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By Mary Moscarello. To read all of Mary’s blog posts, click here.

Photos: Mary Moscarello; Banner image by DESIGNECOLOGIST on Unsplash

The term “forest bathing” has come into prominence in the casual lexicon recently. I’m talking like a couple of years ago recently. In researching for this piece, I noticed it got coverage in mainstream media in 2018 as part of a look at the trend in healthcare known as “social prescribing” – where a doctor may advise a patient to join a bingo night or garden club in lieu of or in tandem with a prescription to treat depression or anxiety most commonly caused by isolation. 

As much as that attention lends the reader to think this is a new discovery in medicine and the approach to well-being – it is nothing new. 

Unless it is raining when you participate in the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku (literally translated to forest bathing) you won’t get wet. There’s a reason we use the term that comes from that Japanese word – not because they invented walking around the forest – it is because in the 1980s, the Japanese government took time to study the effect nature has on various aspects of a person’s health.

Those scientific studies revealed a measurable reduction in blood pressure, cortisol (stress hormone) levels as well as noticeable improvements in concentration and memory after mindful time in the woods. There was also attention paid to natural chemicals released by trees and plants, called phytoncides and the researchers determined those chemicals gave the immune system a boost. Shinrin-Yoku then became an officially recommended activity in Japan’s national health program. 

I have always loved forests and being in nature – but lately it seems to call me more strongly. When a day goes by in which I didn’t take time to be outside – I feel, off somehow. It is as if the cool shade of the forest settles my jumbled nerves and evens out the ragged edges of my soul during this seemingly never ending quarantine. 

It probably hasn’t been studied or measured since quarantine began in the Northeast, but judging by the constant stream of new faces I see walking around my own neighborhood – lots of people are doing the same thing. Granted, not everyone I see is full on forest bathing – because there’s a mindfulness element that is critical in getting the benefits of the practice, according to the current research on it.

You leave your phone behind.

No camera.

The idea is to immerse yourself in the forest surroundings. Use all your senses to take it in. Look at the colors. Hear the sounds. Smell – even taste – the air.

I love how yogic this practice seems to me. Of course I view most things through the lens of yoga. There’s a movement element – sure, by virtue of the walking around. I think it is the added mindfulness element of the practice that links it to yoga for me. Observing our surroundings. Being still to hear forest sounds. 

There really has never been a better time to start this practice. We all probably have more time to be outside. Even twenty minutes a day can do wonders. 

I try to subscribe myself to something I call a formula of three. Three things I try to consistently do to foster a sense of healthy well-being. It includes a daily regimen of self-care, quality family time and time in nature/natural settings. The shape of each part of the formula of three looks different from day to day. No matter how I consume the formula, it rarely fails to achieve the desired effect on my mood. 

Theresa Conlon

Theresa is a Yoga Alliance certified instructor (200-hour RYT) who has been teaching since 2013. She is skilled in various yoga styles including Hatha, Ashtanga, Vinyasa Flow, Restorative, and Meditation. Theresa also brings an extensive dance background to her yoga practice, which includes teaching both modern dance and ballet. She has over 40 years of dance/theater performing experience and currently showcases her choreography as part of Bergen Dance Makers, a dance collective in northern New Jersey. Theresa’s yoga classes offer a calming mix of traditional asana postures and creative movement flows, supported by energy-moving breath. Students of all skill levels are invited to find ease and peace in their bodies/minds/spirits through the joyful bliss of yoga movement.

Carrie Parker Gastelu

Carrie Parker Gastelu, E-500 RYT, has been teaching yoga since 1993. Carrie began her journey when Yogi Raj Mani Finger initiated Carrie into the ISHTA Yoga lineage after training with Mani’s son, Yogi Raj Alan Finger. In addition, she has studied many other yoga traditions as well as anatomy, physiology, movement, and awareness practices to create an eclectic style all her own. She is known for her honest, non-dogmatic yet passionate approach.

Carrie is a regular speaker and contributor at conferences, websites, and print publications and has been featured in Fit Magazine, the Yoga Zone Book, and in the Yoga Zone Video, “Flexibility and Stress Release.”

Lisa Podesta-Coombs

When Lisa found yoga in 2008, she started to find herself again and it set her on a path of health and healing. She received her 200HR RYT certification from Raji Thron of Yoga Synthesis, and her 30HR Chakra Yoga Teacher Training certificate with Anodea Judith and holds a Y12SR (Yoga of 12 Step Recovery) certification. She is also a Holistic Health Coach (certified through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition). Lisa believes we’re all on a journey of learning how to trust ourselves; she helps her clients build that trust by supporting them in creating better habits for a better life through various functional movement modalities like yoga, barre, Pilates & strength training, mindset, and whole food nutrition.

Forever a student with a passion for people, holistic health, and self-actualization, Lisa is always embracing opportunities to advance her education to better serve; Ayurveda workshops & immersions have been of particular interest as she continues to deepen her knowledge of and experience with food as medicine and she recently completed Unleash Her Power Within, a transformational program of rediscovering our truest selves, powered by Tony Robbins.  

As she continues to give herself space and grace to nourish her natural self and actualize her potential, Lisa continues to share the gift of movement as medicine to inspire authenticity & health in body, mind, and spirit. You can expect mindful, accessible, dynamic, playful, and uplifting classes from Lisa.

Tanisha Sutton

Tanisha’s yoga journey began when she was an undergraduate student studying at university. Changes in her health coupled with anxiety over grades, relationships, and life in general, forced her to search for healthy lifestyle choices she could implement to help manage the stress that she was experiencing as a new adult. A friend of hers suggested that she attend some community yoga classes to help with the anxiety and increase her daily physical activity. Initially, she was reluctant and filled with all these false ideas about yoga and the people who practiced yoga. Like many others, she was concerned that her body type and lack of flexibility automatically excluded her from being a student. Curiously yet hesitantly, she journeyed on to her first class and began laying the foundation for a home and public practice that has supported her over the years.

On this journey, she has discovered that yoga has nothing to do with appearances nor is there anything, but an open mind needed to begin. She intends to provide you with a gentle yoga session that is safe, inclusive, and accessible. Her classes are an expression of self-love and are a deliberate choice to tend to ALL the parts of our being that are neglected, ignored, or disregarded during the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Through meditation, deep breathing, and gentle movement we will collectively share space to observe, rest and re-set. Tanisha is honored to share her practice with you and looks forward to seeing you on the mat!