Shinrin-yoku emphasizes slowing down and opening to a sensory experience of the natural world
What is it and how do we practice?
Forest bathing is a guided immersion into nature that invites you to connect with the environment through all five of your felt senses: touch, hearing, smell, sight and sometimes even taste.
The term “forest bath” is an English translation of a Japanese wellness practice called Shinrin-yoku. Shinrin-yoku can also be translated as “taking in the forest atmosphere.” The practice focuses on the health benefits of interacting with nature with our fully focused attention and spending time in the forest air. It is very different from a hike in the forest, and it also differs from the visual of literally bathing in water or rolling in the dirt, which sometimes comes to mind when we try to visualize “forest bathing” for the first time.
A forest bath offers you the opportunity to slow down and connect deeply with the world around you, in a way that many of us have forgotten since our childhood years of curiosity.
Sound simple and straightforward? In a way, yes it is. But there is extensive science to back up why it is worth your time.
Background and Research
Since the 1980’s, Japanese medical doctors and researchers have investigated tangible evidence to study the effects of nature on our physical and emotional well-being. Measuring heart rate, blood pressure, stress hormone levels, and immune system indicators such as white blood cell count and activity – they have a clear goal: to show that this practice improves human health and is supported by science.
They aren’t alone in their research efforts.
There are decades of data from accredited institutions all over the world that corroborates the health benefits of spending time in nature. Across South Korea, Australia, China, the United Kingdom, Europe, and North America, the science is in: going to nature offers far more benefits than we realize. If we realized it, we would spend a LOT more time slowing down in nature!
This knowledge is at the heart of forest bathing.
How Do We Practice?
The practice of Shinrin-yoku emphasizes slowing down our movement and facilitates a sensory experience of the natural world. What does this mean? It means you’ll be guided to call on your senses to connect with your surroundings. You’ll be invited to notice the details of the forest through your sense of touch, sight, smell, hearing and sometimes even taste. You’ll also call on other senses, such as proprioceptive awareness or your ability to feel your body in space, even with your eyes closed.
A forest bath is not a hike or walk in the forest. You don’t have to go far, and you may spend your entire experience within a quarter mile of forest. This means the practice is very accessible to a variety of age groups and physical fitness levels. Forest bathing experiences that are longer than 1.25-hours are often referred to as “forest therapy walks.”
In a guided forest bath or forest therapy walk with In Your Element (IYE), you’ll be offered invitations to interact with nature and view your surroundings in a new way. Invitations are a bit like an activity, and you may receive these invitations verbally, through a guided meditation experience or by a small paper scroll which you’ll open as you wander on your own through the trees.
What does a guide do for you?
All of our forest therapy programs are led by Katie Venechuk, an ANFT Certified Forest Therapy Guide with specialized training to effectively guide you.
As your guide, Katie will:
- Offer forest bathing invitations in intentional sequences, designed to help you effectively slow down and embrace research-based approaches to forest therapy
- Select forest locations with species of trees known to release wonderful bioactive compounds into the air, along with other natural features typical of a forest therapy base
- Offer experiences that effectively balance connection with community and time on your own in nature
- Keep track of the time for you. Katie will encourage you to leave your watch and even your phone if you can, offering the opportunity to take a true break from the task of time management as you simplify and explore the beauty of nature
As humans, we are connected to nature.
We are living breathing organisms, not machines.
At IYE, we are here to help you reignite your connection to the natural world (and boost your well-being in the process).
Join us in the forest to experience the internationally recognized health and wellness benefits of nature, enhance your creativity and inspiration, and make new friends on the way.
We hope to see you soon!
A Sampling of Additional Resources:
Urban Nature Experiences Reduce Stress in the Context of Daily Life Based on Salivary Biomarkers (Frontiers in Psychology, 2014.)
Influence of Forest Therapy on Cardiovascular Relaxation in Young Adults (Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2014)
Exploring the mental health benefits of natural environments. (Frontiers in Psychology, 2014.)
A Review of the Benefits of Nature Experiences: More Than Meets the Eye. (Int. Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 2017.)
Effect of phytoncide from trees on human natural killer cell function. (Int. Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology, 2007).
International Society of Nature and Forest Medicine: List of Articles and Books
Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs: Articles and Research Archives