Stress-Less with Earth Yoga
Traditionally, Yoga was designed to be practiced outdoors, yet in the West we adopt it as a more indoor activity. There is nothing nicer than to do the Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation) facing the sun or doing Pranyama on the beach or woods with the birds singing or waves on the shoreline.
With so many of us stuck indoors all day, all week we rarely get the chance to enjoy nature, the fresh air, the solid ground beneath your feet and here in the UK we have the long winter months that drag out. That is why Earth Yoga is so enjoyable to add to your healthy lifestyle.
My Earth Yoga classes are based around the Japanese practice of "Shinrin Yoku" aka Forest bathing; think of it like an outdoor spa treatment for the body and soul. This term was developed in the '80's, by the Japanese government but has it's roots in many cultures including the ancient Shinto and Buddists. ShinRin Yoku has a wealth of research to back it up. Shinrin Yoku forms a major cornerstone in preventative healthcare and healing in Japan. The principle is that should a person visit nature and does some activity in a relaxed way there are calming, rejuvenating and restorative benefits to be achieved, when one is in nature the aim is to allow nature to enter the body through all 5 senses.
Stress-Less with Earth Yoga is based on various studies, for example in 2004 a Chinese professor (Yoshifumi Miyazaki) conducted a study on 260 people at 24 sites taking salivary cortisol (stress hormone) from people who partook in Shinrin Yoku for just 20 minutes, he found that the reading of cortisol was 13.4% lower than those in an urban setting. He and his collegue, Juyoung Lee with 600 subjects also found 7% decrease in sympathetic nerve activity, 1.4% decrease in blood pressure and 5.8% decrease in heart rate.
As a knock on effect, with levels of cortisol being reduced the immune system gets healthier and we produce more natural killer cells (NK) especially intracellular ancti-cancer protiens in lympocytes (ncbi). In another study, Qing Li (Nippon Medical School; Tokyo) took a group of middle aged business men to the woods for a 3 day hike, testing their NK count which showed an increase of 40%; with benefits lasting a month with a 15% higher reading than prior to the walk.
How? Nature and especially heavily wooded areas produce something called Phytoncides. A phytoncide are essential aromatic volatile oils excreted by trees and plants. These essential oils are anti-microbial increasing our white blood count or Natural Killer Cells. Basically forest bathing is like an aromatherapy session on steroids and even better studies have shown that there are no side effects and the impact can last for more than 30 days after inhalation.
In summary the benefits of outdoor forest bathing including, walking; yoga and cycling are:-
* Boost immunity
*Reduces Blood Pressure
* Reduces Stress
*Improves ability to Focus
*Positive effects on ADHD
*Accelerated recovery from illness/surgery
*Increases Vitamin D and
*Overall sense of happiness.
The physiological effects of Shinrin-yoku
Forest Bathing in Japan
Benefits of Forest Therapy
"A day trip to a forest" Li Q, et al. J Biol Regul Homeost agents 2010.
"Visiting a Foresy" Li Q, et al .Int J Immunopathol Pharmacol. 2008.
A forest Bathing Trip. Li Q, et al. J Biol Regul Homeost agents 2010.