Ma Yogavratha is a Kelowna-born with a deep and unyielding adoration for the forests of BC. She has spent her life frolicking barefoot in the mountains and river canyons near her hometown, using her senses and natural environment as a medium to explore and deepen her connection with the universe.
By guiding Forest Therapy walks in her community, Ma wishes to provide others with the opportunity to experience the kind of wonder, awe, inspiration, and purpose she has encountered through her relationship with nature.
Ma is trained and certified by the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy as a Forest Therapy Guide. She completed her Wilderness First Aid Certification and Standard First Aid and CPR Certification in 2018 in Kelowna, BC.
It began with a trip to the wild hotsprings.
I was nineteen; I had never experienced this kind of wilderness before, the kind found down an un-maintained dirt road leading endlessly into a mountain range. I was seeing the Kootenay Corridor for the first time, and was dazzled by the waterfalls, the imposing peaks...the absolute absence of man-made noise within the forest.
The hot springs were at the edge of a river in the heart of this lush, thriving forest. It was wild in all ways - it existed beyond time.
The people who visited the hot springs governed themselves peacefully beyond the constructs of society, beyond modern ideas of how a human should behave in order to be accepted and approved of.
In a place where every breath was saturated with the richness of damp cedar, and where un-bound nudists roamed the shores of a proud and crashing river, it happened without effort or realization...this softening of my barriers. This unfolding of my most raw, authentic self. Out there, I could breathe. I could BE - without constraint and concern for how I would be perceived or received. The forest consumed me.
It took root in my soul and an intimate love began to grow. There, in the heart of a land without rule, I experienced myself so purely: as a conscious being inextricably woven into the fabric of existence.
The forest was my reflection, and by settling into its stillness I was able to settle the chaos of my civilized "mind"...and feel the songs of the universe crooning into my skin.
I declared then for the first time that I would devote my life to loving the forests, and to sharing the fruit of that love with everyone around me.
"Guided Forest Therapy consists of a brief, seemingly simple journey. For all its apparent simplicity, it often surprises people with its transformative power." - ANFT
Forest Therapy, also known as Forest Bathing, is a therapeutic practice that guides people to an inner state of relaxation and sensory restoration through experiencing a series of sense and pleasure-oriented invitations that bring them into present moment relationship with the forest.
It it a gentle, physically undemanding practice, taking place in a forested area. The practice supports the health and interconnection of both humans and forests.
Extensive research into Forest Therapy, has shown that spending extended time in forested spaces and consciously connecting with nature through the senses has positive mental, physical, and emotional effects on participants.
This practice is inspired by the Japanese practice of Shinrin-Yoku, which translates to "bathing in the atmosphere of the forest." Studies have demonstrated a wide array of health benefits, especially in the cardiovascular and immune systems, and for stabilizing and improving mood and cognition.
Forest Therapy draws on the latest medical research, new developments in the field of nature connection, and ancient traditions of mindfulness and wellness promotion. Every guided walk is an act of power and beauty, cultivating deep connections with transformational impacts on people and nature.
Though Forest Therapy is intended as an on-going practice, the benefits of experiencing even just ONE Forest Therapy walk include:
By Steve MacNaull
Kelowna’s Lindsey McLellan loves to tip-toe through the forest sans shoes.
She also adores hugging trees, crouching on fallen logs, laying on mossy outcroppings, skimming her fingertips over creeks, dangling over waterfalls, examining light-reflecting cobwebs and befriending little bugs.
Generally, she loves spending as much time in the woods as possible, soaking up its positive vibes.
And she wants you to join her.
McLellan is an Association of Nature and Forest Therapy-certified guide who will take you on a health-boosting walk.
“Forest Therapy is also known as forest bathing, which is a rough translation of the Japanese term Shinrin-Yoku,” she said.
“The benefits of Forest Therapy are numerous. It will improve your immune system, reduce stress, anxiety and depression and even benefit those recovering from surgery.”
McLellan positions Forest Therapy is “more about being than doing.”
While you’ll lightly walk in the forest for two-and-a-half to four hours, this isn’t necessarily about exercise.
Just by spending time consciously connecting with the forest, you can benefit from the natural chemicals secreted by trees, especially evergreens, called phytoncides.
The chemicals have been scientifically proven to boost immunity, mood and feelings of wellness.
Spending time in the forest also decreases the stress hormone cortisol in humans and leads to an overall feeling of vitality.
Participants are guided into a space of liminality through the use of sensory invitations where, by slowing down, they experience new ways of connecting with and relating to nature and themselves.
For her first public Forest Therapy walk in partnership with the RDCO in May 2018, 16 people registered.