Wellness trend: Forest Bathing

Hi friends! Hope you’re enjoying the morning so far. <3 I’m back from the whirlwind trip to Minnesota, back with the fam, and back in the SUNSHINE. Minneapolis, your food was great and the people were so lovely and kind, but wow. You were a little chilly. It burned a little.

I’m getting back in the swing of life over here, but in the meantime, I thought it would be fun to talk about a first-time experience from a couple of weeks ago: forest bathing.

Get your soap and towel ready!

Ok, not at all.

A couple of weeks ago, when we were in Sedona for the Yoga Festival and staying at L’Auberge, we had the opportunity to sample forest bathing, which is one of the resort’s newest offerings. Even though the practice has been around for quite a while, it’s high on the trends list: Spafinder named it a top wellness trend for 2015.

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I have to admit, that I was totally trying to figure out the logistics of taking a bath in the wilderness with a group of people I’d just met. Thankfully, the only water that was involved was the gentle gurgle of the Oak Creek, which we viewed, but we were not submerged in. 😉 Instead, we were guided through a group meditation practice, which emphasized intention on the present moment, and the beauty of nature to guide and center us. 

What is forest bathing?

Forest bathing, or Shinrin-Yoku, is the effects from submerging yourself in the natural beauty of the forest. You focus on your sense and become one with nature, usually for at least an hour. In doing so, you focus on yourself, your relationship with the surrounding area (plants, birds, soil, air), and let your intuition guide you as you slowly wander, or sit and observe. While there are no stringent rules for a successful experience, here are some baseline requirements from this M. Amos Clifford: (A Little Handbook of Shinrin-Yoku)

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1) There is a specific intention to connect with nature in a healing way. During the practice, the goal is to activate all of your senses, and set the intention to communicate with the earth around you.

2) It is not something to rush through. This shouldn’t be thought of as a workout (“I skipped CrossFit today, but NBD, I went forest bathing instead”), and shouldn’t cover a vast amount of distance or result in serious sweating. You dedicate a large amount of time to a very small distance of land covered.

3) Healing interactions require generously giving our attention. During our forest bathing experience, we were given a few activities to enjoy on our own, and then we went back to the group to discuss what we’ve found or noticed. This was optional, but gave it more of a community feel, and since we were given a small assignment, I found it easier to focus on the task (instead of thinking about the future). One of our assignments was to open a piece of paper we were given, after resting upon a spot that we were drawn to. I found a serene location by the creek, and opened my piece of paper. I can’t remember what it said verbatim, but the essence was to look within yourself and find an area that needed your loving attention. I realized that I’d had a hard time being present, which, as someone with anxiety, is something I’ve often struggled with. It gave me an opportunity to look inward, slooooowww down, and just enjoy the “right now,” which at the time, was such a beautiful moment to enjoy: the set was just setting beyond the glorious red mountains in the distance. 

4) It’s not a one-time event. Any relationship deserves time, consistency and intention, and forest bathing is very similar since you’re cultivating a relationship with your natural surroundings. 

5) It’s not about *just* taking walks in the forest. Walking is a portion of it, but it’s a very small piece of a large forest puzzle. 

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How does it work?

An element of the healing power of forests comes from the aromatherapy benefits of phytoncides, the essential oils found in woody plants, particularly conifers. You can receive the benefits by simply breathing in the fresh air from trees. You might notice that when you’re outside, surrounded by a natural environment, you may experience a heightened sense of relaxation and clarity; at least, that’s how I feel. I find it so much easier to be present in the moment when I’m outside, and can enjoy silence away from chores and technological distractions. 

Some of the benefits that have been documented from forest bathing: (according to A Little Handbook of Shinrin-Yoku)

-Reduced blood pressure

-Reduced cortisol levels

-Increase in counts of natural killer cells that combat disease

-Improved perception of vigor

What to expect?

To be surprised. Since I really had no idea what to expect, I think it helped with my first session. Expect to move much more slowly and intentionally than usual, and focus on activating all of your senses. As someone who is always on the move, I thought I would be bored, but I wasn’t at all. I was like like “Oh, this is what relaxing feels like.” It was pretty nice. 😉

Tips for a successful experience:

-Go in with an open mind. Drop your expectations and try to draw your focus inward. 

-Find a friend or group to go with you. This is a good idea for safety and community purposes. 

Check out some activities here if you’re looking for guidance.

-Create a gratitude alter, and add small pieces each time you come back. I often saw these on hikes in Tucson, and thought it was so beautiful to see stones and sticks so delicately placed together, or beaded necklaces hanging from mesquite trees. Make something small and think of something you’re grateful for as you create it; it will likely bring a smile to your face when you come back.

Have you done forest bathing or something similar before? Do you think it’s something you would enjoy?

What is your all-time favorite outdoor spot? Mine is definitely Sabino Canyon in Tucson. 

Have a great day and I’ll see you soon!

xoxo

Gina

Special thanks again to L’Auberge for hosting my stay and giving me the opportunity to experience this. My full review of the resort is here. <3

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Comments

  1. I definitely get a mood boost from being in nature. What a fun idea. I would love to do something like this!

    I struggle with being present too. I’m getting much better about it, which I’m really happy about.

