24 Jul Forest Bathing: The New Yoga
Not involving a tub, soap, and shampoo, this is not bathing as we typically think of it. It is surrounding yourself in nature in order to recharge ; a cleaning of sorts, really. For most of us, our day starts and ends with electrical devices, concrete buildings, paved roads, nonstop noise and bad, bright fluorescent lighting. We, for the most part, have no choice but to succumb or even pursue this kind of lifestyle for many reasons. But, as the demands to “log into” our indoor habitat increases, so do our ailments.
Because of the evergrowing limited time with nature in 1980’s Japan, the government encouraged their people to forest bathing. Owning 3,000 wooded miles, the country’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishery dubbed it “Shinrin-yoku”. “Shinrin” meaning forest and “yoku” meaning bath, it translates into bathing or immersing yourself in natural surroundings.
Who is to credit for this approach in the first place? Dr. Qing Li who, while as a stressed medical student, found refuge being out in nature and soon noticed it’s great benefits. Now a medical doctor at Tokyo’s Nippon Medical School and with experience as a visiting fellow at the Stanford University of Medicine, he has gathered scientific data through various experiments to support his claims that nature is a wonderful natural antidote.
The Good Stuff
Forest bathing or forest therapy directly correlates with our five (or six) senses. It promotes the use of sights, sounds, smells, taste and touch (often all at once) in order heal. Trees, mainly pine, cypress, and cedar, are the main source of this healing process. They give off organic compounds called phytoncides that help support our body’s immune system by encouraging natural killer (NK) cell concentration that leads to cancer-fighting properties (based on preliminary data). Trees not only are fabulous sources of fresh air and oxygen, they also produce natural essential oils that are antimicrobial in nature and whose scent leads to an aromatherapy quality to the outdoors. This is a great benefit since us North Americans are estimated to spend 90% of our time indoors which has a concentration of air pollutants two to five times higher than outdoors.
Forest Bathing Improves :
– Immune System
– Mood (Increases happiness)
– Healing/recovery time
– Stress (Cortisol levels decreased by 13.4%)
– Energy Levels (boosted by 30%)
-Depression/Anxiety (Decreased activity in that region of the brain).
Other benefits may include an increase in intuition, life energy flow, bettering of relationships with yourself, others and the earth.
-Walk at least once a week for a mile and a half; though once a day is better.
– Do Not Use/Bring Electronic Devices: cell phones, computers, and other mobile devices distract and stress us making it difficult to reap the benefits.
– Do Not Hike or Exercise: It is not about a workout regimen; it’s about wandering by pausing and slowly taking in your surroundings with all the senses. Some practitioners encourage small exertions to focus on your breathing but are not common. No set time or destination required.
– Mediate, Yoga or Simply Be: Rest or sit in a quiet spot for ten minutes. Bringing a small mat or towel might help you feel comfortable.
– Touch and smell trees, flowers, plants, moss, and dirt.
-Listen to how the forest interacts within itself (i.e. birds, flowing water, breeze, rain, etc)
– Enjoy bodies of water: Put your toes or fingers in the water to feel it’s temperature, speed, flow, and rhythm.
– Walk Barefoot: It has been proven to be a wonderful grounding technique as you exchange your positive ions for revitalizing negative ions.
-Invite a Friend: But, try not to chat while you are there.
As it gains popularity, many forests are now offering guided walks exclusively for this; even spas, retreats and resorts are getting in on it by making it part of their zen services. To find guided shinri-yoku, visit