The Art of Walking

10 more days until I leave for the Camino. Each time I go out to walk, I notice:

* how are my hips swinging, is one hip swinging more than the other...

* how are my feet touching the ground, am I heel striking...

* does one foot land heavier than the other...

* am I rolling through the entire ball of each foot...

* are my arms swinging

* is one arm swinging and one arm not swinging

* is the movement coming from the shoulders, or is it coming from the elbows...

* is my back starting to tighten up

* where is my gaze

We call this a walking soma scan. It is important to notice what our starting place is. This comes from real sensory feedback. We must pay attention to the act of walking in order to sense where there is freedom of movement and where there is tension. If we feel tension, it is time to slow down and figure it out!

Many folks come to me with back pain after they walk. Upon assessment, usually one or both hips are not swinging freely. While moving the legs in the hips may need some attention - the starting place is always the center of the body. If there is a lot of tension in the low back, that tension is transferred to the glutes, the hamstrings, the calves, and even the feet! This is a prescription for Plantar Fasciitis - especially if the tension is greater on one side versus the other.

One of my favorite somatic movements is the simple yet powerful Arch & Relaxation. This is the first movement we teach. It begins with the breath. Actually - all movement begins with the breath.

* Lying on your back with your arms relaxed at your sides and your knees bent.

* Place your heels in front of your sitting bones.

* Do a little experiment and walk your feet close to your sitting bones and notice what that feels like (does your back flatten?)

* Now walk your feet towards the bottom of your mat and notice what that feels like (do you create an excessive arch in your back?)

* Now bring your feet to the neutral position where your back has its natural soft arch.

* Start to breathe into your belly and let it fill gently like a balloon. See if you can keep your chest and shoulders quiet.

* Notice if your lower back feels like it wants to contract a little bit as you lengthen and fill the belly with your breath...

* Exhale and let everything melt back to the neutral starting position.

*Often we are tempted at this point to push our back into the floor and flatten it - but the real challenge for the brain is to notice the contraction in the back and to slowly and smoothly let the back melt down. This is when we are cultivating muscle to brain intelligence! If you try to lengthen your back by forcing it down - you will activate stretch reflex and inevitably, your back will become tighter.

* Repeat this several times, breathing into the belly and each time letting the back arch a little bit more as you press the sitting bones into the mat, and then slowly and smoothly releasing the back to the neutral resting position.

* Extend you legs on the mat and notice if your back feels more relaxed...

* Now take a walk and notice if anything has changed.

Here is a little video clip to guide you through the arch & relaxation. Enjoy the Art of Walking!