Give Yourself a Nature Cleanse With Forest Bathing

Originally published on YOGANONYMOUS — February 6, 2016  

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A self-proclaimed tree-hugger, I could go on and on about the healing that can come from a day in the great outdoors, breathing in the fresh air, surrounded by unspeakable beauty, and far removed from the chaos.

After a long (arduous, but rewarding) hike on the Inca Trail I learned just how intense of a connection you can make with the world around you, if you just stop and give yourself the time to take it all in.
Undeniable is the powerful force that is nature.

It's a sentiment that resonates with traditional Japanese culture. There has even been research on the physical and mental human reaction to time spent in the woods, among the trees. "Shinrin-yoku," as it's called, is the Japanese art that we can all benefit from. Developed in the 1980s in Japan, this form of meditative healing has been, according to the LA Times, “endorsed by the Forest Agency of Japan as a means of improving quality of life.” 

The practice of shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing, reminded me of a poem I'd once read that shared some sage advice, from a tree. Although it may be a bit unexpected to think one could benefit from a tree's advice, upon reading it, I started to realize that perhaps there was something to it, to be more like a tree. I remember writing it down in my journal, thinking it was so poignant.

Some of my favorite bits of wisdom from the poem "Advice From a Tree" by Ilan Shamier:
Stand Tall and Proud
Go out on a limb
Be content with your natural beauty
Drink plenty of water
Remember your roots
Enjoy the view

Aside from learning from nature and taking advice from the trees, there are health benefits to be found in the forest as well. Forest bathing can have rejuvenating effects, such as stress and anxiety relief, as well as mood enhancement. It has also been shown to have some immunity perks, too. According toAFAR: “Immunologists in Japan have found the practice can nearly double your production of some sickness-fighting cells.” 

Did you know that plants actually emit good-for-you chemicals? Breathing in these airborne chemicals, called phytoncides, might be the key to producing these “sickness fighting cells.” These cells are a type of white blood cell, and are deemed "natural killer" cells (aka NK). According to, researcher and studier of shinrin-yoku, Qing Li, MD, PhD, said: “Phytoncide exposure reduces stress hormones, indirectly increasing the immune system's ability to kill tumor cells.”

In fact, one study that was conducted from a three-day long forest bathing excursion went on to show “increased NK activity” and these results “lasted for more than 30 days,” according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

So, my fellow nature-loving, tree-huggers, I know you're all wondering where you might be able to try forest bathing for yourself, and the answer is... Any forest, any nature trail—anywhere

A quick, little how-to: The main objective here is to invigorate your senses, and be completely present and aware of your surroundings. This is not intended to be strenuous, or the ultimate cardio workout. Take it all in: Breathe deeply, taking in, and smelling, the air around you. Observe the color of the leaves and the sounds of twigs crunching beneath your feet.

And while you don't actually have to hug the trees to reap the benefits of forest bathing, no one will blame you (or judge you) if you want to reach out and give one a big ol' squeeze. 
If you're looking for a guided session though, check these out:

Would you try, or have you ever tried, forest bathing? Share your thoughts in the comments below. 

Photo by Megan Kathleen 


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