Opening the Senses with Shinrin-Yoku (Forest Bathing)

Opening the Senses with Shinrin-Yoku (Forest Bathing)

By Gayle Picken

Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I was surrounded by trees. Cedars, Western Hemlocks and Douglas Firs towered over our house and swayed dramatically during the windstorms. Friends and relatives visiting from the mid-west would marvel at how tall and green they were, but I mostly took the trees for granted and didn’t fully appreciate their beauty until I was older.

Now with mindfulness and meditation becoming mainstream, I’m seeing lots of stories, classes and workshops in “Forest Bathing” or “Shinrin-yoku” – a practice developed in Japan of opening all of your senses while being in the forest to soak in all of the healing properties of the trees. It’s said to have profound health benefits, including lowering stress and blood pressure and boosting our immune system.

Could it be that trees can have that much of influence on our health?

Curious to learn more, I called on some of our NW Mind Body Spirit Connection experts to give us some insights.

Forest Bathing in a Group

Maureen Rivelle of Open Hands Reiki in Edmonds, led Forest Bathing groups every month during the Spring and Summer of 2017 into Southwest County Park or another park in Lynnwood.

“It is a very relaxing and rejuvenating “activity” that gets us back in touch with nature. Especially in the winter, many of us are far removed from the outdoors and nature and its positive effects on our bodies, minds and spirits. So my idea was to bring the balance of nature back into our lives by offering a way for people to go into the woods without having to travel far, and by removing the fear factor of being alone in the woods.”

Maureen took her group into the park and found a place that was relatively quiet and out of the path of people, yet where the group could remain within eyesight of each other.

She started off with a group meditation and grounding and then each person found a tree, got out their blankets and pillows and leaned against their tree or laid down next to it.

“We then communed with nature in our own way. Some people took much-needed naps,” she recalled.

After about an hour, Maureen would go around to each person to tell them it was time to walk out. “We shared our experiences as a group, afterwards,” she added, “In every case, people felt refreshed.”

Maureen’s tip: Look for a quiet spot without any mosquitoes!

Take the time to disconnect so that you can make time to reconnect

Marc Lainhart, The Intuitive Prospector, has been leading “Forest Friday” Hikes in the summer for the past 4 or 5 years. They include an easy to moderate hike along with Qigong and meditation.

I like to think of it as “connecting back to our original home,” said Marc.

“I used to do a lot of hiking by myself,” he added, “and then friends started asking to come along. As I built my spiritual practice, I incorporated meditation and Qigong into a forest bathing practice.”

“There is an exchange of elements that take place between us and trees/nature. Sometimes we forget this.”

Part of the experience is walking in silence with no words, no technology. “We take in the power and the essence with where we’re at,” he explained.

Marc doesn’t charge for the hikes, but accepts donations to help with gas and the trail head parking pass. For details, check his facebook page.

“The Forest Friday Hikes offer an opportunity to power off, reset and connect with higher self. Nature is our greatest teacher”

Interested in Learning More about Forest Bathing?

M. Amos Clifford has written a book called “Your Guide to Forest Bathing” where he invites you to bring this powerful self-care practice into your life. He shares the healing power of forest bathing, discusses the elements of practice, and gives you a step-by-step for optimal flow.

Clifford founded the Association of Nature & Forest Therapy and offers a Free Starter Kit if you sign up for the email list.

You can find his book online or at a local bookstore near you.

I’d love to hear about your experience forest bathing! Share your photos & stories in our group: NW Mind Body Spirit Lounge. See you in the forest!

Gayle Picken is an event producer, healthy living advocate, travel blogger and director of the NW Mind Body Spirit Connection. She loves yoga, hiking, kayaking, connecting with people and exploring the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest.

