What is forest bathing and how does it help

What is forest bathing and how does it help

These five places are perfect for practicing Japanese art in the woods. Monday, October 21, 2019Bynyny FitzgeraldfacebooktwitterflipboardwhatsappThis small forest in Shaftesbury, England is perfect for a meditative walk, especially during the blue-necked season.Photographer: Alex Treadway, Nat Geo

Whether you call it a fitness trend or an alertness habit (or a little bit of both), which is exactly bathing in the woods? The concept originated in Japan in the 1980s as a physiological and psychological exercise called shinrin-yoku (bathing in the forest or taking in the forest atmosphere). It had two objectives: to provide an eco-antidote to the burning of the tech boom, and to encourage residents to reconnect and protect the country's forests.

The Japanese quickly adopted this form of ecotherapy. In the 1990s, scientists began to study the physiological benefits of bathing in the forest, providing science that would support what we naturally know: time immersed in nature is good for us. If the term shinrin-yoku is credited to Japan, the idea at the heart of the practice is not new. Many cultures have long recognized the importance of the natural world for human health.

Forest bathing is not just for desert lovers; practicing can be as easy as walking in any natural environment and consciously connecting with the surroundings. For a more structured experience, you can join a trained guide for a meditative two- to three-hour ecotherapy tour. Here are five places to try bathing in the woods.

New York's Adirondack Park is larger than Yellowstone, Yosemite and the Grand Canyon combined and offers a rich forest bathing experience. Photographer: Michael Melford, Nat Geo Gallery, New York's Adirondack Mountains

Forest bathers will find plenty of space in Adirondack Park. It stretches over six million acres in New York State and is home to more than a hundred peaks and about 2,000 miles of hiking trails. It is the largest protected area in the adjacent United States. Natural evergreen plants are both aromatic and emit high concentrations of airborne phytoncides that boost natural immunity. The health benefits of this phytoncide shower can last for weeks. Evergreen needles are rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, and some of them, such as spruce, oriental, balsam and pine, can be soaked and in a teacup.

Certified Forest Therapy Guides Helene Gibbens and Adirondack Riverside Suzanne Weirich offer year-round guided forest bathing at Lake Placid, Lake Saranac and the Nature Center, Adirondack's award-winning museum of natural science. Local tip: Seeing foliage in the fall and snow clearing in the winter is a top-notch experience.

With more than 50 percent of the country covered by forests, Costa Rica is a forest bathing paradise. Nearly six percent of the world's biodiversity is found here, so either walk through the misty cloud forest of Monteverde, mimic over hanging bridges hanging in the middle of a canopy near Arenal Volcano, stroll down a rainforest trail along the Sarapiqui River or explore a protected area on the edge of downtown San Jose you have countless opportunities to observe wildlife and activate your senses.

Guided forest bathing walks are available through Sentir Natural and are led by local naturalist Manuela Siegfried, the first certified guide from the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy in Costa Rica.

In the presence of living legends, live in the Waipoua forest on the North Island, home to the world's oldest and largest deer trees. For the Maori people, kauri is considered the protector of the forest. The transition from daylight to night is accompanied by Maori songs and storytelling. Footprints Guided by Maori guides, Waipoua organizes walks through the trees of Kauri, including at dusk.

You may not immediately associate this East African nation with forest bathing. But on Matthews Beach, in the Laikipia district of the Rift Valley, the ancient forests are home to endemic plants, cedars, wild orchids, more than 350 species of birds, elephants and one of the only de Brazza monkey populations in the country. components of a sensory immersion tour. Guided forest walks from the Kitichi Forest Camp are guided by local Samburu observers, who are thoroughly familiar with the sounds, smells and sights of the forest.

Deep connection to the earth (land) is central to Hawaiian culture. The forests here are traditionally revered for providing life with the natural materials they provide and the spiritual needs they meet. It is easy to see how the abundance of aromatic flowers, medicinal plants such as māmaki and 175 types of native trees, most of which are found only in this remote island body, inspires travelers and local tuberoses to stop and sniff. In Hawaii, the opportunities for swimming in nature are limitless. Choose a place under the banana tree and enjoy the salty sea breeze. Stop the Plumeria plant and introduce a sweet smell. Or join the Phyllis Look-led natural walks in Hawaii, certified by the Association for Nature and Forest Therapy, which is the state's first guide.

Sunny Fitzgerald is a freelance writer, sustainable travel specialist and a regular contributor to Kama`aina magazine. He can be watched on Instagram. EnvironmentRead moreRead more

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