Mindful walking

“Afghan walking” in France -an endurance technique

What is Afghan Walking?

Afghan hiking” has been known in France since the 1980s thanks to Édouard G. Stiegler. Stiegler, a Frenchman, discovered this style of hiking that helped him cover up to 60 kilometers a day effortlessly. He gave the “conscious-walking” technique its name after observing Afghan nomads who traveled kilometers on foot quickly and effectively.

The Afghan walk, also called “breath-conscious hiking”, “meditative hiking” or “yoga of hiking”, is a form of hiking that makes it possible to walk long distances quickly without tiring. For the late Danilo Zanin, mountain guide and Afghan walking specialist based in Savoy, this special kind of trekking was a “holistic march”, “the art of walking with one's conscience”. It includes technical aspects as well as a form of yoga that consciously absorbs energy from the air

Afghan walking, which can be practiced in rural areas as well as in the city, is based on the synchronisation of breathing and walking. It thus combines two disciplines: meditation and conscious walking, good for one's health and suitable for all.

In order to maintain physical and mental health, it is recommended to walk for at least 30 minutes a day and to meditate regularly.

How does Afghan walking work?

It is important to synchronize your steps with your breathing in order to produce a natural oxygen enrichment. The basic rhythm observed by Édouard G. Stiegler with Afghan nomads is a 3-1/3-1 respiration-to-step ratio: Breathe in through your nose during the first three steps, hold the air in your lungs during the fourth step, and then breathe out during the next three steps, while keeping your lungs empty during the last step. Repeat this cycle again.

For more physical exertion (such as during an ascent), a shorter rhythm without pauses should preferably be used with 2-0/2-0 (inhale for 2 steps, exhale for 2 steps).
Practicing this form of walking means going in silence and concentrating on your steps and the nature around you. Thus we become aware of our bodies, we become attentive to the smells of nature and we unite a long breath with a calm and stable mind.

Whom is Afghan hiking intended for?

It is suitable for everyone and adapts to the physical condition of each individual. Depending on the speed of the person, Afghan hiking can be a moderate to strong physical activity. It is therefore aimed at both occasional hikers and mountaineers. For example, an older person simply adapts his breathing to the slower speed of his steps, with a short rhythm or with a longer exhalation.

Of course, Afghan hiking can be practiced anywhere and at any time (it is most ideal to practice it in the great outdoors). Once learned, you can also use it on your way to work. A 20 to 30-minute walk is enough to benefit from it.

What are the health benefits?

Like most sporting activities, Afghan walking stimulates the heart. It also has an effect on blood circulation, the muscles but also on the lymphatic effect through limb movements and deep breathing. Regular practice not only increases resistance to stress, it also reduces the effects of stress on the vegetative nervous system and helps to improve sleep. Another pleasant effect is that regular exercise can lead to a healthy posture and relieve back pain.

Intrigued? Our “Wellness trip in Brittany” introduces you to the practice of Afghan hiking.