For years now, the Japanese practice of ‘forest bathing’ called Shinrin Yoku, has quietly become one of the most rewarding and effective ways to reconnect with nature. Its health benefits are remarkable, and it can be done anywhere quiet and green. You just need to get away from the chaos of city life, but this could even be done in a nice park.
We tried it in Germany, where we had the opportunity to do it in a unique setting. The Barefoot Park, which adapts Shinrin Yoku in an incredibly thoughtful way, puts you in touch with the forest in an even more direct way. “It is one thing to walk in the forest amongst the native foilage however, it is another to do it barefoot. You really feel grounded – connected to the environment around you.” shared Helen.
Forest bathing isn’t quite what you think; here’s why you need to try it today.
Forest bathing is actually very simple and for a reason. When you go out into a green space, you walk slowly and take it all in: the sights, the sounds, the smells and the textures. You connect with nature, bathe in the light and air, and get in touch with a lost natural experience.
You contemplate and breathe deeply, absorbing your surroundings, to reach a state of serenity and connection in this more natural state. It is meant to connect with something that is lost in urban life, to help you centre yourself, and it to allow you to take from the forest lots of minerals, clear sunlight and fresh air.
In Germany’s barefoot path, you delve even further: you’ll walk through grass, sand, mud and water, experiencing each and absorbing the minerals of the land as well as all the sights and sounds. Shinrin Yoku is meant to engage all of the senses, and this way of forest bathing is meant to allow a deeper, more immediate connection.
Barefoot forest bathing is quickly becoming a trend, in fact, popular with people looking to incorporate health and balance therapies into their travel. It’s part of a new understanding of wellness that calls for more holistic, natural and beneficial approaches.
Shinrin Yoku and Barefoot Park are part of this new health culture. They can help you balance your social and work life as well as your health. It is a culture that recognizes the importance of ecotourism, alternative treatments, the use of traditional knowledge of nature and the body, as well as a recognition of the spiritual.
Several studies even suggest that it is great for your health. A more immersive experience with nature allows you to recharge psychologically, physically and spiritually. Some scientific studies suggest that the benefits come from phytoncides, organic antimicrobial compounds you can breathe in while you are meditating, helping you relax.
Other studies suggest that time in a natural environment can improve memory and lower stress levels significantly. A 2010 study showed that forest bathing lowered blood pressure, heart rate and stress hormones like salivary cortisol.
The health benefits of this can’t be underestimated. It is a great way to decrease stress and blood pressure, clear out your lungs, get some vitamins and minerals, and a fantastic way to bond with your family and friends.
This type of therapy is revolutionary because its effects are so dramatic: it is physical exercise, a perfect way to meditate and a great option for relaxation. You get to see nature in all of its guises. It is about putting your body into the atmosphere, a metaphorical bath in which you willingly immerse yourself.
It is based on tradition and zen beliefs and adopted throughout the world. Some of its practitioners even think of it as Forest medicine, backed by new findings and research. Doing it barefoot takes the practice even further, giving you more direct contact with the forest.
When you go out barefoot into the forest to bathe in its serene beauty, remember that it is a spiritual endeavour as well as a physical technique. You want to absorb your surroundings by clearing your mind, doing breathing exercises, and touching the trees, grass and leaves.
You want to dig your toes into the mud and soil and connect with the forest as much as possible.You can do this by really paying attention to your eyes and ears, by putting away all distractions and letting it all meltaway. The Barefoot Park is onto something, and you don’t want to miss out!