're walking for pleasure, for fitness or to relieve stress.
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Walking and Breathing
Practice deep breathing when you perform any type of exercise, including walking, the American Lung Association recommends. Breathe in to a count of two, and breathe out to a count of four. Breathing through your nose filters dust particles and conditions air while helping you maintain the proper balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your blood.
Walking Pace Effects Breathing
When you're walking at a moderate pace of 3.5 mph, you should feel slightly breathless but able to speak in full sentences. When walking at a brisk pace of 3.75 mph, you should feel somewhat more breathless with conversation limited to short sentences. Power walking at 4 mph and faster will make you feel quite breathless and able only to speak a few words at a time.
Energize your stride with breathwalk meditation. Breathwalk combines synchronized breathing with walking and directed meditation. Breathwalk offers many benefits, including weight loss, decreased anxiety and reduced back pain. In a report published by the "World Journal of Gastroenterology" in 2007, M Vazquez-Vandyck and colleagues found that breathwalk techniques had a beneficial effect for patients suffering from hepatitis C, obesity and insulin resistance.
How to Breathwalk
Begin a breathwalk meditation session by walking at a normal pace and concentrating on breathing, feeling your diaphragm move up and down. Coordinate your breathing so that you inhale with four steps, then exhale with four steps. Continue for at least one minute. Inhale through your nose with four short puffs coordinated with four steps, taking in more air each time until your lungs are full. Exhale using the same process. Continue the cycle for 5 minutes, then take a break for 3 minutes to breathe normally and walk at a regular pace. Repeat the eight-minute pattern again, this time adding the silent mantra "Sa Ta Na Ma," while you inhale, and whispering the mantra "Wah Hay Gu Roo" when you exhale.
Pursed Lip Breathing
Practice "pursed lip breathing" to maximize using your diaphragm while breathing, the American Lung Association advises. Relax and drop your shoulders. Breathe in through your nose. Pucker your lips as if you were whistling, then breathe out slowly. The breathing out motion should take approximately twice as long as breathing in. Your abdomen should expand when you inhale and deflate when you exhale with little or no movement in your chest. Practice the exercise first while lying down, then gradually work your way toward being able to perform pursed lip breathing while you walk.