Forest Bathing

Image by Josealbafotos

In summer 2023, we started Forest Bathing sessions in the beautiful Heritage gardens of the Global Retreat Centre. Between 30 and 60 come to soak in the healing vibrations of nature. 

Forest Bathing or ‘Shinrin-yoku’ is Japanese for absorbing nature. This is a relaxation practice that involves taking a walk or sitting in nature and being calm and quiet amongst the trees as you breathe deeply and observe nature around you. The process helps us take time out to decompress from our busy lives.

In our sessions, we visit a different part of the grounds where we stand in the wind and let it soothe and bathe our minds, absorb the warm rays of the sun, drink in the colours of the changing seasons with our eyes and listen to the sounds and the silences of the garden. 

On warmer days, we practise grounding/earthing where we take off our shoes and stand on the grass, connecting to the earth. It is both relaxing and energising as we are connecting directly with the Earth’s natural electric charge. The Earth’s surface holds a negative electric charge, and direct contact with it can balance our own internal energy. Earthing is incredible for our health as it helps reduce pain and inflammation, lowers blood pressure and improves mood and sleep.

Everyone who attends forest bathing leaves feeling refreshed both physically and mentally. Being still and mindful in nature, helps reduce the mental chatter. We always set an intention to leave our stress and anxiety at the gate as we enter the garden and participants are keen not to pick them up again as they leave.

One powerful practice while Forest Bathing is having a child’s mind and seeing nature as if we have never seen it before. We look with eyes filled with awe. As we age, we lose this ability to see life with wonder and awe. In Forest Bathing we really look, we really listen and really smell. Just this intentional focus on our senses brings us into the moment and helps still and calm the racing mind.

They do say there is no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing and so this year we will be continuing our sessions throughout winter, so get outside no matter what the weather is like.

You can try forest bathing in your garden, park or local wood, but If you can’t get out, put a bird song soundtrack on and imagine you are lying outside in nature. Your body and brain doesn’t know the difference between being in nature and imagining you are there and so you can trick your brain to release all the euphoric and healing endorphins to help you feel more calm and joyful.

 

Here are some Forest Bathing tips:

As you walk in nature, feel the crunch of the ground beneath your feet, listen to the birds chirp and admire the beautiful colours.

Feel the wind on your face.

Look up at a tree and notice the shapes of the branches and leaves.

Take in slow and deep breaths and breathe in the fresh outdoor air and feel invigorated.

Pick up a leaf and notice every detail on it as you allow your mind to slow down.

And if you really can’t get out in nature, try this exercise:

Green Breaths – Lie or sit down and place your hand on your tummy. Breathe in and out gently and feel your tummy rising and falling. Now, as you breathe in, imagine you are breathing green light. It feels very calming and peaceful. Now breathe the green light out into the room. Fill the whole room with soft green light. Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out.

 

The Global Retreat Centre is located in the rolling countryside of Oxfordshire just outside of the University City of Oxford in the UK.  The Centre is surrounded by 55 acres of historical gardens and overlooks the river Thames.

Marneta Viegas

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