by C Kali Aitken
Unfold in the presence of nature….
You are immersed in the jungle during your entire time at The Goddess Garden. You have an opportunity to forest / jungle bath several times each day and the benefits are profound. When you are not consciously jungle bathing, according to the formal practice, you are yoga-ing and studying amidst a symphony of howler monkeys, birds and frogs and enveloped in a countless shades of green tree canopy, sprinkled with the most out of this world flowers you have ever seen.
However, apart from the intense beauty, what is it all about? And how do you practice this Japanese Therapy of Forest Bathing, that will be Jungle Bathing during your time with us?
Forest bathing is a translation of the Japanese term shinrin-yoku. “Shinrin” meaning forest and “yoku” meaning bath. Shinrin-yoku means bathing in the forest atmosphere or taking in the forest through our senses. It is the unique meditative act of slowly walking through the forest, taking it in through all of your senses. Dr. Qing Li, author of Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness, writes:
“It doesn’t have to do with exercise, or hiking, or jogging. It is simply being in nature connecting with it through our senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. Shinrin-yoku is like a bridge. By opening our senses, it bridges the gap between us and the natural world.”
Dr Qing Li
We humans have been forest bathing for centuries without calling it anything except for a stroll through the trees. However, the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries first placed a label on it in 1982. They called it Shinrin-yoku, and the rest is history.
The convenient thing about forest bathing is you can do it anywhere there are trees, it doesn’t have to just be a forest. It can be done at the park, green space, bike trail or in your own backyard.
As long as there are trees nearby and you are able to take in the nature around you. Forest bathing can also be done at any time of year, rain or shine, warm or cold- each season has its benefits. Here, we this nice and warm.
How to do Forest Bathing
Find a quiet place in nature that makes you happy and use all of your senses as you relax or go on a slow walk.
I like to sit on a blanket in my yard under my favorite Douglas-fir tree and take in the scenery of the blue sky, fluffy clouds, branches on the trees and the greenery around me. Then, I breathe in the natural aromatherapy of the trees and taste the fresh air as I take deep breaths. I run my hands over the blades of grass next to me and feel the Earth. I listen to the breeze as it moves through the trees with the birds chirping in the background. This is how I take it all in- by using all of my senses.
The Healing Powers of Forest (Jungle) Bathing
So, what is it about trees that is so healing? The health secrets of trees seem to lie in two things: the higher concentration of oxygen that exists in a forest and the presence of plant chemicals called phytoncides. Phytoncides are natural oils that are part of a plant’s defense system against bacteria, insects, and fungi. Phytoncides significantly increase Natural Killer (NK) cell activity in the human body. NK cells are known to fight tumors and infection. Evergreens, which include pine, cedar, spruce, and Douglas-firs, among many others, are the largest producers of phytoncides.
Therefore, walking in the most densely green areas seems to have the greatest health benefit. Here in the jungle, we are surrounded by green, which is one of the reasons I am so grateful for our location. (We are also steps from the sea by the way do not forget).
Nature has the power to improve our psychological well-being. A recent study has shown that people suffering from mild to major depressive disorders showed significant mood improvements when exposed to nature.
Forest bathing has also been shown to decrease the hormone cortisol, thus reducing stress levels and decreasing mental clutter. Our minds are more relaxed, clear and calm when we are out in nature, especially during forest therapy sessions.
In his book, Shinrin-Yoku- The Japanese Art of Forest Bathing, Yoshifumi Miyazaki outlines some of the direct benefits of nature therapy on our body:
Improvement of weakened immunity, with an increase in the count of natural killer (NK) cells, which are known to fight tumors and infection
Reduced stress of the body due to a reduction in sympathetic nervous system activity (fight or flight)
Increased relaxation of the body due to increased activity in the parasympathetic system (rest and digest)
Reduction in blood pressure after only 15 minutes of forest therapy
Reduction in blood pressure after 1 day of forest therapy, which lasts up to 5 days after therapy
By nurturing our connection to nature, we inadvertently give rise to a deep kind of gratitude. We feel more appreciative and grateful when we are taking in the natural world around us. We have this deep connection because nature is just as alive as we are.
Trees literally turn the sun’s energy into oxygen so that we can breathe. Trees also clean and filter the air, absorb carbon dioxide, clean the soil, provide noise control, provide shade and cooling, act as windbreakers, and are aesthetically pleasing to the eye.
I don’t know about you, but trees make my soul happy.
The Healing Powers of Forest Bathing
Final Words- The Minimalism Connection to Forest Bathing
Forest bathing is the ultimate relaxing outdoor activity for any person, but specifically those striving for a minimalist lifestyle. Why is this? You don’t rush through forest bathing; you take your time and are mindful of each step. Just as minimalists are mindful of everything they consume, buy and own. There is not much that you need for forest bathing besides nature and the clothes on your back.
In fact, less is better while out in nature. Turn the cell phone off, leave the clutter off the trail and turn your attention inward. The more distractions, the harder it will be to get the whole forest bathing experience anyway. Stay present and keep it simple. Don’t complicate forest therapy by overthinking it. Just enjoy the moment.
Let nature entertain you, heal you and help you remember all you have to be thankful for.