Benefits of yoga outdoors – connecting with nature

Benefits of yoga outdoors – connecting with nature

Word Count: 991    Reading Time: 5 minutes

 

Back to nature for health, sustenance and well-being is what we’re all about. Well, that and supporting folks who work in fields encouraging just that.

Working in wellness retreat venues for many years, I have been fortunate to experience many different teachers of various modalities and techniques.

The most refreshing and invigorating wellness practices I have experienced have been done outdoors. I love meditating outdoors in the wilderness and joining sessions with friends who guide Nature Therapy walks and Noble walks.

Yoga outdoors is another big fave, it feels to me during a session that is how it’s meant to be done. If you think about its historical roots, that’s probably right.

Increasingly the importance of connecting with nature returns to the forefront for most teachers in wellness fields.

Even the scientific data is confirming far reaching benefits to being outdoors in nature and we find it the perfect antidote to what Richard Louv calls, nature deficit disorders.

 

Word Count: 991    Reading Time: 5 minutes


 

 

Back to nature for health, sustenance and well-being is what we’re all about. Well, that and supporting folks who work in fields encouraging just that.

Working in wellness retreat venues for many years, I have been fortunate to experience many different teachers of various modalities and techniques.

The most refreshing and invigorating wellness practices I have experienced have been done outdoors. I love meditating outdoors in the wilderness and joining sessions with friends who guide Nature Therapy walks and Noble walks.

Yoga outdoors is another big fave, it feels to me during a session that is how it’s meant to be done. If you think about it’s historical roots, that’s probably right.

Increasingly the importance of connecting with nature returns to the forefront for most teachers in wellness fields.

Even the scientific data is confirming far reaching benefits to being outdoors in nature and we find it the perfect antidote to what Richard Louv calls, nature deficit disorders.

 

Yoga and meditation outdoors

 

I grew up in Western Australia where at certain times of the year massive storms would roll in off the Indian ocean.

In my later years there I used to go to the beach when these storms rolled in, even if during the night, and would sit and meditate facing them, as close to the torrid water as I dared.

Invigorating beyond belief, I would come away feeling as if the winds and rains of the storms literally blew and washed away stagnation and lethargy, seemingly straight through me.

Working in the outback of Australia for many years gave me ample opportunity to practice what is known as grounding.

I found this exercise especially powerful in the wild outback, desolate as it often looked, there was no mistaking the immense power in the earth and the trees that managed to exist there.

I am always moved by the sensation of being barefoot on the ground and love sinking my feet into dirt and mud.

So too of being naked in water or shirtless leaning back against a tree, preferably a big old oak.

It’s my favourite way of meditating to be sitting beneath an old tree, an ancient tree, grounding myself and remembering to let go the mental and emotional boundaries and simply radiate outwards into nature.

I find this too with the practices of yoga and qigong done in nature, for me it seems more powerful somehow more cleansing.

 

Connecting with nature

 

I’m not a yoga teacher, so I thought it best to let Masie Barefoot-Judson talk about the benefits of yoga outdoors from a teacher’s perspective:

 

Have you ever felt the earth beneath your feet – I mean really felt it? Have you taken your shoes off and felt the cold soil or spread your toes wide to really feel the surface of your yoga mat?

What I remember most about my childhood is the freedom of going barefoot — of playing without shoes and exploring wide-open spaces with my hands and feet.

 

Although I have grown up, there is still a bit of this child in the way I practice yoga.

My yoga mat may not physically be a wide-open space, but still… it gives me the chance to explore its textured surface on my skin with child-like delight.

 

Connecting with your natural setting is grounding and playful, and with practice, often meditative.

 

Perhaps you too have felt this connection with the earth moving into your practice. In my teaching style, the seasons often play a vital role in the sequences I use.

On warm days, I may notice that my students seem more limber, but often feel tired by the end of the day; and on cooler days, I get requests to open the shoulders where we’ve cinched tension around the neck.

 

As we move through Spring, I create intense internal heat with long, slow movements, taking the time to linger and find ease within the movement.

Spring is often the perfect time to take your yoga outdoors to bask in the sun or enjoy a nice shaded spot. Or forget your mat altogether and leap into nature as your yoga mat.

