Yoga and Walking:
What does yoga have in common with walking in nature?
In order to find an answer to this question, we have to start by understanding the meaning of the word ‘yoga‘.
In Sanskrit the word “yoga” means “union”, but in Tibetan it is translated as naljor.
Naljor really means knowledge of the primordial condition: nal literally means “original” or “authentic”; jor means “to discover” or “to possess” this condition. Hence, the real meaning of the word naljor is to discover our real condition.
In the text “Yantra Yoga, The Tibetan Yoga of Movement” it is explained that:
“In the practice of Yantra Yoga we use our body, voice, or energy, and mind. With the body we perform movements and take different postures; with our voice or energy we apply breathing techniques and with our mind we concentrate on something, so that we can go beyond discursive thought and reasoning. In this way, working together with body, voice and mind, we have the possibility to reach a real knowledge – the understanding of our primordial state.”
But …. What does this have to do with walking in nature?
We now have to ask ourselves, what is nature?
According to one of the definitions of the dictionary of RAE (Real Academia Española, the Royal Spanish Accademy) nature is “the combination of everything that exists and that is determined and harmonized in its own laws.”
The same dictionary recognizes eighteen meaning of the same word, which shows its amplitude of meanings.
In any case, the most common use of the notion is associated to that which forms this world and was not created by man, everything which was created naturally on the planet, like animals, plants, humans, the climate, the earth.
We are also nature, that is to say, we are part of nature, just like all other beings living on this planet.
What happens is that at times we forget that we are part of this nature and we consider nature as something separate, that we can visit every so often, but that we are not really connected with, and that we are not part of.
Walking in nature allowas us to reconnect with our own nature. It reminds us of where we come from and of who we really are. Sometimes we are distant from this nature, we forget about it because we are so busy solving the issues of our mind, planning, organizing and managing things, that we forget the most simple thing, our most natural and instinctive side.
It’s important to come back to this aspect so that we may remember that everything is much simpler than what we think.
When we are walking we have to focus on our body’s movements and on what is happening around us. This simple exercise allows us to come back to the presence of the here and now.
As we walk, we cannot get lost in the confusion of our minds, we can no longer follow each reasoning and each doubt arising in our minds. On the contrary, we feel what is happening around us and with our eyes we see the beauty that is everywhere, with our nose we smell the scents and with our sense of tact we can perceive the earth below our feet.
There is no exercise of presence more powerful than this. Our breathing takes the same rhythm of our walk and of everything around us.
Similarly as what happens when we are in a yoga class, everything is focused on the here and now, the movements of our body, the breathing and the mind move together with harmonious and coordinated movements.
Much has been said about the benefits of yoga and breathing practices to reduce stress and problems related to it.
It has been proven that walking in nature has similar effects.
Physical exercise in general helps us in dealing with stress, because in doing it we produce hormones that improve our mood, but it makes a difference whether we walk at the gym or in a forest or a park. Being in a natural environment, surrounded by beauty, is an element which helps us feel better, to open our minds and our hearts.
Unifying these two practices, yoga and breathing with walking in nature, is very powerful and it can increase exponentially the positive effect of each one of them.