Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Walkin' with Gandhi
Gandhi first developed the habit of walking when he was a student in London. As a student, he frequently found himself short of funds. In fact, he chose his apartment because it was centrally located, and he could walk to wherever he needed to go, instead of taking the bus. Gandhi found that his long walks kept him both alert and strong. Later, back in India, Gandhi would walk for miles using the rhythm of his footsteps to regulate the rhythm of his breathing and clear his mind. In 1930, Gandhi walked 241 miles in 24 days as a protest against the British salt tax. He was sixty years old.
Now, you should know that I have long been a proponent of avoiding a formal exercise regimen. I joined a gym once, but it only lasted as long as the free trial offer lasted. I guess for a long time I just lived in denial, believing that as long as I watched what I ate the rest would take care of itself. Since I met Hope six years ago, she has regularly encouraged me to become less sedentary, to exercise regularly, that this would help in maintaining my weight. Finally, this August, I was ready to take the plunge and add exercise into my daily routine. Inspired by Gandhi's Salt March I decided that I would try and take a walk every day.
A quick google search on the "Benefits of Walking" linked me to an article that referenced a recently published Harvard study. The study revealed that walking at a moderate pace (3 mph) for 3 hours a week, or 30 minutes a day, can help prevent heart disease. The article also went on to state that walking has also been shown to improve circulation, help breathing, combat depression, bolster the immune system, prevent and control diabetes, and help control weight.
When I first began my walking experiment in mid-August I only had the goal of taking a daily walk; I had no set distance, or time connected with the activity. However, the more I studied Gandhi and his Salt March the more I became transfixed by the distance he covered in such a short amount of time. Starting in September, I mapped out a 2.5 mile route and made it my goal to walk 240 miles. Since September 1st I have managed to walk at least 2.5 miles every day (minus the Wednesday and Thursday of Sky Camp). To date I have walked 50 miles, only 191 more to reach Dandi.
At first, I found myself quite winded at the end. All I could focus on was getting home and plopping myself on the couch, too tired to do anything else. However, after the first week I started to notice a difference. I stopped being winded and tired, and in fact, I actually felt like I had more energy and focus. Another thing that I started experimenting with during my walks has been meditating. While I walk I focus on my walking, counting silently the rhythm of my steps (1, 2, 1, 2). This repeated mantra has had a calming effect on my mind, slowing down the endless stream of thoughts and bringing a sense of clarity.
All in all, this has been a wonderful experience. It has invigorated not only my body, but my soul as well.