I’ve rested my back against boulders in tadasana, connecting with the mountain. The options are endless – imagine yourself in bidalasana, alternating between cat and cow poses.

Or you could rise into tree pose, while reaching out and resting your palm on a tree’s trunk. Connecting with your natural setting is grounding and playful, and with practice, often meditative.

 

If you would rather practice meditation instead of yoga outdoors, you can still practice outside and connect with nature.

You can sit at the base of a tree and use the canvas of your mind to grow upward like the tree.

Feel your roots growing down into the soil from the base of your spine.

Expanding our consciousness, we dive deeper within our own connection to nature.

 

I invite you also to play like a child and have fun in the process.

( Masie’s article originally appeared on artoflivingretreatcenter.org/blog. )

 


Scientific research agrees there are benefits

 

During the last two decades more and more research studies have demonstrated the benefits of reconnecting with nature.

Our friends at the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy can tell you a lot about the benefits of being in nature, as can the Japanese who practice Shinrin Yoku, or forest bathing, for health and wellness.

Although the scientific community use cautious language, they do comment on the potential benefits of connecting. You can find a more in depth discussion of this in our article Amazing Facts About Nature Connection.

Did you know that doctors in Shetland, Scotland can now prescribe time in nature for their patients?

We’ve known about the benefits of connecting with nature for some time and highly recommend Guided Nature Therapy walks with certified guides, like our friend Marion Edler-Burke in Galway, Ireland.

The benefits of connection with nature were known by our ancestors, this knowledge common place up to the industrial revolution. It’s going to go mainstream soon as it increasingly pops up in popular news like The Guardian.

If you’re up for a spot of video explaining the concept of nature connection for health and happiness, pop over to our Resource page and check out some rather humerous videos by Nature Rx in the media section.

Enjoy!

 


Resources

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Why We Throttled Social Media?

Why We Throttled Social Media?

Word Count: 943    Reading Time: 5 minutes

Why Throttle Social Media?

 

To save time, enhance productivity, limit distraction and attention fragmentation.

Furthermore, to eliminate social media related anxiety, preserve health, be more active and have a life!

We limit ourselves to the use of LinkedIn and Twitter for publishing articles and professional networking.

In addition investing some time in networking with bloggers in specifically relevant fields and we publish on our blog. But that’s it, that’s where we draw the line, for our own purposes.

However that’s not to say that we think all social media is a waste of time, no!

We do understand its value in networking, dissemination of information and of course marketing, depending on the nature of a service or product.

For instance in some of our project work it is an important component of developing a presence and positioning for a venue, service or product.

Word Count: 943    Reading Time: 5 minutes

 


 

Why Throttle Social Media?

 

To save time, enhance productivity, limit distraction and attention fragmentation.

Furthermore, to eliminate social media related anxiety, preserve health, be more active and have a life!

We limit ourselves to the use of LinkedIn and Twitter for publishing articles and professional networking.

In addition investing some time in networking with bloggers in specifically relevant fields and we publish on our blog. But that’s it, that’s where we draw the line, for our own purposes.

However that’s not to say that we think all social media is a waste of time, no!

We do understand its value in networking, dissemination of information and of course marketing, depending on the nature of a service or product.

For instance in some of our project work it is an important component of developing a presence and positioning for a venue, service or product.

Google and Social Media

 

Social media was considered to be an important component in SEO for search rankings.

However Google explained in 2016 it is difficult to accurately determine authorship identity of social media content, so did not (as of 2016) factor social media into search algorithms for ranking.

That said, social media does remain highly relevant though as a vehicle for driving qualified traffic to your sites and businesses, building and positioning a brand, and being an additional point of contact with potential customers.

 

Digital Marketing Value Versus Addictive Behaviour

 

It’s clear that social media platforms are valuable in the modern landscape.

We recommend and conduct integration with social media for our clients where appropriate.

Most importantly we aim to assist our clients to minimise their time and energy drains related to being online and IT in general.

Furthermore we are advocates of returning to nature for health, well being and sustenance. Most definitely including reducing time consuming social media.

