Wellness Trend from Japan
If you translate it literally, "Shinrin Yoku" basically means "bathing in the atmosphere of a forest". This health trend comes from Japan, where forest bathing is actually prescribed as therapy and even paid for by the state as a form of preventative medicine. A healthy timeout in nature – as soon as I hear those words (and probably like most moms), my ears perk up. That's why I join up with Theresa Sommerbichler, who is a trained hiking guide and aspiring forest-bathing therapist in Gastein Valley, and her hiking group. To take a deep breath of forest air. Very consciously.
How does forest bathing work?
"In the forest, due to our evolutionary roots, we feel good, safe, protected and alive", explains Theresa, who is a herb educator and studying to become a practitioner in herbal medicine. The many shades of green soothe our psyche, naturally and harmoniously. But not only that: "The trees and plants communicate with one another via so-called terpenes. These messenger substances are absorbed by our immune system and processed in positive ways, stimulating our body's innate protective mechanisms." Furthermore, hormones are produced that protect us from heart diseases and help us to relax. Shinrin Yoku is proven to be effective: Scientific studies have shown that it both strengthens and/or slows down the metabolism, cellular activity, blood pressure and the ability to concentrate.
Mindfulness is key.
The relaxation begins from our very first mindfulness exercise. With closed eyes, we listen to the forest and "arrive". For many, it isn't easy, initially at least, simply to let go and focus "only" on nature and the splendid silence. But with every exercise, it becomes increasingly easy to immerse yourself in your green surroundings. On the "path of silence", walking barefoot across the soft forest floor, stimulating your legs in a flowing stream or, the ultimate form of forest bathing, embracing the trees themselves. Yes, I tried it. Sounds funny, but it actually feels really good and lives up to its promise.
Forest bathing is about appreciating the essence of each and every moment, intensively feeling nature, simultaneously leaving the hectic daily grind, deadlines and other not-so-nice thoughts far behind. The best approach is to check those thoughts at the "forest cloakroom" right at the beginning. "You'd be amazed how many people forget to pick them up and take them home with them afterwards", points out our forest bathing expert and founder of naturesa.at with a sly grin on her lips.