Every one of us is guilty of occasionally plodding and shuffling along as we move as if we've suddenly aged thirty years. But why not walk with the grace and poise of a dancer? Learning how to walk with ease and elegance is easier than you think. Here's how:
1. Keep breathing.
First of all, don't forget to breathe. When we're walking, it's easy to allow our thoughts to drift. Perhaps we're thinking of all the chores we need to get done, issues with colleagues, family problems or mulling over what we're going to have for dinner. When we think of something that makes us tense, we often start to hold our breath.
So keep breathing. Notice where you're holding tension in your body as you walk and breathe ease into that area.
2. Walk tall.
There can be such a temptation to shorten our stature by hunching down, shortening through the spine, crunching down into the hip joints. But start to be aware of all that wonderful space above your head. However, resist the temptation to pull yourself up as you walk. Rather, think of the movement as more of a gentle lengthening process in the whole body. Lead with the top of the head — not the chin or chest — keep your eyes active and just notice what you can see around you.
3. Use your back for support.
When we're walking, our attention can become focused on the front of our bodies, especially true if we're in a rush. But you'll stand taller (and look more graceful) if you start to use your back muscles in the way they're supposed to be used.
Take a step backward and just notice how this helps you feel more aware of your back. Maintain this feeling of back awareness as you take a step forward. If it helps, imagine you're almost gently falling backward as you go forward, not enough that you fall, but just enough to engage your back muscles.
4. Keep the hip of your moving leg under your body.
Try to avoid throwing the hip of the moving leg forward as you take a step. Rather, softly bend the leg from the hip, knee and ankle joints, keeping the hip back under your body. This will help you maintain stability as you move forward.
5. Use your standing leg.
Keep your focus on the standing leg rather than the moving one as you step forward. When your attention is all on the moving leg, your standing leg is already getting ready to take the next step and you'll be far more wobbly. Allow the standing leg to lengthen, keep a firm connection between the foot and the ground, and maintain this lengthening all the way up your body so you're not sinking into the hip of the supporting leg.
6. Take smaller strides
Take a large step forward and just notice what happens to your lower back. You'll probably feel a tightening or more tension in this area, as well as in the hip. Over time, this can lead to strain. So get into the habit of taking smaller steps so that your body can move with more ease.
7. Walk lightly.
Peel your foot off the floor heel first as the knee moves forward rather than bringing up the entire foot in one go. Think about placing it gently on the ground. This way, you'll avoid jarring your joints and look far more graceful and elegant.
So now you're all set to go. For many, walking is a means to an end, getting us from one place to another. But it can also be an opportunity to use our bodies with more ease and elegance as well as becoming more mindful as we move.
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