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How Walking Mindfully Can Improve Your Health

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Walking, like breathing is something we do every day — so it’s easy to take it for granted. That is until something happens that hinders this ability. And that is what happened to me.

When I became sick with the symptoms of multiple sclerosis, walking indeed became a challenge. Going from a person who could easily jog up a mountain to one who could barely walk 50 feet was not only physically draining, but mentally as well.

I remember the summer of 2003 when my only wish was to walk around a little lake in St. Paul, MN. At an average walking pace, it would take anyone all of 15 minutes to walk around the entire lake. For me, it was a very slow 2 hours, with many breaks every few feet. What I didn’t realize at the time was that any walking I could do, even at a snail’s pace, was actually the best thing I could do for myself!

Of all the symptoms of multiple sclerosis I experienced, the one that led me toward a holistic detox was hypohidrosis – the diminished ability to sweat. (And for people who know me now, I am certainly not someone who only sweats a little bit – on the contrary!) Through my research, I learned that hypohidrosis, along with high levels of inflammation, are key indicators that the lymphatic system is overwhelmed. This meant that I needed to make some serious lifestyle changes if I wanted to turn my health around.

Anyone who is in a diseased state has high levels of inflammation within their body, and this can be very taxing on the lymphatic system.

Other possible indicators of a congested lymphatic system that would benefit from a detox are:

  • Lowered Immune System
  • Itchy skin, rash or hives
  • Stiffness or pain in the joints (especially in the morning)
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Swelling of fingers after walking
  • Bloating
  • Extra weight around the belly
  • Stiff joints
  • Swollen glands
  • Inability to think clearly
  • Hypersensitivity to light
  • Headaches
  • Increase of allergies
  • Digestive issues

For anyone experiencing any of these symptoms, mindful walking along with deep breathing are particularly useful.

The Lymphatic System in a Nutshell

Basically, the lymphatic system is like the sewage system of the body. It helps to remove damaging toxins that are largely reasonable for the development of inflammation. And as you may already know, stress is the leading cause of inflammation, thus making for a definite connection between stress, the lymphatic system, and inflammation. But here is some good news! Did you know that:

  • Walking encourages the lymph fluid to flow and eventually enter the bloodstream.
  • Walking in combination with slow deep breathing helps the body to release damaging toxins from the blood into the lungs.

When you exhale, the toxins are then expelled from your lungs. This combination is priceless for the restoration of your health. An increase in energy and an improved sense of well-being are some of the first positive effects you should experience.

Now at the time, I just knew that it felt good to be outside surrounded by nature. I could endlessly sit and watch the ducks and geese. That alone would calm my spirit allowing for deep and steady breaths. And when I combined that slow breathing with the movement of walking, is when the real magic began to occur within my body.

So I highly encourage you to go outside and really take in all its beauty. Allow nature to help heal your body and mind.

Taking The First Steps Toward Optimal Health

Sadly, many of us go through life not only unaware of our surroundings, but we also fail to notice sensations, how our body feels. That is until you feel the sensation of pain. But have you ever taken notice of how it actually feels to take a step, and how you step? The movement of your clothing as you walk, or how the air feels against your skin.

At first, taking notice of your senses may be harder than you think, but the more you practice, the easier it becomes.

The goal is to redirect your focus to the present moment. To be aware of how you truly physically feel right now as you begin to walk mindfully.

Ready to give it a try?

From a standing position, take a deep breath in and as you slowly exhale, take one step forward. Then breathe normally. Feel your heel slowly strike the floor. Then notice how your front foot rolls toward the toes and how your back foot prepares to step forward as it rolls up on the toes. Feel the shift in your body weight, your center of gravity.

Now in your mind’s eye, try to imagine how your ankle is moving as you step. Which muscles in your legs are getting tight and which are relaxing? Do you have pain? If so, can you slightly alter your step so that the pain is gone? Keep in mind, that mindfully walking is meant to be done very slowly in the beginning.

Now, try moving your focus up your body, how do your hips move as you walk? Are you leaning forward? Do you feel like you are leaning to one side? As you continue taking steps forward, try to make these slight corrections and then notice any differences in how you feel physically as you continue to walk.

Once you get a good feel for mindfully walking, then add deep breaths with every step.

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