What Do You Know About Afghan Walking
Punctuated by breathing, Afghan walking combines the benefits of meditation and physical activity. Discover this antistress practice still unknown.
What is it?
Afghan walking consists of walking to the rhythm of one’s breathing (or breathing to the rhythm of one’s steps), according to a 3-1 sequence: three steps on inspiration, 1 step by blocking the breathing full lungs, 3 steps on the expiration, 1 step by blocking the breathing, empty lungs.
This rhythmic walk was designed by Édouard Stiegler, a French enthusiast for walking and rhythmic breathing. During an UN mission to Afghanistan in the early 1980s, he noticed that nomads, known for their exceptional physical endurance, breathed only through the nose. He began to imitate them and finally baptized the technique that comes from this model in their honor.
The Afghan walker therefore coordinates his breathing and his steps. On the flat, the basic rhythm is 3-1 but there are also longer rhythms like the 5-0-7-0 (5 no inspiration and 7 no expiration). In rough terrain (slopes, stairs …), we can adopt shorter rhythms such as the 2-2 (2 no inspiration and 2 no expiration). ” The importance of breath control in the Afghan walk is not unlike that in yoga. This is why some people call it “walking yoga ,” says Sylvie Alice Royer, the author of The Afghan Walking for All.
For who? Why?
The Afghan walking is accessible to all who can walk. It is practiced in any weather on all terrains, without special equipment.
The expected benefits of this practice combine those of walking and those of meditation:
- It would reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease;
- It would reduce anxiety and stress;
- It promotes weight loss;
- It ensures a better awareness and presence to oneself by focusing on the breath;
- It would provide better self-confidence.
- And above all, the Afghan walk allows you to walk faster without extra effort and for a long time.
What does science say?
No studies have evaluated this technique to our knowledge. But studies show that meditation and walking alone can reduce stress and reduce cardiovascular risk. Walking has benefits on weight and bone health too. There are studies of similar practices, the results of which can be extrapolated, cautiously, to the Afghan walking.
For example, in 2013, a Korean study evaluated the effects of athletic walking compared to those of meditative, indoor and forest walking. His results show that for a similar intensity of effort, meditative walking reduces anxiety, increases self-esteem, happiness felt more than one’s athletic counterpart (regardless of place of practice, except for happiness, more important in forest). Results that could certainly be extrapolated to the Afghan walking (versus athletic walking).
An American study in 2016 sought to determine the benefits of a meditative walk in a garden in stressed adults. Among the 195 participants who followed this 6-week program, the stress was significantly reduced.
Lee IM , Buchner DM : The importance of walking to public health. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise [01 Jul 2008, 40(7 Suppl):S512-8].
McCaffrey R, Liehr P. : The Effect of Reflective Garden Walking on Adults With Increased Levels of Psychological Stress. J Holist Nurs. 2016 Jun;34(2):177-84. doi: 10.1177/0898010115594934. Epub 2015 Jul 17.
YK Shin, DJ Kim, K Jung-Choi, et al. : Differences of psychological effects between meditative and athletic walking in a forest and gymnasium. Scandinavian Journal of Forest Research, 2013 ; 28 : 64-72.