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Add Yoga to Your Walking Exercise

You don’t need to hit that posh yoga studio that just opened in your neighborhood to experience the benefits of this Indian mind-body practice. In fact, you can easily incorporate yoga moves into your walking routine, whether you trek on the treadmill at the gym or pound the pavement for a brisk after-dinner stroll.

Yoga can not only spice up your usual walking routine, but it can offer you an extra calorie burn. Putting one foot in front of the other has never been so fun and healthy. Even though walking can be a very meditative form of exercise, incorporating yoga moves into your walking program will further enhance the stress-reducing benefits of your workout, allowing you to stay in the moment.

Plus, yoga postures can help improve posture and flexibility of your muscles that often become tight and shortened in regular walkers. Hip and hamstring muscles are two muscle groups in walkers or runners that most commonly tighten up. Yoga can offset this restriction by lengthening these muscles while also improving  fitness performance.

Grab your walking shoes and leave the yoga mat at home. Here is a simple 30-minute yoga and walking routine you can do anywhere:

1. Before you start walking, stand for one minute with your feet together, back straight and shoulders drawing down your back. In this centered posture, start to breathe deeply in and out of your nose for five full breaths. Focus on making your inhales equal in length and in intensity to your exhales.

2. As you set out on your walking routine, try to keep your breath just as even and smooth as you practiced in your pre-walking yoga posture. Even though you will be breathing through your mouth, (yoga breathing is traditionally done through the nose), keep your stride moving in concert with your breath so that your inhales and exhales are timed to your pace.

3. After briskly walking for 10 minutes, stop and stand with your feet hips-width apart, arms overhead. Take a deep inhale and as you exhale, fold forward, keeping your chest open as you bend. If you have back pain, bend your knees slightly. Place your hands or fingertips on the ground alongside your feet. Stay in this posture for five full breaths, using your breath to move your torso closer towards your legs. Rise on an inhale, keeping your legs strong and grounded.

4. Continue walking for another 10 minutes.

5. Find another clearing in your walking path and separate your feet three-feet apart. Point your right foot out and extend your arms in a T-position. Inhale deeply and as you exhale, reach over your right leg, grabbing your right calf, ankle or walking shoe with your right hand. Extend your left arm at the sky and gaze at your left fingers. Stay here for five breaths and then rotate to the left side and repeat the posture.

6. Continue walking for another 10 minutes.

7. Stop and complete three rounds of Sun Salutation A.

8. Finish your yoga and walking workout by spending one minute in silence as you return to your normal breathing pattern. If you are outside, focus on the sounds of nature. If you are inside, focus your attention to the sensations of your breath.

This sequence can also be practiced by runners or cyclists.

View Yoga for Fitness Slideshow

August 23rd, 2010

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