Our issue is with overuse of social media as with any other addictive behaviour, it has detrimental effects, chronic and acute.

If you doubt the validity of claims about social media consumption as being potentially addictive, there are websites on the subject.

See It’s Time To Log Off, and 30 Signs Of Social Media Addiction for just a small sample.

In addition the rise of Digital Detox Retreats across the world in recent years for people wanting to “get unplugged”.

In fact we have supported digital detox type retreats in Ireland and Portugal, so far!

Finally there are numerous studies on the subject of social media use and depression and other negative effects.

Anya Zhukova provides a good introductory discussion of Negative Effects of Social Media over at Makeuseof.com.

See Resources at the bottom of this post for some related studies.

 

FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)

 

A typical argument against not being an individual consumer of Facebook and other hugely popular social platforms is the Fear Of Missing Out on something.

We travel a lot, we meet literally hundreds and hundreds of people in the course of a year.

We experience new real world stuff most of the time.

We certainly have plenty of adventures and probably travel more than most people.

We’re very open minded and well informed.

Furthermore, we lead rewarding lives and enjoy ourselves aplenty.

All achieved without a Facebook profile or any of the other popular platforms, save for those mentioned above we use for professional networking.

 

What We Gained Leaving Social Media

 

As the title of this article suggests, we did use popular social media when it first came out.

However we found quickly that we didn’t like it and the amount of time needed interfered with our lives.

Recognising the oscillation of background anxiety that came with its use and its design elements that were aimed at creating a kind of dependency akin to addiction.

We felt the effects of being mentally overstimulated and distracted away from the world outdoors, nature, fresh air, natural environments.

Our conclusion was that it is a form of entertainment that we don’t like.

We tired quickly of watching rooms of friends communicate with each other through their devices, and of conversations being interrupted by people’s need of a fix of their social media.

Not to mention the modern posture, head down, eyes transfixed as they finger scrolled through their online life.

What did we notice when we deleted our social media profiles, way back then?

 

We saved time, yep lots of time!

 

In addition we found that our background anxiety levels dropped away.

That is, after the initial period of discontinued use, which came with some passing feelings of anxiety and fear of missing out.

This left space and time to reconnect with oneself and develop that inner relationship more, without the need of any external validation of our activities, choices, preferences, opinions and lifestyle.

 

Sedentary Lifestyles Are Literally Killing Us

 

There is a fast growing body of research demonstrating how social media use may be a major contributing factor in the rise of anxiety and depression in children, adolescents and adults alike.

There are also physical impacts associated with the sedentary lifestyle and extensive use of screen interfaced technologies.

The human body did not evolve to sit for prolonged periods, it evolved to move, and move a lot!

Technology use sees many of us sitting for periods of time that are literally killing us!

It is estimated that 90% of premature deaths worldwide are attributable to this modern habit of sitting too much.

An overly sedentary lifestyle is shown to be connected to many chronic health conditions.

Check out Murat Dalkilinç’s TEDEx lesson “Why sitting is bad for you“ for a cool presentation on this matter.

 

Sitting Makes It Harder To Think

 

A sedentary lifestyle diminishes concentration also, by reducing blood and thus oxygen circulation to the brain.

Concentration is actually aided by movement which enhances circulation.

Too much sitting is a major factor in modern body posture related health issues such as spinal problems, circulation both blood and lymph, nervous system function and fat metabolising.

There are plenty of sources out there discussing the implications of sitting too much, here’s just a couple worth a look;

Why Sitting Down Destroys You | Roger Frampton – YouTube

Why Sitting Too Much Is Seriously Bad for Your Health – Authority Nutrition.com

We also notice a bunch of effects when we have to engage in prolonged use of screen interface technologies, such as;

• tiredness
• sore eyes
• anti social tendency and moodiness
• over stimulation
• anxiety
• compelled to repeat/prolong the experience of tech engagement
• reluctance to engage in outdoor activities
• less restful sleep
• diminished positive attitude

 

Other Purposes Behind Social Media

 

We feel it is also important to point out that social media is not a fundamental technology in and of itself, it uses technology to deliver a product that is essentially entertainment.

