The Healing Power of Forest Bathing and Where to Find it Right Now
Destination spa retreats, a long-time sanctuary for those seeking to relax and recharge, are finding new ways to sooth the anxiety-riddled among us. Along with an expanding menu of massages, facials, scrubs and yoga comes a new offering: forest bathing.First, shake whatever woo-woo image this might conjure in the mind. It doesn’t involve water, nor does it involve getting naked. Forest bathing has roots in Shinrin-yoku, a practice in Japan that translates to “taking in the forest atmosphere.”Forest bathing is not your average walk through the woods. It’s an extremely mindful walk at an extremely slow pace, led by a guide who helps to elevate the sensory immersion, much the same way a yoga or meditation teacher might facilitate those respective practices.“We focus on being here instead of trying to get there,” says Amos Clifford, founder of the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy, which trains forest therapy guides around the world. “It’s a kind of coming home; our body recognizes [the forest] as a place to relax.”In fact, there is a growing body of scientific research that proves the benefits of spending time in nature, including boosted immune function, lower stress levels, enhanced creativity and elevated mood. In Japan, the practice has become a fixture in preventative medicine. So it’s no surprise that spas, always trying to attract new guests with unique and useful stress-busting options, are offering their own variations of Shinrin-yoku.“We encourage guests to go slow and connect with things,” says Clifford of his approach, adding that most participants want to lie down 30 minutes into the slow-moving, guided walks, which can last anywhere from 60 minutes to three hours. “That’s the body signaling us to stop and enjoy the setting,” he says.If you’re curious to experience forest bathing, here are several spa resorts offering forest bathing.