Originating in Japan in the 1980’s “Shinrin Yoku” otherwise known as forest bathing literally translates as “taking in the forest atmosphere.” The scientific research done on forest bathing is quite amazing — tree’s (especially coniferous ones) release an organic compound called “phytoncide”. This compound supports our natural killer cells that allow our immune system to fight diseases such as cancer, ward off illnesses and keep our immune system strong.
The concept is quite simple: spend meditative time in nature by walking, sitting, or lying down for at least 1-4 hours. By slowing down, and allowing the forest’s atmosphere to penetrate your whole being, the nervous system will calm and trigger a relaxation and healing response within. This is very different than a trail run, a hike, or any physical activity that gets the heart rate up. Forest Bathing is a deep release of any agenda or exercise, and requires a letting go of external energy output to receive the benefits of Mother Earth’s finest energy.
Intuitively many cultures from past to present have practiced this receptive form of connection to the forest and the elements, yet as technology and stress related imbalances/illnesses are on the rise, Forest Bathing is a potent reminder of how to enhance a peaceful and healing connection towards ourselves, each other, and Mother Earth.
How to forest bathe:
- Find a peaceful place in the forest or nature where you can truly relax.
- Leave your phone at home or turn it off
- Set a personal intention to slow down, to fully connect to the natural environment, to let go of any agenda and commit to the experience of whatever arises in the present moment
- Walk slowly, find a tree to sit against, or lie down on the earth
- Consciously allow your breath to slow down and take an easeful rhythm
- Listen to the soundscape, witness the shapes and the colours around you, and stay connected to nature’s scents
- Open your senses to receive the healing and medicinal energy that lives in the forest ecosystem. Imagine the positive energy living in the forest to penetrate your being
- Decreases the stress hormone, cortisol
- Boosts immune system
- Increases energy levels and enhances positive mood
- Improves sleep
- Reduces blood pressure
- Supports recovery from illness
- Increases ability to focus
- Supports connection to intuition, positive self esteem, and connection to nature
Forest Bathing and spending time in nature inspires us to re-connect to the earth, to our natural ecosystem, to our communities and to ourselves. Forest Bathing is an intentional practice where the attention placed on the present moment and connection to nature becomes your intuitive guide. Similar to meditation, and other mindful practices, it takes time to cultivate the presence of patience, relaxation, and release. I encourage you to take up the art of forest bathing, to rest in the arms of mother earth’s finest energy, and to make rebalancing your own energy a priority. May we inspire each other through our own grounded, graceful and focused nature.
Here is a poem by nature poet Mary Oliver to inspire us to practice the art of forest bathing and in finding reverence for the trees:
In her yoga teachings, Mara weaves together her background as a dance artist, her practice in the shamanic tradition, and her twenty years of experience on her mat – naturally what arises is a fluid, earthy, full bodied practice. Currently, Mara hosts international yoga retreats, offers online courses, fuses yoga and corporate leadership to executive teams, teaches professional athletes and artists, mentors yoga teachers and teaches classes/workshops. Mara is a mother of two in Vancouver, BC. Find out more about Mara on her website at www.marabranscombe.com.