A way to lose yourself in meditation and movement
Labyrinth walking is a meditative practice that has been used for centuries to promote physical and mental well-being. The practice involves walking a specific path, known as a labyrinth, in a meditative and contemplative state. The labyrinth is a symbol of the journey to self-discovery and enlightenment and has been used in many cultures and spiritual traditions as a tool for personal growth and healing.
Labyrinth’s have an interesting role in history and literature. A mysterious connection and “dream meaning” gives them a place in fiction that is unique. Here are a few descriptions of how labyrinths were included in notable literature where labyrinths are prominent:
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis: In this book, the characters walk through a labyrinthine forest in order to reach the witch’s castle.
In the first part of the poem, “Inferno”, Dante describes a labyrinth in Hell: “I had already reached the foot of a high tower, when I saw a leopard light and very nimble, covered with a speckled skin. It did not move from before my face, nay rather so impeded my path, that I had often turned to go back. The time was the beginning of the morning, and the sun was mounting up with those stars that were with it when Divine Love first set in motion those beautiful things; so that the hour of the day and the sweet season gave cause for good hope of the beast with the dappled skin.”
In this book, the characters walk through a labyrinth in order to reach the Holy Grail: “The floor of the ancient church was a labyrinth, a maze of black-and-white marble tiles laid out in a complex geometric pattern. Langdon had always found labyrinths to be magical and mysterious, and this one was no exception. The winding path seemed to have no beginning and no end, and it looked as if one could wander for hours without finding the center.
Health and wellness benefits
Recent scientific research has shown that labyrinth walking can have a number of health and wellness benefits. One study published in the International Journal of Stress Management found that labyrinth walking can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression in individuals with these conditions. Another study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that labyrinth walking can lower blood pressure and heart rate, indicating a reduction in stress.
It has also been found to improve cognitive function and memory. A study published in the Journal of Aging and Physical Activity found that older adults who regularly walked a labyrinth had improved spatial memory and executive function compared to those who did not.
Labyrinth walking has also been found to have a positive impact on the immune system. A study published in the Journal of Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice found that individuals who walked a labyrinth had increased levels of immunoglobulin A (IgA), an antibody that helps to protect against infections.
Labyrinth walking, as a robust form of movement and engagement, has also been shown to improve balance and mobility, making it a beneficial practice for older adults or those with mobility issues. A study published in the Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy found that older adults who regularly walked a labyrinth had improved balance and mobility compared to those who did not.
The benefits of labyrinth walking can also be enhanced by combining it with other practices, for example, yoga and mindfulness meditation.
Here is a list of some locations known to offer labyrinth walking:
Chartres Cathedral, France:
The labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral is one of the most famous in the world. It is a replica of the original 13th century labyrinth that was once part of the cathedral floor. Visitors can walk the labyrinth as a form of meditation and spiritual reflection.
Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, USA:
Grace Cathedral in San Francisco has an indoor labyrinth that is open to the public. The labyrinth is based on the design of the 13th century labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral. It is open daily for walking and is also used for special events and workshops.
The Labyrinth at St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, UK:
St. Paul’s Cathedral in London has a replica of the Chartres Cathedral labyrinth in its crypt. It is open to the public and can be walked as a form of meditation and reflection.
The Labyrinth at Grace Cathedral, Topeka, Kansas, USA:
Grace Cathedral in Topeka has an outdoor labyrinth that is open to the public and can be walked at any time. The labyrinth is based on the design of the 13th century labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral.
The Labyrinth at St. Mark’s Cathedral, Seattle, USA:
St. Mark’s Cathedral in Seattle has a replica of the Chartres Cathedral labyrinth that is open to the public. The labyrinth is based on the design of the 13th century labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral and can be walked as a form of meditation and reflection.
The Labyrinth at The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles, USA:
The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles has an indoor labyrinth that is open to the public. The labyrinth is based on the design of the 13th century labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral and can be walked as a form of meditation and reflection.
The Labyrinth Society, USA:
The Labyrinth Society is a non-profit organization that maintains a database of labyrinths across the United States and Canada. You can search the database by location to find labyrinths in your area.
It is perhaps off the beaten path, figuratively and literally, but becoming a labyrinth walker could be a source of enjoyment and bring health benefits to you. Though often portrayed as a mysterious, even dangerous challenge, seeking out ways to try this could be a healthy, enjoyable pursuit.
International Journal of Stress Management, “The effects of labyrinth walking on anxiety and depression: a randomized controlled trial”
Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, “Labyrinth walking: a pilot study of its effects on hypertension”
Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, “Walking a labyrinth and memory in older adults”
Journal of Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, “The effects of labyrinth walking on the immune system: a pilot study”
Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy, “The effects of labyrinth walking on balance and mobility in older adults: a pilot study”
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