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FOREST BATHING – A Yoga Experience

Updated: Jul 4, 2022

I hope the title “Forest Bathing” got your attention. Forest Bathing?!! It is a concept that I enjoy seeing baffled looks when it comes up as a topic in conversation.

The original name, shinrin-yoku, was first coined in Japan. It is the practice of immersing yourself in nature in a mindful way, using your senses to benefit your physical, mental, emotional, and social health. The practice has become popular worldwide, especially in Asia and Europe. Korea has designated entire national parks to forest healing.

Ever since Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis, one of the largest city parks in the United States, became a reality in 1972, I have been a huge advocate of spending time in the woods and never living too far from the park’s entrance. Recently, I started bridging forest bathing and yoga. Both create mindfulness, generate a sense of peace, promote breathing and sensory awareness, and are a physical activity to help let go of stress.

Trees are powerful. Just being still in the woods is a gift, and yet, most people don’t take advantage of it. When entering the woods, you feel a sense of being bathed by the air.

There are so many health benefits to trying Forest Bathing:

  • Boosts the immune system

  • Increases energy levels

  • Lowers the severity of anxiety, depression, fatigue, confusion, and anger

  • Decreases blood pressure and stress levels

  • Improves oxidative stress and antioxidants

  • Improves cardiac and pulmonary function

  • Allows you to be aware of all your senses

  • Brings you to being in the “now”

After completely an online class on the subject, below are two other key examples supported by the Center of Excellence regarding the benefits of nature:

  • “Many studies have shown that just a glimpse of outdoors from a window or staring at a photograph of nature can help to boost someone’s overall mood, mental health, and life satisfaction”.

  • “Children who live near great space are more likely to have a greater capacity for being attentive, postponing gratification and inhibiting impulses that those who live in area surrounded by concrete”.

By balancing the seven chakras in yoga, similar to the idea of Maslow’s Needs of Hierarchy, you first need to feel grounded and secure before you can find love or discover self-actualization. There is nothing like an hour or so in the woods to obtain this sense of feeling grounded, secure, and more balanced in your life.

The main purpose of forest bathing is to have downtime with a meditative feel. So, head to your nearest park or forested area…walk slowly, be aware of all your senses…smell the fragrances that you encounter, feel the air on your skin and the ground beneath your feet, take in all of the details of the trees around you, contemplate the perfection of nature, listen to all the amazing sounds…Be curious and playful like a child. I love watching my eight year old granddaughter, Olivia, when she is outside. She explores everything! Maybe walk barefoot or touch the water in a stream. Sway with the trees. Lay down on the ground and watch the clouds. Spending time in nature will lead to increased well-being and happiness—and decreased stress! Now who doesn’t want that?! And maybe, just maybe, you will realize the trees love your presence just as much as you love theirs.

Sally Bassett

June 2022

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