In Japan, there is a practice called forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku. Shinrin means “forest,” and yoku means “bath.” So shinrin-yoku means bathing in the forest environment or experiencing the forest through our senses.
Forest bathing can be simplified as being in and connecting with nature through our senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch.
We all know how good we feel when we spend time in nature. How it can ground, calm, energize and uplift us. The fresh, clean air, the richness of colors, and the awareness of being part of something bigger than ourselves are just a few of the benefits we can experience.
While, based on experience, for centuries we’ve recognized the benefits of spending time in nature, now numerous scientific studies can back up the health claims. The great news is that with even short exposure to nature, we can reap the rewards, and best of all- it’s FREE.
I was practicing forest bathing long before I knew it had a name. It was just a natural instinct to include time outdoors as a priority in my life, and this has only become more important as I’ve matured.
As I regularly snuck away to reconnect with the earth, I would often become quiet and enter an alternate state. All my senses became heightened. Suddenly, my vision would sharpen, and every step, sound, smell and sensation would fill my consciousness. Everything else I let go of, if only for the moment. Essentially, nature inherently taught me to be present, a skill I’m so grateful to have learned, as it has become more valuable to me as life gets busier and distractions more prevalent.
As a Reiki practitioner, and someone who has been sensitive to energy my whole life, I’ve developed this fun addition to my forest bathing experiences in recent years.
Becoming my own version of a “tree hugger” some might say, I find immense satisfaction going from tree to tree and tuning in to its’ subtle, unique life force. I place my hands on its’ surface, close my eyes, silence my mind, and just pay attention to what I feel. It seems like the trees have a way of transmuting and balancing any unorganized energy.
I recently had the pleasure of visiting some old growth trees on Mount Baker, in Washington, U.S. with some friends and loved ones.
The wisdom of these giants humbled me. Each one felt different and seemed to whisper ancient stories to me. I could feel the current of energy flowing through these living beings, how they vibrated at different rates and even the direction of their energy flow.
Soon my tree hugging friends were joining me to see what they could feel from the trees as well- even my friends’ two-year-old little girl!
We all headed back to the cabin feeling refreshed and calm after an hour in the forest that felt like minutes.
I tell this story as an important reminder of how vital our connection to nature is.
As a wellness mentor by profession, I advocate that planning regular exposure to nature should be a key part of our formula for optimal holistic health.
In Vancouver, BC where I live and coach individuals to improve their lifestyle from a holistic approach, nature is plentiful if you seek it. While city life and all that comes with it is at a growing pace, we can retreat at any time to nature, where our multi-faceted being recognizes the atmosphere as one of healing.
Bear in mind that shinrin-yoku does not solely apply to the forest, as its’ name implies. It can be practiced at a lake, ocean, on a mountain, in a field, or anywhere else in nature.
I find my sensory experience different in a forest, versus at the ocean, a lake or otherwise, and enjoy each for different reasons.
I welcome you to try some of these techniques for yourself and find what nurtures you.
Stay tuned for more on mindfulness, meditation, and holistic health.