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The Health Effects of a Forest, or Yoga, or Pilates...

Posted Sep 14 2008 3:59pm
Get to the point, originally uploaded bysurfwax.

I happened across this unique investigation in the the Journal of Physiological Anthropology today. Sure, this might not be the most widely read journal, but I thought this little study worth some thought.

Shinrin-yoku or "Taking in the forest" was found to be correlated to reduced blood pressure and reduced salivary cortisol secretion (stress hormone). In other words, taking in the forest was relaxing. The study was proud of the fact that it was able to correlate subjective responses to the forest with measurable physiological changes.

I'm happy because I think this may provide all the scientific evidence I need to open a cardiac rehab unit in my local state forest! Not convinced? Well, go check out the multiple citations in Pub Med on the subject of Shinrin-yoku.

This type of thing also calls to mind the practice of Yoga Therapy. This has gotten some pretty solid press lately, in both the New York Times and elsewhere. In both instances, the subjects of the article were keen on selecting a yoga therapist who was also a Physical Therapist.

"I wonder what kind of evidence supports this yoga therapy?", I asked myself.

Well, here's some evidence supporting yoga therapy for non-specific chronic low back pain (pdf) in a slightly more well-respected journal, Annals of Internal Medicine. Per the NY Times, the National Institutes of Health has allocated $1.2 million for a second study to see, in part, if the results can be replicated on a larger scale. In fact, there is quite a bit of evidence for Iyengar Yoga Therapy in general. I also found this systematic review.

So what's my point? Evidence is evidence. Sometimes I'm tempted to shrug off research that speaks about walking in the forest. I know that hiking is relaxing without consulting a journal. But, perhaps it is in this "alternative" research where some basic and valuable lessons are learned. Is there enough evidence for me to integrate yoga therapy in my practice? Not sure, but I better keep a look out!

I leave you with a quote from the news article:

“Anybody can hang their shingle and say they are a yoga therapist,” said Julie Gudmestad, a physical therapist who also practices yoga therapy in Portland, Ore. “Buyer beware. I’ve seen some strange things done in the name of yoga therapy.”

Labels: physical therapy, Research

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