There are lots of specific health benefits to meditation, and while plenty of people still picture meditation happening as you sit cross-legged and bathe in your own silence, you don’t actually have to do any of that for it to work.
Brendan Leonard discovered exactly that in a recent essay for Outside. He found it massively challenging to fully embrace meditating while sitting still. He accidentally fell asleep during one of his Headspace sessions, and a flood of thoughts distracted him during another.
But he eventually realized that his runs, which “are sometimes an hour, two hours, four hours, or even eight hours,” also function as a kind of meditation.
“I don’t have headphones in my ears. I don’t talk to anyone besides the occasional ‘hello’ to fellow trail users, I don’t listen to music to make the time pass more quickly, and I don’t listen to podcasts,” Leonard writes. “I just run, in relative silence, and my thoughts go wherever they need to go.” These runs have also spark great ideas, which he then writes down.
Even if you’re not a runner, sitting still isn’t the only way to meditate. Here are three other types of moving meditation that you can try.
Take a walk in the park
Research in the Journal of Behavioral Health shows that a mindful walk in nature can provide a mental health boost, positively impacting “cognition and affect, anxiety reduction, tension, sadness, and fatigue.” Plus, engaging in mindfulness during a walk can also result in “a deeper connection with exercise,” the study authors say.
Strike a yoga pose
Yoga is a form of meditative movement that has been found to ease chronic pain. Plus, research in the International Journal of Yoga states that there’s “an indisputable connection between a person’s overall physical and mental health, and the inner peace and well-being yoga is designed to achieve. Yoga suspends the fluctuations of the mind, and by acting consciously, we live better and suffer less.”
Try Tai chi
A study in the American Journal of Health Promotion found that engaging in Tai chi as a form of moving meditation should create “functional balance internally for healing, stress neutralization, longevity, and personal tranquility.”
Interested in learning Tai chi for yourself? “Many places are teaching students one movement, like ‘cloud hands,’ which is a signature. Learn half a dozen or a dozen movements and do them repetitively,” suggests Shin Lin, Ph.D., the founding director of the Laboratory for Mind-Body Signaling & Energy Research, and Professor of cell biology and faculty of the Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute at the University of California Irvine. Even just this shortened version of a practice can help you feel meditative and more balanced.
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