Shinrin-Yoku, “forest bathing” or “taking in the forest,” combines leisurely walks on gentle paths in the woods with guided activities to help open the senses, hone intuition, and experience the forest in a deeply restorative way. Mindfulness in action. We pause to share experiences and learn from each other. Intuitively we know spending time in a natural area, casually strolling around, we will experience calming, rejuvenating, and healing benefits. I am happy to report that science is now catching up.
We live in our brains. We get tense. Stress feels “normal” because it is always there. We think we’re being productive. We value “busy.” Sometimes we need encouragement to slow down, get out of our heads, release tension. When we stretch and move and breathe, we feel wonderful! Our bodies crave it. Our bodies are begging us to feel it. Not just responding to pain, but really feeling our body. We are usually so busy that don’t notice what is around us. Have you ever taken a walk with a young child? They find millions of details that adults miss entirely, unencumbered by the rest of life. Yes, we adults must pay attention to safety concerns and practicalities, but we also need to slow down and take in our environment, like children do naturally.
Get dirty. Get lost in the experience. It doesn’t occur to children to be any other way. Yoga teaches us to live in the moment, pay attention to what is in front of us.
Forest bathing is a beautiful expression of brahmacharya, nonexcess, which encourages us to not overdo, to know when we have had enough. Brahmacharya asks us to approach each day as if it is a sacred gift, not a race to be won.
Maybe we go outside for a walk and blast through like it’s our job. Hikes are tremendously good for us and it is wonderful to time for them! But… what are we missing because of what we are expecting? Because of what we haven’t taken the time to notice? Ask yourself, if I take time to notice what is around me, particularly in nature, what effect might it have on me? How might it benefit me? What would I gain? What could I release?
Meditative guidance among the trees offers invitations. As your guide, I will remind you to slow down, to have specific sensory experiences. I will direct your attention in ways that allow you to catch up. We feed our souls. We find our hearts. We integrate parts of ourselves. And from this peaceful place, we can do our work in the world.
OM Shanti, friends.
To learn more about Forest Bathing and Underground Yoga Studio’s Forest Bathing on Saturday, April 14, click here! The weather report as of this moment is 70° and sunny! Can’t wait to feel the sunshine on my face!