It is also a means of data mining private information of individuals and populations for selling on to marketers and promoters.

Social media companies employ attention engineers whose function is to make social media as addictive and compulsive as possible to maximise user engagement and optimise data acquisition and product/service promotion.

As with all things in life, social media use is ok in moderation, but give it some thought, do you really know why you spend the time and energy you do using it?

Give it some real deep thought, go inside your choices and behaviours, do you really know what motivates them?

Can this be extended to other aspects of our lives? You bet ya!

What could you be doing with your time if you didn’t spend as much time online?

Check out the work by Dr Cal Newport on this subject and others. Watch Cal’s TedTalk, Why You Should Quit Social Media.

Cal is a professor at Georgetown University.

In his latest book Deep Work, Cal Newport flips the narrative on impact in a connected age.

 

Resources

Social media use and perceptions of physical health
Bridget Dibb, 2019

Investigating the Effects of Social Media Usage on Sleep Quality
Dinesh Kaimal, Ravi Teja Sajja, Farzan Sasangohar, 2017

Health Effects of Media on Children and Adolescents
Victor C. Strasburger, Amy B. Jordan, Ed Donnerstein, 2010

 

Amazing Facts About Nature Connection

Amazing Facts About Nature Connection

Word Count: 866    Reading Time: 4.5 minutes

 

The Importance of Nature

 

We humans are a part of all the natural life on this planet, we come from nature, we grew out of it.

Throughout evolution we have always been in and with nature, in fact we are inseparable from our environment. No organism can exist without an environment.

We rely on our environment, nature, for food, water, air, shelter and energy. Without nature, we can not exist.

But the modern lifestyle has distracted us from a healthy relationship to the natural world.

Our consumption habits and addictions are altering and destroying our environment, the nature on which we rely for our existence.

Many people can not tolerate being without their smartphones or an internet connection for very long.

We are seemingly more networked and connected with each other than ever before, but are we really?

Instant access to information is prevalent in modern society. But information is not necessarily knowledge, or wisdom.

It is clear, and there is plenty of research out there to demonstrate it, that our preoccupation and distraction with information technology and consumerism are major factors in our diminishing relationship to the natural world and thus ourselves.

This diminishing affinity with nature has serious effects on our health, well being and happiness.

 

Word Count: 866    Reading Time: 4.5 minutes

 


 

 

The Importance of Nature

 

We humans are a part of all the natural life on this planet, we come from nature, we grew out of it.

Throughout evolution we have always been in and with nature, in fact we are inseparable from our environment. No organism can exist without an environment.

We rely on our environment, nature, for food, water, air, shelter and energy. Without nature, we can not exist.

But the modern lifestyle has distracted us from a healthy relationship to the natural world.

Our consumption habits and addictions are altering and destroying our environment, the nature on which we rely for our existence.

Many people can not tolerate being without their smartphones or an an internet connection for very long.

We are seemingly more networked and connected with each other than ever before, but are we really?

Instant access to information is prevalent in modern society. But information is not necessarily knowledge, or wisdom.

It is clear, and there is plenty of research out there to demonstrate it, that our preoccupation and distraction with information technology and consumerism are major factors in our diminishing relationship to the natural world and thus ourselves.

This diminishing affinity with nature has serious effects on our health, well being and happiness.

Nature Deficit Disorders

 

American author Richard Louv says in his book The Nature Principle, people living in high-tech societies often suffer from what he calls nature deficit disorder. See Louv’s other book, Last Child in the Woods.

As described by Louv, this is not a medical diagnosis, but a description of the human costs of alienation from nature. (Wikipedia)

The costs of alienation include: diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, and higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses.

Benefits of Being in Nature

 

During the last two decades more and more research studies have demonstrated the benefits of reconnecting with nature.

Here are some of them:

 

Walking in nature may reduce the risk of mental illness.
Participants who went on a 90-min walk through a natural environment […] showed reduced neural activity in an area of the brain linked to risk for mental illness compared with those who walked through an urban environment.

