Updated: Dec 19, 2018
Forest bathing is a little more than just sitting in a forest amongst the trees.
But if we slow down and expand our awarenes, it is something that any of us can learn to do.
And more importantly, something any of us can benefit from.
Shinrin-yoku is a term that was coined in Japan not all that long ago.
The practice itself is meant to be a guided journey, one where you take your cues directly from nature.
It is about being quietly alongside the trees in a kind of a deep meditation and letting their energy wash over you. It is an opportunity to connect, cleanse the mind, and heal by immersing yourself in nature.
“In every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks.” -John Muir
In a world where people spend so much time rushing, this practice is more important than ever.
We have all felt that inexplicable pull, that primal part of us longing for our bare feet on the earth and the wind in our hair.
Almost everyone I know can remember a time in which they were inexplicably drawn out into nature.
Called to the forests, the mountains, or the edge of the ocean.
And when we get there it always feels like coming home.
We breathe deeper, stand taller, and maybe just for a little while recall that we are a part of something much larger than ourselves.
That feeling is not a coincidence.
Just a short walk in nature has the power to change us, to roll back the havoc of our busy modern lives.
The documented health benefits of Shinrin-yoku are extensive and include reducing stress, lowering blood pressure, improved sleep, mood and ability to focus, increased energy levels, accelerated recovery from injury and surgery, and reducing muscle tension and chronic pain.
Forest bathing is an opportunity to slow down, shift your perspective and reset.
Being in the forest is a perfect complement to certain forms of physical and mental training. And for us, it ties in directly to our warrior training.
Stillness is just as important as the movement we practice.
It results in a deeper and clearer intuition, increased flow of energy, increased capacity to communicate with our environment, increased flow of eros/ life force, greater muscle mobility, a deepening of friendships, relationships, and self-confidence, and an overall increase in ones sense of happiness.
You can use Shinrin-yoku as moving meditation…a method to relax before beginning strenuous training, or afterward as a cool down.
You can incorporate gentle movement into your forest bathing, slow down and explore the postures of your training. Attune to movement and to nature by bringing them together.
But training isn’t necessary. Whether you are a musician, an artist, a writer, an athlete, a teacher; Shinrin-yoku has the power to enhance everything that you do.
And you can do it alone, or with good company. As always, be safe and aware of your surroundings. (Kids can practice Shinrin-yoku too! I But always have a parent or a trusted adult accompany you.)
Simply find a spot with trees and take a walk. Savor the sights, sounds and smells of nature. Without rushing. Without distraction. Breathe deeply, sit occasionally, and touch the trees and plants around you. Soon, you just might find yourself with a greater love for nature, and a healthier body too.
"It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men's hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanation from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit."
- Robert Louis Stevenson
Extended List of Health Benefits:
Increased immune system function
Increased production of NK immune cells
Increased ability to focus
Increase in energy levels
Lowered levels of depression & anxiety
Lower recovery time from injuries and illness
Lowered blood pressure & heart rate
Reduced levels of blood glucose
Reduced muscle tension & chronic pain
Improved mood and mental health
Stress relief & lower levels of cortisol