Qigong walking exercises are a gentle and enjoyable way to incorporate energy awareness into your daily activities. Most of us spend at least a little of each day walking and we can gain that extra bit of benefit and enjoyment from it when we integrate energy awareness with this healthy activity.
The walking qigong practices you will learn in this course are very simple and meditative in nature. Each week you will focus on just one aspect of energy awareness and flow within your body for the whole session. Sometimes we it can be hard to focus on something very simple for an extended period of time and we may want to move on from it too quickly. Or if we focus too strongly on the subtle flows of energy we can actually tense up and restrict the flow or alter it in undesirable ways. The gentle rhythmic movement of walking helps us to maintain our energy awareness focus in a relaxed and enjoyable way that is most beneficial.
There are a couple of factors to consider that will help you to get the most out of these walking qigong practices:
What we wear on our feet makes a big difference to how we stand and how we walk. Even small changes to what we have on our feet can make a big difference to how our weight is distributed through the rest of our body and the tensions that form as our muscles, bones and connective tissue interact with each other, which in turn effects the energy flow through our body. Our aim in qigong walking is to use our body mechanics in as natural a way as possible. The ideal for this is to be barefoot of course, but this is often not practical, particularly when walking on hard or sharp surfaces such as concrete or gravel, when there are other hazards, or when the weather is too cold or wet. For most people wearing shoes while doing qigong walking is sensible, but you want to try to have shoes that have a thin, flat, flexible sole, that allows your foot to move naturally. You can usually find shoes that meet this description made from canvas quite cheaply. If for some reason you need to wear another type of shoe, that is fine, you will still gain a lot of benefit from the qigong walking practices.
Weightshifting and Natural Gait
To get the most out of our qigong walking practices we want to develop smooth weight shifting patterns in our movement. The following video shows some exercises you can do to help with this. Some of you will recognize this as an exercise from the Enter The Flow course. If you have not yet completed this course you might like to spend a little time on this exercise before moving on to the other qigong walking practices.
You will notice in the video of the weight shifting exercise there is a clear and pronounced movement from the heel of the foot to the ball of the foot with each step. This is the natural way for our foot to move in healthy normal walking on moderately soft surfaces such as natural earth (very hard, slippery, sharp or other types of surfaces naturally use other types of motion and there are also other natural patterns that we naturally use for different types of movement such as jumping, climbing, creeping etc). This movement pattern creates a natural cycling between yin and yang in our body, the heel strike is heavy and slows our motion down and helps to sink our weight and is yin, raising onto the ball of the foot is light and starts to speed our motion up and lift our weight and therefore is yang. This natural cycling between yin and yang keeps all of the tissues of the body active by alternating the pressures on them and also plays an important role in helping to pump and circulate the fluids out of the legs and around the rest of the body.
We will be using this simple walking pattern throughout all of the practices in the main part of this course (some other movement patterns are explored a little in some of the walking practices included in the bonus material). This will help to keep our energy active and cycling naturally throughout our body during our practice. Sometimes we get out of the habit of walking in this way due to injuries, or more commonly the type of footwear we have been wearing for extended periods of time. If your shoes have very stiff soles or if the heel on the shoe is raised significantly you will find that this type of natural motion with your feet is quite uncomfortable and may be quite difficult to do. Spend a little while focusing on walking with this natural heel to ball gait to re-establish this healthy habit before moving on to the other qigong walking qigong practices. Do not force yourself into this movement pattern, but rather gently encourage it and remind yourself to do it, and definitely don’t force it when wearing shoes with stiff soles or heels as described above.
Practice Time and Location
Each of the practices in the main part of this course has some preparatory exercises for you to do in a stationary position. These help to set up your energy awareness for the practice which you then continue as you walk. Also each of the practices can be done in a more overt or covert way. This means that you can practice your walking qigong in different ways at different times. When practicing overtly it will be quite obvious to others around you that you are doing some kind of special exercise and may not be suitable for when you are walking down a busy street but great for when you are able to spend some time at a park or beach. When practicing in a more covert way you can easily do the different exercises without anyone else even noticing that you are doing qigong, so this opens the opportunity or practicing when you are on your way to work, or between meetings or any other time when you are walking between places.
My recommendation is that you try practicing in both of these ways. When beginning each practice it is best to set aside some dedicated time to do the preparatory exercises and practice walking while doing the exercise in an overt way. It is also best that you allow sufficient time for these initial sessions, at least 20 minutes and a time and ideally 30 minutes or more. Later once you have the feel for the exercise you can simply move straight into it while walking without doing the preparatory exercises. You can also do it for shorter periods of time, even just 5 minutes at a time when you are out doing errands.
Ok, time to move on to week one of your qigong walking practice!