Breathwalking at Miraval
Can two things as simple as breathing and walking really provide the same benefits as meditation?
Absolutely, especially if you synchronize them into a technique known as breathwalking.
Over the years, breathwalking has become one of the most sought after mindfulness activities at Miraval, perfect for those who aren’t ‘the meditation type’. It’s based on the idea that our default breathing is not ideal for health because for many of us, our ‘normal’ breath is rapid and shallow in the chest; and since our automatic nervous system reflects our state of mind, this shallow breathing signals our body to stay turned on, stressed, and in a constant state of mild anxiety.
But fortunately, the principle is also true in the reverse. If we begin to breathe fuller, deeper, and more from the abdomen we automatically activate a sense of calm.
The secret of breathwalking is to synchronize your steps with your breaths, linking one breath with each step. A Kundalini yoga technique, it’s great for people who struggle with seated meditation, and those with twitchy bodies and busy minds who relax in motion.
There are two basic techniques in breathwalking, the Wave and the Stairs, and both are built on a four-in, four-out pattern. With the Wave, you breathe in through your nose for a count of four, meanwhile taking four steps, then breathe out through your mouth for another count of four, while taking four more steps. Since it takes eight beats to complete one inhalation and exhalation, the Wave automatically slows your breathing, but you may have to focus a little more to deepen your breath.
And while the Wave is designed for relaxation, the Stairs pattern is more energizing. This time there are four distinct in breaths, followed by four distinct out breaths. It may take some practice to get the four segments even, but when you do it sounds a bit like Lamaze breathing, and the Stairs can take you to a state of “active calm.”
To put it in practical terms, if you’re getting drowsy midday, go for a walk and do the Stairs breathing. If you’re stressed at work, do the Wave at your desk. The Wave is also great for settling the brain and helping you to fall asleep at night. If practiced regularly, both techniques have the power to change your default mode, making your breaths deeper and more even throughout the whole day.