Release Stress With a Rhythmic Walk

Tension. You can cut it with a knife. A car cuts you off on your way to work. Lately, your kids won't stop fighting with one another. You had a fight with a co-worker, and you just can't get it off your mind. It's been hard to sleep, and you wake up feeling tired and edgy only to read yet another negative headline in the local paper.

When you're feeling overwhelmed and undone and as if your whole system is on a continuous spin-cycle and you can't seem to shake it off, get your shoes on and get out the door. Take your dog if you have one, or your love of solitude if you don't. Study after study shows that moving is good for you. It helps you release stress, sleep better, feel better, breathe better, and heal better. And, moving can improve your mood.

But maybe the most important thing moving can do is soothe you and calm you. Like you were soothed as a child when someone held you and rocked back and forth until you couldn't stay awake any more.

There is a rhythm to your walk. Do you know how it feels? There is a pattern to how you put one foot down that is a tiny bit different than how you put the other one down. Can you tell the difference? It's there; it's subtle; it's good. It is the signature of you and your walk. And letting the pattern and the rhythm soothe you is a good way to do self-care.

Next time you're out for a walk, see if you can identify the pattern of how you walk with your right side. Notice how your foot touches the ground on that side, then how your hip moves in sequence with your foot. Notice the motion of your shoulder and your head. Then, leave that alone and watch your left side. One arm will go forward while the other one goes back, your sternum moves a little from side to side. Walk and listen to your walk for a few minutes.

Then, let the details go. Let them drain from your mind. Watch and notice the mental picture that is you moving. Feel the rhythm of you moving forward. Feel the sway and the swing and the forward and the back. Reduce the speed of your walk until you are walking at 70 percent of your usual pace. At less than your usual pace, you'll feel the rhythm of how you move even more clearly.

Walk along like this, not pushing, not rushing, just noticing and enjoying. At this pace your mind will begin to let go. At this pace, your thoughts can unravel, and you can let emptiness into your interior. So soothing. So rejuvenating. So perfect for these winter months when we need to pull inward and restore and replenish.

We humans need emptiness now and then. We need silence and calm to let our system return to a neutral state. It's hard to get to a neutral state in our current cultural climate. It's simply too much to keep filling the container that is our us-ness with news, information, and images and not expect ourselves to overflow with overwhelm.

Walk. Find your rhythm. Find your calm. Soothe.

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Kim Cottrell, Feldenkrais? practitioner and walking coach, teaches Awareness Through Movement? classes at Portland Yoga Arts and Edge Performance Fitness and special events at Yoga Pearl. For more information visit www.kimcottrell.com.

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