Step into Serenity: Uncover the Benefits and Secrets of Walking Meditation


When we think of meditation, the image that usually comes to mind is one of a person sitting cross-legged on the ground with their eyes closed.

While this is one way to meditate, it’s certainly not the only way to practice and reap the benefits that meditation has to offer.

In this article we’ll discuss:

  • What is walking meditation?
  • Why you might want to practice walking meditation
  • Benefits of walking meditation
  • How to do walking meditation
a man walking on the beach at sunset

What is walking Meditation?

More than simply going for a walk, walking meditation is a form of moving meditation that allows the practitioner to be in the present moment by placing awareness on particular points of focus.

What these points of focus are, as well as the pace of the practice, can vary depending on the type of walking meditation. Some of the better-known forms include:

Japanese Zen walking meditation

Known as ‘kinhin’, this is usually performed between seated meditation practices (zazen). It involves walking in a clockwise direction at a very slow pace with hands clasped in front of the chest in a gesture called ‘shashu’.

Daoist walking meditation

Rather than one specific technique, Daoist walking meditation includes varying approaches such as imagining the body being led by the dantian (the energy center located approximately two inches below the navel) while walking at a regular pace, to consciously walking in very specific ways with the intention of influencing physical health.

Theravada Buddhist walking meditation

This is usually practiced by walking along a straight path (about 10-12 meters in distance), focusing on the mechanics of walking and the physical feelings of these movements.

an image of some bare feet walking on a floor with leaves

Mindfulness walking meditation

Though it has its roots in Buddhism, unlike Theravada walking meditation this approach involves having a wider focus of attention – still in the present moment, but beyond the physical body in in that moment.

Therefore, this includes having awareness of elements such as your surroundings, as well as the physical sensations and emotional state you experience as you walk. 

The intention is to move slowly and mindfully, though how you approach this might vary. For example, you might take one breath per step, you might consciously count your steps as you walk, or you might recite an affirmation alongside your steps.

Mindfulness walking meditation is arguably the most widely known and accessible approach, especially for beginners.

Part of the reason for this form of walking meditation becoming so well known is due to its popularization by the late Vietnamese Buddhist monk, spiritual leader and peace activist, Thich Nhat Hanh.

Thich Nhat Hanh, who became known as the “father of mindfulness” further simplified the technique, making it a great way in for those new to the practice.

With that in mind, mindfulness walking meditation is the approach we will particularly focus on in this article.

a bell tower in a buddhist monastery surrounded by trees

Why you might want to practice walking meditation

One of the great appeals of walking meditation is that it can be a simple way of incorporating meditation into your existing routine. This is especially helpful if you know that you’d find it difficult to carve out extra time during your day to meditate.

Just a few other reasons you might want to try walking meditation include:

  • If you’re new to meditation
  • If you find it challenging to sit in meditation or the idea of doing so is daunting
  • If you’re neurodivergent and feel more comfortable with a movement-based form of meditation
  • If you’re usually seated for long periods of the day and want to add in some mindful movement

7 Benefits of walking meditation

While there doesn’t currently appear to be much scientific research specifically on walking meditation, it is believed that mindfulness walking meditation offers many of the reported, well-researched mental and physical benefits of mindfulness.

Just some of these benefits in no particular order, include:

#1. Stress reduction

Numerous studies, including this meta-analysis of over two hundred studies of mindfulness-based interventions, have shown practicing mindfulness techniques to be a proven way to reduce stress, depression and anxiety.

#2. Eases depression

As well as the aforementioned meta-analysis, research from 2014 exploring the effects of Buddhist walking meditation in elderly individuals found that this practice could lower depression symptoms.

In addition, this 2016 research showed that for people who had experienced severe episodes of depression, mindfulness-based interventions could significantly reduce instances of relapse.

#3. Eases anxiety

Walking meditation is a grounding practice. Grounding practices have been shown to be effective in eliciting physical and mental calm in a range of scenarios and conditions such as anxiety, dissociation and overwhelm.

a woman standing at the beach with a cardigan wrapped round her, wearing sunglasses

#4. Mood enhancing

This study from 2016 examining a group of healthy individuals among whom sadness was induced, found that mindfulness practice facilitated emotional regulation and improved mood in the participants.

#5. Pain reduction

This research from 2015 showed that for people living with chronic pain, mindfulness-based interventions may not only help to alleviate pain but also lower the associated stress and fatigue.

#6. Reduced blood pressure

In a group of people with type 2 diabetes, a study from 2016 comparing going for a normal walk versus Buddhist walking meditation found that walking meditation lowered blood pressure to a significantly greater degree. 

#7. Better balance

This randomized controlled trial from 2021 found that in older adults between the ages of 60 and 85 with histories of falls, walking meditation is comparable to balance training in successfully improving balance.

