Walking, the ideal mind-body exercise

Gillian McAinsh

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WALK YOUR WAY TO HEALTH: The Art of Walking is in the spotlight this weekend in Port Elizabeth

GET up off that couch this weekend and get moving with a series of practical workshops aimed at restoring litheness and mobility to stiff and aching bodies of all levels of fitness.

Seasoned Alexander Technique teacher Marguerite Osler van der Merwe, based in Kleinmond in the Western Cape, arrives in the city tonight to present a range of courses on the Art of Walking and the Alexander Technique, including private sessions and a workshop for children and teenagers.

The workshops will be held at the ACT centre at 15 Seventh Avenue, Walmer.

“We need to rethink the way we ‘use’ our bodies, we all walk so we might as well walk well!” she said ahead of her visit. “We think that the only way to walk is to walk fast, forcefully and far – not true. The crucial factor is how well our effortless, elegant and efficient walking patterns operate. Walking is so much more than ‘exercise’ and conscious walking is so much more than ‘just mindfulness’.”

Van der Merwe said the seminars were aimed at “everyone” whatever their shape, size or level of health: “It is basic practice for health to get the body relaxed, open, aligned and supple, it’s another way of arriving at mobility, litheness of the body, and fluidity. You see it in animals and children but we have gone for ‘go-go-go’, muscle power and that doesn’t make you healthy or strong.”

The Alexander Technique is a way of “coming to ease” with your body, she explains. “It is unexpectedly gentle guidance, deliciously effortless. We ‘come home’ to, and in, our bodies. Surprisingly, without effort, we regain nature’s grace, symmetry, elegance and ease.”

She also said the exercises were not aligned to any spiritual world-view: “It is definitely not religious, just as you learn to drive your car, you may need to learn to ‘drive’ your body.”

Neither were the Art of Walking or the Alexander Technique related to yoga or Pilates, she said, explaining that those exercises often were “static” while the weekend seminars focus on “teaching people to walk with ease”.

The workshops will be practical and involve movement: “words are one thing, experience is another”.

“Walking is nature’s design for us. Tall and free and easy – not far-fast-furious-further – is the one-step recipe for overall health and well-being.”