There’s medicine to be found in the woods.

The popular Japanese practice shinrin-yoku, which translates to forest bathing or forest therapy, is used to promote healing in the body. And Tamara Herl, a licensed professional counselor, art therapist and certified forest therapy guide, wants to bring that healing to front-line workers in medical centers, hospitals and schools.

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“I wanted to support those who have to be face to face with people,” says Herl, founder of Wild Divine Retreat Center, an 8 ½-acre property in Cascade where she holds forest therapy sessions. “Forest therapy boosts your immune system, so if you’re on the front lines it’s a way to achieve optimum health.”

According to the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy, studies of the practice show many health benefits for the cardiovascular and immune systems and for improving mood and cognition.

Herl will offer a free virtual session for front-line workers at 11 a.m. Feb. 6. If you can’t make the February time slot, she’ll likely do another free session in March. You can register online at

And no, you don’t have to be outside to reap the benefits of forest therapy, though you are welcome to attend the virtual session from a cozy seat in your backyard or park. But you also can sit by a houseplant inside or near a window that overlooks a tree or bush in your yard.

“Our brain can’t distinguish if we’re actually doing it or picturing ourselves doing it,” she says. “The body gets the same benefits of being out in nature.”

Herl will walk around her property, which features a labyrinth, stream and sacred geometry, while she guides the 90-minute Zoom session, which will include all registered participants.

A session follows a particular sequence of events, beginning with the principles of pleasure, which is designed to help people open up their senses to what is around them, slow down and become present. For example, if people are inside by a plant, she’ll invite them to see the leaves in a different way. Sometimes she’ll suggest they send loving connections to a tree outside if they’re inside.

A tea ceremony closes each session, though, of course, this one will be virtual and participants can drink whatever they have on hand. The ritual, called the threshold of incorporation, is intended to incorporate what you learned into your life.

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“People are so stressed out right now. I know some who are teachers and it’s been so challenging for them to reinvent how they do things,” says Herl. “I had a recent client who lost a loved one due to COVID-19 and she was able to let go of grief. Even if we’re not physically in the same space with others, it’s a way to feel connection.”

Contact the writer: 636-0270

Contact the writer: 636-0270

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