Shinrin Yoku is something I’ve done most of my life and it now has a name because its health benefits in an increasingly stressful world are being discovered as important. About two years ago, I was introduced to forest bathing while reading Florence Williams book, “The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative” . While reading about forest bathing, I was reminded of some of my earliest memories (before 4th grade) in communion and relationship with the natural world.
My interest was piqued and I’ve continued to learn more (initially, to deepen and expand my personal love of nature). The more I learn and practice, the more I feel Shinrin Yoku may be an essential part of our self-care.
Shinrin Yoku (aka. forest bathing) is a guided service available in Japan, South Korea, and, now, in some parts of the United States. In Japan, there are a growing number of designated forest bathing parks & paths. Scientists are beginning to study the health benefits of forest bathing and, as a result, the practice is gaining momentum as a health and well-being practice.
What is forest bathing? It is a slow walk and exploration of nature with our senses wide open. It is not exercise. It is a consciously mindful practice with the intention of relieving stress, balancing blood pressure, and improving the functioning of our immune systems as well as build a beneficial relationship with this home we call earth. Forest bathing is using all of your senses — touch, see, smell, hear, and more — to fill yourself with the healing energies of the natural world around us.
We’ve all had the experience of breathing in negative ions (that fresh smell) when near a flowing brook or river or after a rainstorm. In nature there are a multitude of healing properties that we can ‘bathe’ in for our health and to relieve stress. There is a sensuality to our experience when we use our senses to see, smell, hear, touch. I find being in nature in a slow and deliberate way is also a spiritual experience as I remember and nurture relationships with all living and non-living elements while acknowledging that I am part of a larger web of living and being. When out in nature and away from the busyness of cities, highways, and the shops along Main street we connect with our primal selves who, not so long ago, lived in harmony with the natural world. Forest bathing is an opportunity to reconnect to the energies of the earth (especially if you go barefoot) — the ground, the trees, grasses, wildlife, and flowers.
Forest bathing as a guided experience is about slowing down enough to listen with all of your senses while breathing in the healing found in nature. Your Shinrin Yoku guide will offer exercises or invitations to lead you into a deep experience as well as opportunities to write and/or share your experience with others (when done in a group). A forest bathing experience often lasts an hour or more while exploring less than 1/2 mile in the woods. Even though the word ‘bathing’ is used, in a forest bathing experience you are fully clothed (unless you choose to remove your shoes so you can go barefoot). The bathing is what happens when our senses are open and receptive to the natural world.
Note: Interested in knowing more or having your own experience of Forest Bathing? If you live in New England, I would be happy to be your guide. Feel free to comment below or send me an email at: LJ5250@aol.com.