4 people at the beach all balancing on wooden stumps

How to Do walking Meditation

Here is some guidance on how to approach mindfulness walking meditation.

Give yourself around 5 to 15 minutes for the following practice. As you become more comfortable in your practice you may wish to lengthen the duration.

Decide where you would like to do your walking meditation

One of the great things about walking meditation is that it can be done anywhere where there are no obstacles, whether indoors or outdoors. If you are able to practice outdoors then you can also reap the benefits that being in nature brings.

That said, wherever you choose to do your walking meditation, the main thing is that you approach your practice mindfully.

Start off with a clear path of about 10 to 12 meters. The idea behind walking along a single, clear path is that it can aid focus and lessen distraction.

If you’re unsure about judging the distance then aim for around 15 to 20 steps.

Check-in, ground yourself and prepare

Before you begin to walk, pause to check-in with your breathing. Allow your breath to be as steady as possible. You can consciously engage in diaphragmatic breathing here.

Feel the ground beneath you, with even weight between your feet. Allow your gaze to soften. Let your shoulders soften and allow your arms to be relaxed.

Begin to walk

Move slowly. Mindfulness walking meditation is different from taking a walk, so your steps will be slower than your usual pace.

an image of legs walking through a field

Move mindfully

Allow each step to be purposeful. Be aware of sensations – for instance, sensations within your body such as your breathing or the feelings in your feet as they make contact with the ground, and sensations outside your body such as the air on your skin.

Also, be aware of thoughts that arise. It’s completely normal for thoughts to come up. When this happens guide your awareness back to sensation.

Pause and then repeat

Once you have walked about 15 steps, pause before you turn around and return back along the path you have just taken.

If you are a wheelchair user you may wish to try the following:

Before you move

Pause to check-in with your breathing, as above. Let your gaze and shoulders soften.

Place your hands on the hand rims of your chair. Notice the feelings of the hand rims on your skin, the palms of your hands and fingers.

As you begin to move

Place your awareness on the pressure of your arms and hands moving forward and downward. Observe any sensations as your hands release the hand rims.

Moving mindfully

Notice any sensations in your body as you are in motion and the speed and direction in which you are moving.

Feel free to incorporate any adaptations that best suit you.

a man sitting in a wheelchair with trees in the background

Thich Nhat Hanh’s approach

Thich Nhat Hanh described how with walking meditation, each step brings you to the present moment, and that the purpose of walking meditation was the walking meditation itself, with no destination required.

He was known to speak of “kissing the earth with your feet” with regard to this practice. The perspective here is that the earth is our sacred mother and home, and therefore, we should walk upon the earth with reverence and deep appreciation.

In Thich Nhat Hanh’s book, Walking Meditation, he explained that mindfulness is cultivated in the awareness of each step taken during practice.

In his own words, Walking meditation is a wonderful way of establishing calm in ourselves.

Thich Nhat Hanh’s approach to walking meditation involved many of the steps outlined above with regard to moving slowly and with ease. As well as:

  • Focusing your awareness on each part of your steps
  • Feeling love and gratitude for the earth via your feet with every step
  • Walking with a half-smile
  • Silently repeating an affirmation to yourself, linked with your breathing

Affirmation examples include:

  • Inhaling, “I have arrived.” Exhaling, “I am home.”
  • Inhaling, “I am solid.” Exhaling, “I am free.”
  • Inhaling, “I calm my body.” Exhaling, “I bring peace to my body.”
  • Inhaling, “In the ultimate…” Exhaling, “…I dwell.”

Walking meditation is a wonderful way to cultivate peace in both mind and body. Allow yourself to start small, with just a few minutes each time and before you know it you may find this practice becomes a cherished part of your daily life.

a lotus flower on a pond

Suggested further reading:

Walking Meditation: Easy Steps to Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh and Ngyuen Anh-Huong

How to Walk by Thich Nhat Hanh

Photo of author
Paula is a senior yoga teacher and writer from London, UK. She has practised and studied yoga since 2001 and has been teaching since 2011, now with a particular focus on restorative yoga, yin, yoga nidra and yoga for menopause. Her own experience of yoga as a tool for transformation led her to teaching after fourteen years of working in the TV industry and fuels her desire to share the life-enhancing benefits of yoga with others. An experienced restorative yoga teacher, Paula is an Advanced Relax & Renew Trainer and has been a guest lecturer on restorative yoga for the Menopause Yoga™ teacher training at Yogacampus and also spent eight years as a senior teacher and lecturer on Sally Parkes’ 200hr Hatha & Vinyasa teacher training. She is the author of Rest + Calm: Gentle yoga and mindful practices to nurture and restore yourself (Green Tree, Bloomsbury Publishing) and a columnist for OM Yoga Magazine.

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