One of our recent Wellness Centre outings for caregivers allowed us to spend a summer morning exploring the beautiful Jardin botanique Roger-Van den Hende. Christiane Ruggiero, a visiting occupational therapist from Florida with a specialty in neuro rehabilitation and caregiver herself helped participants become more aware of the physical benefits of walking while being present in nature. Here are some of her tips for Mindful Walking for those you who weren’t able to attend.
Mindfulness is the practice of purposely focusing your attention on the present moment and accepting it without judgment. It can be done alone or with others.
Walking meditation, also known as mindful walking brings you closer to nature and your body. It also helps strengthen your concentration, makes you more aware, and connects you to the present moment.
1- Setting your intention: An intention is a guiding principle for how you want to be, live, and show up in the world—during meditation, yoga or any area of your life. Ask yourself, what matters most to you? But an intention shouldn’t be confused with a goal—it’s not something you attach an expectation or evaluation to. It’s just something you want to align with in your life. It’s an aim, a purpose, or attitude you’d be proud to commit to.
2-Start by standing still and tuning in to how your body feels (posture, contact with the ground, any tension). Allow your knees to bend slightly to feel your hips as your center of gravity.
3-Practice 2-to-1 breathing by taking 4 breaths in and 8 breaths out. This type of breathing helps regulate the motion of the lungs and quiet both the nervous system and the energy fields that influence the body and mind. Other types of breathing include diaphragmatic breathing, alternate nostril breathing, and breath awareness. These all can be beneficial however 2-to-1 breathing has been shown to be the most calming for the sympathetic nervous system.
4-Walk slowly for 15-20 minutes at a slower than normal pace being aware with each step of the heel-to-toe rhythm. Allow your eyes to focus softly ahead of you and around you as you maintain a soft body and breath awareness. Walk naturally and easily. Notice colors, sounds, smells, and sensations. When your attention drifts away from the sensations of walking and breathing, take notice of those thoughts, moods, or emotions without judgment and gently guide your awareness back to the present moment, back to the walking.
5-When it’s time to end the meditation, allow yourself to come to a gentle halt. Pause—once again experiencing yourself standing still—as you feel the earth beneath your feet. Take a few deep breaths as this session comes to close. Slowly return to your regular activity.