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Healing outdoors: How nature helps you calm down

Last updated on: June 04, 2014 19:52 IST

Healing outdoors: How nature helps you calm down

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Shameem Akthar

These nature cures have been tested by time and choice, says yogacharya Shameem Akthar.

The use of art to heal has lately captured the imagination of therapists, who are using all forms of art, including drama, to heal.

But one of the earliest methods of healing using art has been surely visual because of this connection between nature and us, living organisms who are part of it.

Around this concept many healing and survival techniques have developed – office ergonomics, interior decoration, colour therapy, art therapy and so on.

But the most basic therapy is to have a direct connection with nature itself, which may explain why we choose our holidays to places where nature is in abundance and the sense of time and its pace recedes.

Shameem Akthar, yogacharya trained with the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre, suggests five nature cures that have been tested by time and choice.

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Photographs: reebs*/ Creative Commons

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Water bodies are mood enhancers

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The ancient sage Chanakya (who is the current toast amongst those rediscovering the relevance of ancient Indian wisdom in contemporary corporate set-up) had suggested that one must always live near water bodies. Yoga endorses that.

Why?

The answer is simple: in areas where there is a large water body, or movement of water, the atmosphere is filled with negative ion particles.

These are said to increase oxygen absorption, give a high, and improve one’s breathing.

This may explain why holidays near beaches, rivers, or waterfalls rank high amongst those who want a break from city living and stress.

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Image: Water bodies are mood enhancers
Photographs: Alex8cla/ Creative Commons
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Walking barefoot on dewy grass helps you unwind

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This is another suggestion made by both Ayurveda and yoga to rejuvenate one's sight and remain youthful.

The feet have one of the largest clusters of nerve endings. They react immediately to the freshness of the dew and the sense of being released from closed tight shoes.

The nerves are fired with freshness, creating an immediate connection to the brain.

Anything that wakes up the awareness of the nerves in the feet, including balancing poses or just standing in a set way, is said to be deeply grounding to the body and mind.

In healing, this state of being grounded and connected and strong, felt through the legs and feet, is regarded as an absolute essential.

The simple joy of walking on dew-fresh grass is said to keep you youthful. It is also said to revitalise flagging eye-sight.

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Image: Walk barefoot on dew-fresh grass to rejuvenate your sight and remain youthful.
Photographs: Shahram Sharif/ Creative Commons
Tags: Ayurveda

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Gardening reduces stress

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It is for the same reason – of connecting with the earth and thus feeling grounded – that gardening is such an immensely healing activity.

Research has established that gardening can be very healing. It calms and removes stress; it lowers blood pressure and improves eye-brain-limb co-ordination.

Any act that involves caring for something other than oneself in a non-challenging way is regarded as healing.  Gardening comes top of the list.

Using the hands to mix the mud-clay, the connection with water and wet soil, induce deep calm and the sense of being grounded. Progressive hospitals around the world are creating “healing” gardens. Patients are allowed to wander about the garden or do some gardening themselves.

The impact has been miraculous, lowering muscle tension, impacting the brain’s electrical activity positively, and lowering blood pressure.

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Image: Gardening helps you connect with the earth and makes you feel grounded
Photographs: H?rm?geddon/ Creative Commons
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Clear blue skies and open vistas can calm

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As landscape designers have discovered, a clear, open vista is immensely soothing to the mind.

Why is this so?

The designers reason that a clear vista is calming because it goes back to our evolutionary history when we were jungle creatures.

Anything that was lumpy and knobbly meant spaces where predators may be hiding, whereas a clear vista showed no hidden threats.

So the mind feels at peace when viewing a rolling landscape or a clear sky. The sense of nothing dangerous lurking can be immensely healing to a person needing to heal.

Even a painting that has such a clear rolling scene is calming, according to this research.

Maybe if you cannot roll out of office to view the paddy fields in the nearest village, you could pin up a calming landscape painting or photograph on your wallboard.

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Image: A clear, open vista is immensely soothing to the mind
Photographs: Frank Vassen/Wikimedia Creative Commons
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Flowers give a sense of well being

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The same connection between nature and healing makes it obvious that flowers are natural healers too.

Again, whether the flowers are real or unreal (as in a painting) they pep up one’s mood and bring cheeriness to closed or dreary spaces.  

In our primitive past, the sight of flowers would have implied abundance of food, water and natural shelter. That may explain why flowers have this special way of immediately making us feel that “all is well” and why, across cultures, they are used to observe happy occasions.

In yoga, certain chakras are harmonised by the visualisation of flowers, including the lotus and the sunflower.


Image: Flowers give a sense of well being
Photographs: Alvesgaspar/ Creative Commons
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