Japan's tradition of Shinrin-yoku, translated to "taking in the forest atmosphere" or "forest bathing has become a cornerstone of preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine and catches on to the world.
More than a century ago, naturalist John Muir once wrote in his journal, "Come to the woods, for here is rest." The same sentiment forms the heart of shinrin-yoku,
quite literally translating to forest bathing, a practice recognized in Japan's health care system for more than 30 years. A forest bath is simply a leisurely walk amongst the trees and its mantra sounding something like this:
Go to a Forest.
Open all your senses.
This is the healing the medicine of simply being in the forest.
Studies have shown that even 20-30 minute forst baths are enough to give us health benefits. Over the past decade the practice has begun to take root in places like the U.S—techies from Microsoft and Amazon unplugging by sitting beneath the trees outside Seattle.
Although the concept of forest bathing may sound fluffy or common sense, scientific evidence shows:
- Boosted immune system functioning, with an increase in the count of the body's Natural Killer (NK) cells.
- Reduced blood pressure
- Reduced stress
- Improved moodIncreased ability to focus, even in children with ADHD
- Accelerated recovery from surgery or illness
- Increased energy levelImproved sleep
Just as impressive are the results that we are experiencing as we make this part of our regular practice:
- Deeper and clearer intuition
- Increased flow of energy
- Increased capacity to communicate with the land and its species
- Increased flow of life force
- Deepening of friendships
- Overall increase in sense of happiness
In contrast to an increasing amount of humans that live inside, spend great hours of the day behind computers and other technology, and are target of stress, burnouts and physical ailments, forest bathers are encouraged to be present and slow throughout the experience, pausing often, perhaps to dip one's toes into a babbling brook, observe a passing bird, or find a sunny clearing and sit there in the quiet taking in the forest light and air. Many of the forest bathing health benefits actually come from the forest air that "bathers" breath in.
Trees give off phytoncides, such as alpha-pinene and d-limonene, which are volatile organic compound, or aerosols. These compounds protect the trees and plants from insects and disease, but they can also benefit human: A 2009 study published in the International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology identified a direct link between inhaling phytoncides and an increase in the body's natural killer, or NK cels. NK cells are a major force in our immune systems, helping to identify and destroy infected, damaged, or otherwise harmful cells, and are thought to be particularly important in the pathology of cancer.