The Catalyze podcast: Mindfulness miniseries Pt. 1: Walking exercise (10 mins), with Reiki practitioner Jenny Cimaglia ’07
We’re sharing two episodes as a special miniseries on mindfulness to help you relieve some stress. The first is a 10-minute walking meditation that you can do indoors or outside (wherever you have at least 10 to 15 feet of space). This session is guided by wellness professional Jenny Cimaglia ’07.
The following episode is a five-minute breathing exercise guided by the alumna.
Jenny Cimaglia ’07 is a yoga teacher and Reiki practitioner based in Westport, Connecticut. Following her graduation from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the alumna worked in cultural heritage preservation at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France, as a Fulbright Scholar and later in culture-tourism strategy in Hanoi, Vietnam, as a Luce Scholar.
Jenny’s experiences in Vietnam introduced her to Confucianism and Buddhism and informed her interest in exploring religious studies. She received a Master’s of Buddhist Philosophy at the University of Hong Kong in 2011 as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar.
She returned to the United States in 2012 to work as a special events and development coordinator for the David Lynch Foundation in New York City. Through the foundation, Jenny provided meditation classes to underserved populations, including veterans, victims of domestic violence, and elementary school students.
Jenny began her training to become a yoga teacher in 2015 and studied massage therapy, health, and wellness through the Swedish Institute: A College of Health Sciences. The alumna’s dynamic teaching style brings together her academic expertise on Buddhism and her training in a collaborative theatre style called devised theatre, incorporating elements of nature into her classes.
Jenny earned a degree in Classics and a minor in anthropology from UNC-Chapel Hill.
Catalyze is hosted and produced by Sarah O’Carroll for the Morehead-Cain Foundation, home of the first merit scholarship program in the United States and located at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. You can let us know what you thought of the episode by finding us on Twitter or Instagram at @moreheadcain or you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
So, go ahead and start by coming to stand on your two feet. You just take a moment here and allow your eyes to close. Feel your feet on the earth, on the floor, wherever you might have landed, and just start to ground down into your feet. Notice where your weight is distributed, if it’s more in the inner foot, the outer foot, the heel, the ball of the foot, and just try to even it out by standing with your whole foot.
Press into your big toes. From there, draw a line to your outer heels, from your outer heels, draw a line in your imagination up to your pinky toes, and from your pinky toes, connect down to your inner heels and finding that solid X of support underneath you. And then from the base of the soles of your feet just do a quick body scan, moving up from the tops of the feet, up your calves, your shins, and as you scan your body, just releasing any tension, any holding you might feel in any of these places, kneecaps, front and back, front and back of your thighs, hips, stomach, muscles of your back, shoulders, neck, all the way down to your arms, hands, fingers.
And finally, just relaxing any tension that you might have in your face, especially your jaw, tongue. And with your body nice and calm and grounded, before you start to move, go ahead and take a full inhale through your nose to clear, and as you exhale, sight out of your mouth.
And from here, you can gently open your eyes, take in your surroundings and then start to walk slowly. Your eyes can either be, you know, at half-mast looking a few feet out in front of you. If that’s not comfortable for you, they can be open. And just take your time for these first few rounds, walking slowly, really feeling that same grounding of the four corners of your feet with each step. And allow your arms to just be loose and soft by your sides.
As you continue to walk like this, we’ll just work through all five senses coming into a little mindfulness practice with your feet touching the earth. And taking a moment to tune into your hearing, noticing if there are any ambient sounds where you are or maybe noise where you are. Tuning into your sense of smell, noticing the scent of the air, your breathing, whether it’s indoors or outdoors, your tactile sense of touch, whether you can feel the floor, the shoes beneath your feet, the clothes on your skin, maybe the air around you, and any breeze if you’re outside.
Taste, just noticing if the air tastes like anything to you, if you have any lingering taste in your mouth, if things taste differently as you start to relax. And finally, bringing your mindfulness practice through to your sight. Just taking in your surroundings while you continue to walk slowly and mindfully.
Now that you’ve really brought yourself into the present as you walk, start to pay attention to your breathing. So just noticing maybe how many inhales and exhales you take with each step, really noticing your natural cadence, so without trying to alter it or change it.
As you continue to walk slowly, noticing your breath, start to slowly smooth out your breathing. Allowing your breath to come in softly, effortlessly through your nose, softly releasing out your nose or your mouth. And we’ll just start to gently manipulate the breath, timing your breath to your walking. So, as you take a step, take an inhale as you lift your foot and take an exhale as you put it down. Inhale as you lift your foot, exhale as you set it down. Inhale, right, exhale, right. Inhale left, exhale left. So just continue with this pattern, a breath in and a breath out per step. And then as you move this way, if you feel like the breath is too slow, you can add in an extra exhale or an extra inhale per step. If you feel like it’s too fast, simply taking an inhale for one step and exhale for the next step.
The cadence is up to you. It doesn’t matter if it’s faster or slower than what I suggested, but just finding a way to time your breath with your walking. If you’re doing this walking meditation for a second or a third time, you can really play with how many breaths you take per step. So whatever cadence you chose, just take 10 more steps following this breathing pattern. And then after the tenth step simply come slowly to a stop, standing again on both feet.
And just to signal that you finished your walking meditation, take a full inhale through your nose and as you exhale, sigh out your mouth, taking these last few moments before you go about your day to reconnect into your feet again, to feel the balance of your weight on the earth. And to allow your attention to come back up through your body, scanning it just the way we did at the beginning of the walking meditation, looking, noticing, seeing if anything feels any different inside your body, outside your body.
And slowly allow your eyes to open. Take a moment before you go about your day, as you come back to your senses, to really take in the room around you, the nature around you, maybe have a sip of water. And you can always return to this meditation any time you need.
*This episode has been edited slightly for clarity.