By Suzanna Mannion
Bathe in the forest?
Do I need a towel? How much does it cost?
Luckily, no scrub brush is needed, no towel, and there is no cost to participate.
So, what is it, why would I want to do it and how do I get started?
Forest bathing simply put, is a self-care practice where an individual (or group) consciously spends time in nature. While it’s been practiced for centuries, it was coined shinrin-yoku in early 80s Japan, which translates to “forest bathing.”
To get the most out of this increasingly popular self-care practice, a person immerses themself in nature, and engages in a full sensory experience where they awaken sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch.
This practice has been scientifically proven to yield multiple health benefits including lesser symptoms related to physical and mental ailments. Even major health care providers recognize the positive effects and tout its benefits to their members.
Forest bathing is a close cousin to mindfulness in that the practitioner slows down and arrives at the present moment, however, with mindfulness there’s a neutralization of sensory input whereas with forest bathing, the practitioner is encouraged to identify and relish in that which feels pleasurable and brings them joy (e.g., a bird’s song, a gentle breeze or the warmth of the sun on their skin).
According to forest bathing expert, author and facilitator trainer, M. Amos Clifford, “Forest bathing is a reliable way to reawaken our senses. The forest is itself the therapist, restoring our innate capacities when we slow down and give it our attention.”
In a culture that promotes overworking and endless distractions, it is difficult to be truly present with oneself; an increasingly rare and precious gift. Feeling run down and depleted? Give forest bathing a whirl!
Here is a short-list of books offering deeper insights into this practice:
Your Guide to Forest Bathing: Experience the Healing Power of Nature, M. Amos Clifford
Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness, Dr. Qing Li
The Healing Magic of Forest Bathing: Finding Calm, Creativity, and Connection in the Natural World, Julia Plevin
Prioritize “me-time.” Budget 20 minutes of forest bathing per day. Lunch breaks are great for this!
Turn your phone’s volume and notifications off.
Bring a journal to jot down new insights.
Slow down, savor being present, and turn on your senses.
For a fuller experience, kick off your shoes and go barefoot.
Did you take a forest bath? I want to hear about it! Send me a message via heartsaliveyoga.com
Want to bathe in a group? Consider registering for a nature-oriented event with Hearts Alive.
A nature immersion will be part of Reclaiming Joy, a Women's Weekend of Renewal, Connection and Joyfulness November 3rd through the 5th in West Sonoma County. Learn more at heartsaliveyoga.com/retreat
About the author: Suzanna Mannion
Coach, Yoga Teacher and Retreat Leader