Tips for Navigating Summer Eating … an Interview with Registered Dietitian, Crystal Franck

Tips for Navigating Summer Eating … an Interview with Registered Dietitian, Crystal Franck

by Monika Star

I recently had the opportunity to catch up with Crystal Franck, registered dietitian at Experience Momentum in Lynnwood, WA. She took us on a tour of their wellness facility, including the yoga studio downstairs, the physical therapy room, the CrossFit gym and their outdoor urban garden space, and then we sat down in her office where she provides nutrition consulting for her clients.

We talked about her approach to nutrition, tips she has for summer eating tips and what she loves about working at Experience Momentum. She also shared a bonus recipe perfect for a 4th of July picnic!

Here’s the interview:

M. Thanks so much for giving us a tour of your office and Experience Momentum, Crystal. I’m wondering if you have any special plans for the 4th of July?

C. I usually go to eastern Washington to visit my Dad for the 4th and we go boating, but this year I’m staying here and I’ll be doing the Yankee Doodle Dash 5K in Everett. Experience Momentum will have a float at the Edmonds 4th of July Parade. Last year they received an award for the “Most Original Float!”

M. What type of nutrition services do you provide here at Experience Momentum?

C. I’m part of a team of providers here who educate, connect, support and empower our members to help them uncover new possibilities for their lives. We want to help define what people want for wellness in their lives and then assist them on their journey. As a Registered Dietitian, I help people with everything from working on overcoming emotional eating to looking at food quality and quantity, meal planning, grocery store tours and farmers market tours. Our goal is to help people achieve a sustainable wellness lifestyle. Other team members here include physical therapists, CrossFit trainers, massage therapists, yoga instructors, kickboxing and dance trainers.

M. Do you have any special tips for eating healthy during the summer?

C. Yes! Summertime is here, which means the season of outdoor picnics, potlucks, and BBQs is upon us. I get lots of questions about how to successfully navigate potlucks and parties, so here are some of my favorite tips:

  1. Don’t arrive ravenous. Plan to eat a hearty balanced breakfast with some protein, healthy fat, and a fruit or vegetable. Since the dishes served at picnics and parties tend to be more indulgent and carb-heavy, opting for a protein-rich breakfast with some colorful produce will help keep you full and energized and help balance out some of the choices you might be making later in the day. Arriving with a little food in your belly helps you scope out the situation and decide which foods you want to eat, where arriving super hungry makes us more likely to graze on snacks and potentially overeat.
  2. Stay hydrated. Warmer temperatures mean we require even more water to keep our bodies functioning optimally. When we are dehydrated, our bodies may send us hunger signals when we are actually thirsty, as these signals are very closely linked in our brains. Therefore, staying well hydrated may help keep us from overeating in response to these signals. Additionally, the beverages served at parties and BBQs tend to have more calories from sugar, alcohol, or both. To help keep your caloric consumption in check, alternate water with each sweet or alcoholic beverage you consume.
  3. When in doubt, eat a vegetable. For optimal health, our dietary guidelines for healthy Americans recommend eating 2-3 cups of vegetables per day for folks over 9 years old. Since a serving of most vegetables is ½ cup, that equals about five vegetable servings per day. Veggies are full of fiber, which helps keep us satisfied. You may find that filling up on veggies translates into you being less hungry for more decadent potluck foods. Additionally, vegetables are chock full of vitamins, minerals, and disease-fighting compounds. Increasing your intake of vegetables has been shown in research to help manage weight, protect against cardiovascular disease and cancer, as well as lower cholesterol and help manage blood sugar.
  4. Bring a dish to share. Since the dishes offered at potlucks can vary wildly, I always bring a dish that I will feel good about eating. Most parties and potlucks will have some desserts and carb-heavy sides, so I try to bring something with protein and/or veggies to help bring some balance. Some of my favorite protein-rich sides to bring include deviled eggs, a meat and cheese tray, and veggies with homemade hummus or a Greek yogurt dip. I also like to bring dishes with some extra veggies, such as our delicious recipe for roasted cauliflower salad (see recipe below!) Cauliflower provides more iron and vitamin C than potatoes, and is anti-inflammatory, and we swear you won’t miss the potatoes!

