Human beings have transpired from nature over the course of centuries. Humans have relied on nature in ways too numerous to list. Until recently, humans have had an intimate reliance on nature to survive. But in today’s fast-paced world…there are times when nature has never felt farther from our minds (not to mention our bodies and souls). The concrete jungle, artificially lit buildings, computer screens, smart TV’s and mobile devices with flashing screens of placed color and light. Not only have we distanced ourselves from an innate need but we have also begun to lose the realization of its importance.
As humans, we are deeply interconnected with nature. All it takes is some quick considerations to realize those interdependent relationships. If you breathe, you have a relationship with trees, plants, the sun and plankton and the list goes on. If you eat, you have a relationship with the weather, the soil, plants and animals, micro-organisms that are too small to see and the water that surrounds us.
Nature, too can benefit from humans (when we put our minds too it). A carefully tended garden flourishes with attention and wains with neglect. House plants have been proven to grow better and stronger when you talk and sing to them. Some plants produce more leaves, flowers and fruits when you pinch it in just the right way. Nature and humans have an interdependent relationship.
Lucky for us, we are on the receiving end of much of what nature has to offer. Nature wants to heal…it was built for it. Hence, the practice of Forest Bathing, or Shinrin- Yoku.
The term “forest bathing” sounds a little more exotic than it is but the effects are monumental. There is growing research that supports the ancient tradition and understanding that spending time in the deep woods has profound healing power. Over time, forest bathing can produce quantifiable changes in the body and mind. Plus, the added benefit is that it just feels good. The Lodge at Woodloch developed a Forest Bathing Exploration Program three years ago as a way to introduce the theory to guests. This fall, the team took it 3 steps further by having a cross-functional team of associates certified in Forest Bathing. Team members participated with yoga and meditation backgrounds, the Master Herbalist, the Outdoor Adventure Manager, and an Outdoor Adventure Guide all attended the 3-day intensive location-based training. The team learned that nature can enter the body through the five senses by being mindful of ones’ surroundings. It is often difficult for guests (and staff) to put a hyperactive mind aside to concentrate on the present and the forest surrounding you…but when you do, it is prolific.
Research indicates that nature and the forest is a true healer. Studies show that there is a marked decrease in stress-related hormones, a decrease in heart rates and lower blood pressure as compared to the studies on city walkers. While common sense and experience indicates that fresh air does the body good, there are also biological reasons that the forest has healing powers. One theory is from Japan’s Nippon Medical School and Chiba University. The theory states that trees and plants produce organic compounds called phytocides to help protect themselves from insects, fungus and disease. These compounds escape into the air and when breathing deeply and moving slowly through the forest…with an open heart and lungs, can offer great benefits to humans as well as plants.
Some of the results of the Rx of the forest include:
- Reduced blood pressure
- Reduced blood cortisol levels (stress indicator)
- Increases in counts of natural killer cells that combat disease
- Improved perception of vigor
- Reduced stress levels
- And more
The Lodge at Woodloch offers a Forest Bathing exploration class every week (seasonally). The regularly scheduled class will take guided walks deep into the forest on the 400+ private acres at The Lodge. The walks are slow, contemplative and deliberate and will focus on keeping the body and mind in the present while teaching techniques for deep breathing, mind-body awareness as well as taking note of the little miracles of the forest.
Forest Bathing is also a great opportunity for groups and meetings. Taking a much needed break to refocus, get fresh air and retune the mind makes for a much better experience with the group. In addition to the stress-relieving benefits, nature can be inspirational brain food that will lead to much better meeting and team building results.
There is no additional cost for the Forest Bathing class but the results and knowledge will last a lifetime.
Breathe deep, soak it all in!