Take a moment, close your eyes, breathe it in, imagine you are in the woods.
There is a peace and serenity to actually being outside in nature and taking a moment of pause. Imagine yourself walking through the woods, feeling the moss below your feet, the wind whistling through the trees and the life around you.
The forest is a place of constant regrowth, new life and energy. If you take a second to clear your mind and push out the world, you'll feel the charged air around you. It is what you feel on your skin, in your hair and through your lungs. The forest is a place of peace, quiet and new beginnings.
Forest bathing lets you experience it all.
During a forest bathing session, you will get the mindfulness and meditation you crave (and don't worry... you don't have to put on a swimsuit). Forest bathing is not only a way to connect to the outdoors but really breathe in the power of the forest. This is the new wellness ritual to add to your self-care routine.
Forest Bathing in the simplest terms is about getting outside in the forest and actually experiencing it. The only thing you are concentrating on is the forest around you and how it feels. You will be with a guide who can invite you through your experience in the forest. Unlike biking or hiking, there is no destination in mind, adrenaline or exertion. Instead, it is about slowing down, disconnecting and just being.
You know there is a difference between doing a yoga class and just pulling out your downward dog on the street. You might get some of the same stretches or feeling, but the mindfulness and awakening of your senses come from your yogi. This is the same with forest bathing, you need to experience it with a guide first to understand it and to really get the powerful benefits.
Shinrin Yoku, or forest bathing, actually means "taking in the atmosphere of the forest". This is what this practice is all about.
We were able to get outside and go Forest Bathing with Ronna from Forest Fix. She has been pushing people to connect to nature for a long time. With a career spanning meditation, yoga and EcoYoga, she felt a passion to actually help people get clarity and closer to nature. She took the steps to become one of the first Forest Therapy Guides in Canada, after training extensively in Shinrin Yoku, or forest bathing.
Guided sessions are really different than just going out into the forest by yourself. In the moments when people are outside with a guide, they can get a lot of inspiration and thoughts about their life because you are guided through your experience so to speak. A guide helps you truly connect to nature.
Some people may compare this to going outside with a naturalist. However, Forest Guides are different. Naturalists are great at telling stories but guides are connecting people to nature through their heart. Guided Forest Bathing is best done in a group with a guide, and then you can actually take some of the principles into your own life and experience in the forest. Interestingly, connecting to nature has been known to reduce cortisol levels, stress and blood pressure.
As Ronna says, "As a guide, I open the door but the forest is the therapist".
With this in mind, as we went into the forest for our session, we were a little uncertain of what to expect. Would there be talking? Would there be movement? Would we interact? These were all questions our experience would drive us towards and answers we would get.
We were instructed to turn off our phones and disconnect as we started on the path into the woods. It was a warm day with a light breeze. This was perfect for wandering through the woods. We could hear the forest around us, it was almost palpable.
Soon we would find out that it was about experiencing nature a whole new way and opening our mind.
Disconnection can be hard these days, but this is one of the reasons that forest bathing works so well and has so many health benefits. There have been so many studies into the health benefits of green spaces, disconnection and being in nature. It is actually something that has been studied since the 1800s.
People have always known that going into a park, the forest or nature is healthy for them. Why do you think even the biggest cities have parks?
We wandered quietly into the woods, feeling the air around us. The trees whistling in the wind. Since we did not know what was coming, there was an energy in the air.
Right as we started to walk, we were given our first "invitation" from Ronna. These were to be seen more as prompts and less as instructions. It was a way of connecting ourselves to the woods around us in a way that actually freed our minds.
Our first invitation was just to talk to another person about an important tree in our lives. It is something you never think about, but the moment you do you'll be flooded with images of trees you have interacted with throughout your lives.
These invitations can be a variety of things, from sitting and listening, to feeling the air around you, to making friends with a tree. Trained Forest Guides have so many invitations they can give you, but as Ronna told us about them, she said that she just does what feels right at the moment. We were invited to sway and this was because of the way the wind was working through the trees.
Sharing circles are a great way to be seen and be heard. This is also something we miss in our lives, the chance to listen and to be heard. Listening is a fundamental part of human interaction.
So, after each invitation, we were brought back to the circle to share our thoughts. Most of the sharing circles during our forest bathing were rapid-fire style, allowing you to say exactly what you felt, not the answer that you meticulously thought about.
The forest bathing session ended with a tea ceremony. This was a chance to end the session, be in the moment and really absorb the forest one last time. We all sat around in a circle, thankful for our experience. Our tea ceremony was with spruce. This infused the water with the needles and essence of the trees around us. It was very cool to see the actual spruce needles seeping in the water. Of course, you always give the first cup of tea back to the forest, as thanks, for what it has provided you.
The typical forest bathing session actually lasts from less than an hour to a few hours. We were in the woods for just over two hours and as you disconnected you felt a sense of timelessness. One of the most amazing things about forest bathing is that after you know what you are doing, you can take the practice outside yourself. You will know how to interact with the forest yourself.
In western culture, we are so bad at being busy, stressed out and totally immersed in our phones and tech. This makes it hard to really listen to our bodies, minds and selves. Forest bathing is amazing to revitalize and refresh your mind. Many people experience an overarching sense of clarity.
When you actually get outside and connect to nature, you are doing good things for your health. The Journal of Environmental Research published research showing the importance of green spaces and their health benefits. Through an extensive analysis of 143 independent studies, they found statistical evidence that green spaces and spending time in nature actually reduced blood pressure, heart rate and salivary cortisol. They also found that spending time in these places decreases the incidence of diabetes and cardiovascular mortality. All-in-all the study found that "greenery may form part of a multi-faceted approach to improve a wide range of health outcomes". This is what forest bathing does.
Forest Bathing is great on an individual level and for teams. Many people go out with their coworkers to get a sense of refresh. CEOs go forest bathing to reconnect to their minds and hearts. It is all about your health and happiness.
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