Source: https://www.pnas.org/content/112/28/8567.abstract

 

Experiencing nature decreases rumination and anxiety and improves cognitive abilities.
Nature experience produced clear benefits for affect (e.g., decrease in anxiety and rumination).

Nature experience produced some benefits for cognition (complex working memory span task).

Source: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0169204615000286

 

Certain microbes present in soil may increase serotonin production, making you happier and relaxed.

Mycobacterium vaccae is the substance under study and has indeed been found to mirror the effect on neurons that drugs like Prozac provide.

The bacterium is found in soil and may stimulate serotonin production, which makes you relaxed and happier.

Lack of serotonin has been linked to depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder and bipolar problems.

The bacterium appears to be a natural antidepressant in soil and has no adverse health effects.

Sources: Identification of an Immune-Responsive Mesolimbocortical Serotonergic System: Potential Role in Regulation of Emotional Behavior, by Christopher Lowry et al., published online on March 28 in Neuroscience.

And: http://discovermagazine.com/2007/jul/raw-data-is-dirt-the-new-prozac

 

Nature contact may enhance the wellbeing of individuals experiencing chronic mental, emotional and physical health difficulties.

Evidence demonstrates that separately, physical activity, social connection, and contact with nature enhance human health and well-being.

The case example illustrates how ‘active’, ‘social’ and ‘adventurous’ contact with nature may be combined within a treatment intervention to protect and enhance the health of individuals experiencing chronic mental, emotional and physical health difficulties.

Source: Health and well-being naturally: ‘contact with nature’ in health promotion for targeted individuals, communities and populations. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16916314

 

Spending time outdoors is associated with greater vitality.

Being outdoors was associated with greater vitality, a relation that was mediated by the presence of natural elements.

Source: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0272494409000838

 

Excerpt From Our Work With Forest Schooling Ireland

 

With the rapid and all encompassing emergence of consumer technology in the last 20 years, many disturbing childhood trends have also appeared: obesity, attention disorders, behavioural problems and depression are rising fast.

Research clearly indicates that Nature Connection is essential for children to develop physical, mental and emotional health.

Howard Gardener, Professor of Education at Harvard University developed the theory of 7 multiple intelligences in 1983 and recently added the 8th, naturalist intelligence, which he calls nature smart.

Forest School is transformative and transferable as it engages multiple intelligences, and therefore offers each learning type opportunities to grow and shine.

The Author, Mentor and Tracker Jon Young also talks about nature smart in a YouTube video from his own experience over 30 years working with children and youth in the wilderness.

He also points out that Nature Connection is the foundation of a healthy and vibrant Culture as it is only through Nature Connection that we can deeply connect to ourself and then others.

Another good reason why Forest School is so important in our time of uncertainty and climate change is to build resilience and resourcefulness into our children so they can react and adapt appropriately in different circumstances.

And finally Nature Connection develops love and respect for Nature, the realisation of our interconnectedness and our role as humans to take good care of it to secure our future on earth.

A nice article on the subject:

http://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2016/01/call-to-wild/

 

Resources

 

Nature experience reduces rumination and subgenual prefrontal cortex activation. Gregory N. Bratman, J. Paul Hamilton, Kevin S. Hahn, Gretchen C. Daily, and James J. Gross, 2015.

The benefits of nature experience: Improved affect and cognition. Gregory N.Bratman, Gretchen, C.Daily, Benjamin J.Levy, James J.Grossd, 2015.

Identification of an Immune-Responsive Mesolimbocortical Serotonergic System: Potential Role in Regulation of Emotional Behavior. C.A. Lowry, J.H. Hollis, A. de Vries, B. Pan, L.R. Brunet, J.R.F. Hunt, J.F.R. Paton, E. van Kampen, D.M. Knight, A.K. Evans, G.A.W. Rook, and S.L. Lightman, 2007.

Health and well-being naturally: ‘contact with nature’ in health promotion for targeted individuals, communities and populations. Pryor A, Townsend M, Maller C, Field K., 2006.

Vitalizing effects of being outdoors and in nature. Richard M. Ryan, Netta Weinstein, Jessey Bernstein, Kirk Warren Brown, Louis Mistretta, Marylène Gagné, 2010.