If getting in shape or staying active is a challenge for you, walking is one of the simplest yet most effective solutions to begin with. Studies show that 30 minutes of brisk walking, five times a week, helps lower the risk of heart disease, manage diabetes, combat depression, reduce stress, regulate weight and much more[i].
If you have to walk, do it the ChiWalking way
ChiWalking® is a mindful walking technique created by Danny and Katherine Dreyer. It maximises the benefits of walking by helping you build your core strength to improve balance, alleviate back pain, keep a steady pace to burn more calories and reduce the risk of injury by moving with proper biomechanics.
ChiWalking blends walking with the sound movement principles of T’ai Chi, which has gained much recognition for improving balance, strength and mental function, as well as improving the ease of movement. You don’t need to know anything about T’ai Chi to start learning ChiWalking. What’s more, it is beneficial for everyone, even those recovering from or managing illness, injury, or surgery.
Each walk is an opportunity to learn something new about our bodies and optimise our movement
Mind and body collaborate
The primary principle behind ChiWalking is that you don’t have to use your legs for propulsion. Of course we all use our legs to walk, but we don’t need to rely on them as much as we think. Most walkers lead with their hips and pull themselves forward with their legs. This is a big job for small muscles, and walking longer distances this way can lead to injuries like shin splints, plantar fascitis, sore toes, calf pain and many other injuries. To avoid overuse and impact injuries to the lower legs, ChiWalking teaches you how to use your core muscles to move forward. The core is the strongest part of our bodies, and when movement initiates from there, we can walk farther and faster with greater ease.
ChiWalking also helps us get more out of our walks than just the physical benefits. By focussing on how we move, our minds and bodies become better connected. Each walk is an opportunity to learn something new about our bodies and optimise our movement; skills that can carry over into the rest of our lives. With practice, we can become deeply aware of our own presence and personal power to create real change.
What are ChiWalking techniques
Try incorporating these form focusses into your next walk to feel the difference ChiWalking can make:
Start by getting into your best posture
- Stand tall and imagine a straight, vertical line connecting your shoulders, hips and ankles.
- Point your feet forward, not splayed out. Balance your weight evenly on both feet.
- Soften your knees and relax your legs as much as possible.
- Lengthen your spine by reaching the crown of your head up to the sky. You’ll feel your chin drop down slightly as you reach up.
Engage your core
- Put one hand on your lower abs [the area below your belly button] and the other hand on your lower back right above your rear.
- Imagine that this area is a bowl of water. Keep the bowl level so no water ‘spills’.
- Don’t arch your back too much. Likewise, don’t over-engage your core. You should only feel a very slight tension in your lower abs.
Keep your stride short to reduce impact to joints and muscles
- Try not to reach forward with your legs when you take a step. Instead, let your upper body lead and land softly with your feet under your hips.
- Don’t land hard on your heels. Land on the front of your heel toward the middle of your foot and gently roll forward.
Use your arms for counterbalance
- Bend your elbows to 90 degrees. Make a relaxed fist with thumbs lightly resting on top of your fingers.
- Imagine there’s a vertical line running down the centre of your body. Don’t let your hands cross that line when you swing your arms.
- Allow your arms to swing gently from your shoulders. Keep your arms and shoulders as relaxed as possible.
These tips are a great way to get started. To learn more techniques, there are books and DVDs, along with an app.
The ChiWalking principles also make everyday activities safer, gentler and more efficient, so you can practise these anytime—when you’re sitting, driving, doing dishes, standing in queue at the grocery store… the possibilities are endless.
[i] According to the American Heart Association↩
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