ChiWalking—A Brief Introduction

T’ai chi is the mother of all martial arts, based on the premise that all movement and power originates from your center, not your arms and legs. For centuries, the Chinese have studied animal movement and found that all movement in the body revolves around a central axis (along the spine) while the arms and legs remain as relaxed as possible and act only as conduits for the force generated by your core.

—Danny Dreyer, ChiWalking: The Five Mindful Steps For Lifelong Health and Energy, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2006

ChiWalking combines the principles of T’ai chi with the physical aspects of movement like body alignment, core strength and taking advantage of gravity. Following are some basic techniques prescribed by author, Danny Dreyer, as he explains “ChiWalking” in his book by the same name:

  • using a somewhat exaggerated hip and arm swing (like in race walking)
  • getting a gravity assist for the legs by maintaining a slight forward lean
  • extending the rear leg out to the back with each stride
  • using a shortened stride and a mid-foot plant
  • getting the abdominal muscles to do much of the work by tilting the pelvis slightly upward with your core muscles developing a “flat pelvic floor” as you walk;

The hip and arm swing combined with the forward lean causes each leg to mostly straighten out on the backswing. This combination relaxes the leg muscles and engages more of the core. Instead of pushing off with the foot and leg muscles to move you forward, ChiWalking relies more on the tilt of your body and rotation of core muscles. The mid-foot strike means neither a heavy heel strike (jarring the body) nor pushing off with the toes.

This walking style sounds complicated, but with practice, it can produce a satisfying, natural rhythm. Dreyer claims this walking technique will improve balance, stability, endurance and enjoyment of walking longer distances. To achieve the full benefits from this style, he recommends engaging a certified ChiWalking instructor.

Besides Dreyer’s book referenced above, go to his website for more information: ChiWalking.