M. Those are great tips! Anything else you’d like to share about Experience Momentum?

C. We are a 1% for the planet company, which means we give away at least 1% of our annual sales each year to protect, preserve, and restore the environment. Some of the ways we do this is through letting our employee of the month and member of the month each select an environmental charity to support, and by closing our doors each year on Earth day so we can volunteer for projects, such as cleaning up the Interurban Trail and planting our urban garden. We also send teams of volunteers to support global environmental projects every three years. This past February we sent a team of twelve to Thailand, where they helped build barriers to help prevent forest fires and supported clean water efforts. Here’s a link to more info:

M. Thank you so much for sharing this great info, Crystal! Anything else you’d like to leave us with?

C. I always say that regardless of where you are in life, nutrition can help!

Thanks to Crystal Franck for sharing her time and expertise with us! To schedule a free 15 minute nutrition goal assessment with one of the Experience Momentum Registered Dietitians, call or text 425-776-0803.


Bonus Recipe: Loaded Roasted Cauliflower Salad

* 2 lb. cauliflower cut into same-sized pieces (about 1-2″ chunks)
* 6 hard-boiled eggs, cooled and chopped
* 6-8 slices of nitrate/nitrite-free bacon, cooked and crumbled
* 1/2 cup sliced green onion
* 1/2 tsp. onion powder
* salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste
* ½ cup chopped jalapenos (optional)
* 1 cup avocado or olive oil mayo
* 2 tsp. yellow mustard
* 1 tsp. onion powder
* salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste
* Cut up cauliflower into small same-sized pieces. Place on foil-lined cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil or avocado oil. Roast at 400 degrees until lightly browned, about 20-25 minutes.
* While the cauliflower roasts, cook the bacon until crisp, then drain on paper towels. Once cool, crumble into small pieces. * Cook the boiled eggs and set aside to cool. Once cool, peel and chop eggs coarsely.
* Slice the green onion.
* Whisk together the mayo, yellow mustard, 1 tsp. onion powder, salt, and fresh-ground black pepper to make the dressing.
* When you’re ready to assemble the salad, put the cauliflower into a bowl and top with the chopped eggs. Season well with salt, fresh-ground black pepper, and 1/2 tsp. onion powder; then add the dressing and gently combine with the cauliflower and eggs.
* Add the crisp bacon pieces, jalapenos, and green onion and stir (gently) until the salad is well combined.
* You can eat right away or let the salad chill for a few hours. Leftovers will keep well in the fridge overnight and can be eaten the next day, although you probably won’t have much left over because it is that delicious. Enjoy!

Monika Star is an avid wellness advocate, beach watcher, arts promoter and a natural connector. She is the community outreach director for the NW Mind Body Spirit Connection events and enjoys spending time meeting folks who are doing good things for our community.

Behind the Scenes Tour of Iris Wellness Center

Behind the Scenes Tour of Iris Wellness Center

By Gayle Picken

Meeting passion-driven entrepreneurs is one of my favorite benefits of what I do here at the NW Mind Body Spirit Connection. It’s so exciting to watch someone’s dream come alive and see the impact that they are making in the world.

Carleigh Tenzin is one of those entrepreneurs and we had the opportunity to meet her and visit her new wellness center on the Edmonds waterfront. Carleigh is definitely on a mission to change the face of health care … have a look at this “Behind the Scenes” tour of the Iris Wellness Center:

Fun in the Sun – Healthy Food Picnic Ideas

Fun in the Sun – Healthy Food Picnic Ideas

by Monika Star

With warmer, beautiful weather finally arriving here in the PNW, it’s the perfect time to treat yourself and your loved ones to an alfresco picnic or an outdoor dining experience in your backyard. Picnics, I believe, are where it’s at … and they’re super fun!

