The Japanese practice of Shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing, offers the RSPB another pathway to connecting people with nature, and to develop a unique wellness approach that could potentially help those suffering from stress.
In recent years thanks to on-going campaigns to dispel taboos around publically discussing depression and stress, the UK is now taking a more progressive attitude towards easing stress and anxiety.
The quest for inner peace and a quiet mind is an age old one with many practices developed to help people cope, but while yoga, meditation and mindfulness are now established paths in the UK to creating calming spaces, the Japanese practice of forest bathing is less well known. Potentially because one requires an area of forest to carry out sessions, and this opens up a wealth of opportunity for the RSPB to help bring this wonderful experience to public attention.
Research repeatedly shows that by connecting to nature people can increase their own levels of happiness and reduce stress. The benefit to nature is that people value the natural world more, and hopefully are more likely to help protect it. It’s a win-win situation, and forest bathing is an innovative tool for supporting this.
While people have been finding solace in the natural world for centuries, in Japan the practice was officially recognised in 1982 by the Forest Agency of Japan, which began to develop ‘forest bathing trips’ where attendees would seek relaxation in a forest while also breathing in the aroma from essential oils.
The Japanese government has supported the practice by making funding available for research into the health benefits of Shinrin-yoku. In the UK there are a handful of practitioners leading forest bathing sessions, and Sandwell Valley reserve in the Midlands has partnered with natural healing providers Holistic Healing to deliver another trial session on Sunday, January 28.
Gary and Olga Evans are yoga teachers, but also offer a range of holistic therapies, including nature therapy inspired by the forest bathing sessions in Japan. The whole focus of the sessions is to guide people to switch off and immerse themselves in the natural world.
“We combine different practices including mindfulness, grounding, and natural aromatherapy; using short exercises we also encourage the development and use of various senses,” says Gary.
“We aim to give people an opportunity to stop and look at life from a larger perspective. We have been inspired by forest bathing, currently widely practiced for its therapeutic properties in Japan and the USA.”
Although yoga and meditation can be practised outside, the majority of classes are conducted indoors, and therefore potentially any suitable space can be transformed into a holistic studio. However, hiring a forest is a rarity, and with the RSPB owning vast tracks of areas that would lend themselves perfectly to forest bathing, the organisation is in a great position to support the development of this practice.
With ‘green’ exercise and wellness an increasingly popular way to reduce stress, the time is right to test the waters with forest bathing.
If you would like to book onto the session please use the following link: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/forest-bathing-at-rspb-sandwell-valley-tickets-41306471769
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