  2. I love being outside and it deff. does boost my mood when I’m able to soak up the sun. That’s cool that you got to experience a great opportunity to try something new! Looks like your had fun!

  3. Very interesting! I’d never heard of this before but definitely sounds like something I’d be open to trying!

  4. What a beautiful concept! I loved reading this. My favorite place is generally hiking in the Rocky Mountains, and I also love the Garden of the Gods (also in Colorado).

  5. I feel like this is something that I and all New Englanders need to do right now to try to mend our shattered relationship with winter weather. 😉

  6. Forest Bathing is a thing? I just take walks in a forest if I can find one(there aren’t a lot around here). I also like to take pictures in a forest because it’s just too beautiful!

  7. This is really fascinating! Also — the cold in the Midwest does burn! I live in Nebraska right now and definitely know what you mean!!!

  8. My favorite outdoor spot is at my grandparents’ house, it’s a farm in rural Missouri. I like to sit on their porch swing and watch the cows grazing in the meadow. Also, at night you can see the stars really well because there aren’t city lights nearby. So calm and pretty.

  9. That forest looks so peaceful! I can’t wait for it to warm up and enjoy the outdoors again. Haha, okay, NOW you get why I freak out any time I’m away from the snow in the winter. Enjoy the SUNSHINE for us both, my friend! 😉

  10. This sounds so lovely. I would be super interested in giving this a try. My favorite outdoor place is Gibson’s Landing on the Sunshine Coast in BC, specifically a portion of the beach where I spent a lot of my childhood! I love returning there.

  11. Yes to Sabino Canyon! I haven’t found it’s equivalent here in Phoenix yet, but hope to soon now that I’m on the mends from injury.

  12. This is so interesting. I keep reading about how we should be getting our children to meditate at a young age for all the benefits it provides, but getting my kids to take it seriously is impossible. I think this would be a fantastic way to ease them into it. Especially the gratitude alter! I will definitely be doing this with my kids. Well, as soon as it’s not freezing cold and covered in snow.

  13. Forrest bathing sounds super interesting! I love being outside and incorporating mindfulness practices into my life, so I’m sure it’s something I would love to try!
    Thanks so much for sharing your experience! Enjoy the warmth! 🙂

  14. Do you have any specific trails you recommend in Sabino Canyon? My husband and I will be traveling to Arizona in July.

    • Fitnessista says:

      i love the seven falls trail, but if it’s your first time, i would just stay on the main trail. you’ll still see some gorgeous sights! depending on how far you want to go, you could take the tram to the top and walk down (it’s 3.7 miles each way on the main trail)

  15. I can totally see myself loving this. I feel so relaxed after breathing in the smell of nature during hikes, so actually trying to immerse myself in it would be awesome! So glad you don’t have to literally bathe with other people.

  16. This sounds awesome!I love being outside and would love to try this!

  17. I love this idea. It’s so true that spending time outside brings a whole new perspective to things. Most of us don’t spend nearly enough time soaking in our surroundings outside whether its due to spending all our time at the office/work life, home responsibilities, etc.
    I love spending time at a nearby ocean beach/reservation or going skiing/snow shoeing. Being among the pine trees here in wintery New England def lends that effect of phytonicides you mentioned. 🙂 Love your blog.

  18. I bet that winter weather was a shock to your warm weather soul! Deep down I believe I’m meant to be living in a warm climate. The cold of winter….ouch. It really does hurt some days!

    Forest bathing is totally new to me. Sounds very interesting…and logical due to the benefits of fresh air alone!

  19. I’ve never heard of forest bathing. I assumed this post was going to talk about that shower you had that was practically outside when you stayed out of town!

  20. i have never heard of forest bathing, but i certainly love being in the woods and certainly think there are so many restorative benefits of doing so.

  21. I’m all for being out in nature as often as possible yet I find myself totally amazed that this is a “Wellness Trend”. To me the healing benefits of immersing myself in nature are inherent and I can’t imagine needing to be taught this unless one has only ever experienced urban living. Then again I actually hug trees for the healing they give and thank out loud all I see in nature for how it nourishes me so my point of view may be a bit skewed!

    You were in a beautiful area and it definitely sounds as though you had a great experience so yay for checking out new trends!

  22. Wow…I totally thought you were talking about outdoor showering like they have been showing Chris Soles (The Bachelor) doing ;-)! hehe…I don’t think that I have ever been ‘forest bathing’ technically, but I know that when I am outside in the elements of nature, I tend to breathe it all in and doing some of the things that you mentioned…however after reading this, I totally need to consciously do them all! You did a great job explaining this and I’m excited for some warmer temps to give this a real try!

    • Fitnessista says:

      i did get to try an outdoor shower while i was there haha. it was very peaceful! hope you enjoy the more intentional forest bathing 🙂 you’re right though- you definitely get a sense of it even while walking around outdoors

  23. This sounds lovely right about now! I’ve been trying to still get outside, but the recent dip in temperatures {we are at 9 degrees!} has made it challenging. I hate it this time of year as it prevents me from taking my son out when it is this cold. Can’t wait until spring! I’ll definitely try “forest bathing.” 🙂

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