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Exploring the Salutogenic Influence of Active Woodland Yoga Retreats Post COVID-19

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As society emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, novel solutions are required to lessen the negative consequences from a burgeoning mental health crises and pressures on healthcare institutions. Exploring well-being from a salutogenic perspective within a retreat setting as lock-down restrictions were eased provided a novel situation for investigation. Nine healthcare stakeholders, including five healthcare professionals (HCPs) participated in outdoor semi-structured focus group discussions whilst attending a three-day group, active, yoga retreat within a woodland setting. Interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) was then applied to the data. One superordinate theme was identified as resonance which depicted a harmonious state of being with the surrounding natural environment in which a sense of improved well-being was experienced. This heightened sensitivity was enacted through three-sub-themes of tranquil-buffering allowing redaction of stressful symptoms and stimuli; exhilaration where transcendent emotions such as child-like joy were intimated; and social cohesion whereby meaningful and supportive bonds were formed on retreat. These findings corroborate previous research that posit wide-spread health benefits elicited from time spent in woodland environments and some possible mechanisms of action are explored within this paper. Involving HCPs allowed for discussions on how retreat interventions may befit population demographics that are in need, for which further research is necessary. Utilizing the outdoors to conduct psychological research provides a plausible risk-mitigation strategy for in-person research during times of COVID-19 and creates an ambiance for more trusting and intimate conversations.

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