Walking meditation, also known as kinhin (Chinese: 経行; pinyin: jīngxíng; Japanese pronunciation: kinhin, kyōgyō; Korean: gyeonghyaeng; Vietnamese: kinh hành) is a practice within several forms of Buddhism that involve movement and periods of walking between long periods of sitting meditation (also known as zazen). In different forms, the practice is common in Theravādin, Zen, Chan Buddhism, Korean Seon and Vietnamese Thiền. To perform walking meditation first find a location that is quiet. Start walking at a slow pace, walk 10-15 steps, back and forth. Put the hands and arms in a comfortable position. When walking, focus the attention on breathing, and balance the movement of the body: legs, neck, shoulders. While focusing, at times, your mind will wander. When you notice that your mind has wandered, return your attention back to your walking. The duration of walking meditation is about 10 minutes.
Practitioners typically walk clockwise around a room while holding their hands in shashu (Chinese: 叉手; pinyin: chā shǒu) with one hand closed in a fist while the other hand grasps or covers the fist. During walking meditation each step is taken after each full breath. The pace of walking meditation can be either slow (several steady steps per each breath) or brisk, almost to the point of jogging.
The terms consist of the Chinese words 經 "to go through (like the thread in a loom)", with sutra as a secondary meaning, and 行 "walk". Taken literally, the phrase means "to walk straight back and forth." The opposite in Japanese to kinhin is zazen, "sitting meditation".
Studies on the elderly, type 2 diabetes patients, and nursing students all demonstrate wide health benefits. Although research is in some cases tentative, results suggest that there are numerous health benefits to walking meditation. One common connection is a reduction/regulation of cortisol in the blood, which is the body's primary stress indicating hormone. While the body and mind are working harder, stress regulating factors decrease. One study of elderly women practicing walking meditation suggests mindful walking is somehow linked to decreases in depression and stress, in addition to increases in bone development. Another study based on Tai chi meditation speculates a link between walking meditation and the production of catecholamines, which are linked to the brain's response to stress. Recent advances in medical science also suggest that promoting peace and mindfulness are linked to neuronal regeneration. The act of walking peacefully and with intention is curative to one who practices it.
Several studies have shown that anxiety can be reduced through physical activities and meditation. This is beneficial for young adults who have anxiety disorder. In 2017, University researchers conducted an experiment on these young adults. The purpose of this experiment is to find what would help young adults cope with anxiety. In this experiment, the young adults were split into 5 groups brisk walking, meditation, walking meditation, meditation then walking and sitting. The researchers discovered one common factor in reducing anxiety, which is meditation. Three out of five groups that did meditation had the same amount of reduction in anxiety. However, the two groups that did not make any changes is brisk walking and sitting. Inclusion, regular meditation, walking meditation, meditation plus walking all have the same effects on anxiety.
Walking meditation has many advantages in regulating our breathing. This function of breathing is to calm the body and mind. Walking meditation works wonders for breathing, relieves pain, and reduces tension. In the article "Thich Nhat Hanh on Walking Meditation," Thich Nhat Hanh told a story about prisoners. When these prisoners practiced walking meditation in their cells, the movements of the walking meditation calmed them down and alleviated their suffering.
- Maezumi & Glassman 2002, pp. 48-9.
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- Chatutain, Apsornsawan; Pattana, Jindarut; Parinsarum, Tunyakarn; Lapanantasin, Saitida (July 2019). "Walking meditation promotes ankle proprioception and balance performance among elderly women". Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies. 23 (3): 652–657. doi:10.1016/j.jbmt.2018.09.152. PMID 31563384.
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- Chatutain, Apsornsawan “Walking Meditation Promotes Ankle Proprioception and Balance Performance among Elderly Women.” doi.org/10.1016/j.jbmt.2018.09.152
- Smith, Alison. “Walking Meditation: Being Present and Being Pilgrim on the Camino De Santiago.” Religions, vol. 9, no. 3, 2018, p. 82., doi:10.3390/rel9030082