Besides the fresh, yummy goodness that you get when you make the meals yourself, a picnic also provides an opportunity to stay engaged with your family and friends and build stronger bonds while enjoying each other’s company. Eating together outside can foster warmth, security and love, as well as feelings of belonging, hopefully free from any type of electronic distraction. Research also verifies that spending time in nature can greatly benefit our psychological and physical well-being.

So let’s start planning and reap all of these benefits! I’ve reached out to some of our friends of the NW Mind Body Spirit Connection to get their picks for “go to” healthy picnic dishes.

Start with Veggies

Melissa of Honeybee Table likes to make her picnic Veg-friendly. She says that “picnics and barbecues can be tough events for plant-based eaters to navigate. My favorite dish to bring along is a batch of veggie burgers. Aside from being incredibly versatile and flavorful, veggie burgers are high in fiber, protein, and minerals (especially iron when grains and legumes are involved). They can be prepared in advance or grilled if structured well.” Here’s a link to her blog with the recipes: I for sure will be trying the Moroccan chickpea burger–it looks delish!

Sarah Reilly, certified functional medicine health coach, from the Functional Health Equation always suggests mason jar salads for picnics. “You can use any combo of protein, veggies, greens, beans, nuts and seeds and you layer the heaviest items on the bottom and the lightest on the top. It is a great way to get in a balanced meal of protein, healthy fats, fiber and greens!” The salad pictured below has beans, cucumbers, carrots, tomato, raw beets, arugula and micro greens and a dressing of olive oil, lemon juice and sea salt. There is no set way to make these salads, so get culinary creative on this one.

Lisa Flowers, a holistic health coach, suggests marinated and grilled Portobello mushrooms. Add some good cheese and then eat them on a bun with lettuce, tomato and onion…like a burger. Another favorite is quinoa tabouli with whole grain pita or gluten free crackers. Quinoa is a highly nutritious seed, most people think it is a grain, that is packed with protein. Combine that with nutrient dense parsley, tomatoes, green onions and lemon juice and you have a delicious dish. Contact Lisa at Happiness Quest Health Coaching for the recipe.

Serve Up Some Sips

A refreshing drink is Summer Solstice Tea from Tea with Your Dragon in Stanwood. Victoria Dawson, shop owner, keeps a big jug of it all ready to go in her refrigerator. The ingredients in the summer solstice tea blend are: green tea, dried raspberries, sweet basil, lemon balm, lemon verbena, and calendula flowers. Brew in hot water for 15 minutes, strain out the herbs, add ice, and then when it cools, it’s fun to add your own fresh fruit and herbs. Sweeten to taste. Yes, please!

Let’s not forget dessert that can be healthy too!

Cindy with Trimazing Vegan Lifestyle Coaching says if she’s going to a picnic and needs a great dessert item that both kids and adults will love, she chooses her homemade Snicker Bites. They can be made ahead of time and kept it in the fridge or freezer until it’s time to head out, and they’re easy-to-eat finger food–perfect for a picnic. Recipe available here!

Everything Elderberry has tasty elderberry popsicles that come in 4 flavors: mango orange, tart cherry, limeade, and strawberry lemon. Kristin says that she created them with her 2-year old daughter in mind to help her stay hydrated in the warm months ahead. So far, these icy treats have been a great hit with her business customers as well. They make a great afternoon snack, picnic dessert or just something to help you cool off on a warm day. Pack them into a thermal bag and tote to the park or beach. Each popsicle has a full serving of homemade organic elderberry syrup said to help keep your immune system in tip-top shape. Kristin’s popsicles are made with organic juices and a splash of fresh lemon to make it a refreshing choice. See her one-stop shop for everything elderberry:

Special thanks to all who contributed their recipes and inspiration for this article.

Wishing you many healthy picnic adventures!

Monika Star is an avid wellness advocate, beach watcher, arts promoter and a natural connector. She is the community outreach director for the NW Mind Body Spirit Connection events and enjoys spending time meeting folks who are doing good things for our community.