Forest Bathing (Shinrin-yoku)

Forest Bathing (Shinrin-yoku)

If you need a little respite from the hustle and bustle of your daily routine, I highly recommend trying Forest Bathing. 

Therapeutic Forest Walk

In the Time's article: Forest Bathing’ Is Great for Your Health. Here’s How to Do It, Qing Li writes, "In Japan, we practice something called forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku. Shinrin in Japanese means “forest,” and yoku means “bath.” So shinrin-yoku means bathing in the forest atmosphere, or taking in the forest through our senses."

On a beautiful Sunday morning in late August, I went with a friend to the Pittsburgh Botanical Garden for Forest Bathing. It was a very therapeutic way in which to stroll through the woods while engaging all your senses. The experience welcomes you to look at nature a little more closely and to examine the thoughts that arise when you do so. 

The Experience

Our guide, Douglas Jones, led us through small exercises, which he called invitations. To begin the experience, each member was invited to engage the five senses by closing our eyes and drawing our attention to the feel of the wind on our skin, the sounds of our surroundings, the scent of the air, and so on. Then we were asked to imagine that our feet were rooted into the ground and to imagine growing roots through the soil. The beginning experience really opened your senses to the environment around you. 

Soon after we were led on small walks throughout the botanical garden. At the beginning of each stroll, we were told to focus on one aspect along each 20 minute segment. On the first stroll, we were told to focus on any movement that we could see in the forest. The second focused on texture and minute beings. The third was to look at how light interacted with the forest. After each stroll, we gathered back together as a group to share what we noticed during our walk. If you wanted to share you could, but it wasn't like a normal conversation; you shared any thoughts or experience(s) and were thanked for sharing. That was it. No judgment, no critique, just share and move along.

The final invitation was a culmination of all the senses experienced on a rock that you picked to sit on near the pond. Everyone was invited to share a memory with their rock and to soak in the surroundings. We regrouped and had tea by the pond and enjoyed a homemade muffin made by Doug's wife.

It was such a relaxing and peaceful emprise. If you can make the time to experience the forest in this way, it is a worthwhile endeavor. I look forward to my next forest bathing journey and hope to get one in for each season.


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