What is Forest Bathing, Shinrin-yoku?

The primary goal of Forest Therapy, Forest Bathing or Shinrin-yoku is to support the wellness and health of participants through guided immersive experiences in forests and other naturally healing environments and to help them reconnect with nature and the more-than-human world. Forest Bathing sessions are gentle walks with a guide providing instructions - referred to as invitations - for sensory opening activities along the way. These walks follow a standard sequence, as defined by the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy.

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Shinrin-yoku walks: What to expect

Forest Therapy sessions are gentle walks with a guide providing sensory opening activities along the way. Each walk begins with establishing embodied contact with the present moment and place, followed by a series of connective invitations, mobilizing the power of the senses, adapted to the location and the group. The walks end with a tea ceremony, sharing tea made from foraged local plants.

Forest Therapy walks are not hikes in the traditional sense, as an entire walk is typically 3 to 4 hours in duration and often covers no more than a 1,5 km distance. In that short distance, most people experience contact with nature in a much deeper way than they ever have prior to the walk. On Forest Therapy walks, people have a wide range of experiences, some of which they feel are significant, even profound. The guide is trained to be a supportive witness of these experiences.

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Feedback from participants:

"Thank you so much for that special experience in the forest. Those few hours spent all together communing with the trees and dirt have stayed with me even until today. Yesterday I went for a run in Vondel park and couldn’t resist taking off my shoes twice coming upon delicious forest paths. The energy we cultivated and carried back to the city with us was precious for me and I feel for the people around me. We need more people like you doing things like you are doing, helping keep the vibration high." 

"Thank you for the amazing day. We enjoyed our first Shinrin Yoku experience. You really managed to pull us out of our head into the forrest. Some brief moments i was the forrest. I can't image a better way of starting this journey. This is someting most of us would love to bring in to our lives."  

"Forest therapy is a relaxed way of reconnecting with nature and your (deeper) self. It’s a necessity for everyone…especially in these times."

"I came to connect with nature and possibly meet nice people. Both happened in abundance."

“I felt considerably more peaceful, less physically tense, and I noticed a sharpening and richening of my perceptions. I have noticed that I am thinking less agitatedly. It is a wonderful gift to be able to slow down and connect to nature. We were guided through the activities very gently and clearly, which helped a lot.” 

"A very pleasant experience. You realize all your to-do-lists can wait, it creates space and a new perspective of your daily life, helps you to slow down and see things from a different angle."

"I felt very refreshed and energized after the walk. Much calmer and happier than before."

"This was an amazing activity and to me also a way to forget all my daily worries and tasks. I realized I really need to find more time to relax this way in my daily life."

Benefits of Forest Bathing

Guided Forest Bathing consists of a brief, seemingly simple journey. For all its apparent simplicity, it often surprises people with its transformative power. Some of the empirically demonstrated physical, mental and spiritual benefits include:

  • reduced stress & increased sense of relaxation
  • kick-starting creativity
  • improved and stabilized moods
  • boosted immune system functioning
  • increase in the count of body's Natural Killer cells (NK)
  • reduced blood pressure
  • stabilized blood glucose levels
  • improved sleep
  • accelerated recovery from surgery or illness
  • sharper cognition, greater mental clarity, increased focus
  • increased happiness, pleasure in life, sense of well-being
  • improved relationships, including the relationship with the more-than-human world

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What to bring & Weather conditions

You don't need to take anything special with you besides a water resistant clothing layer (jacket or rain coat), comfortable shoes for easy trails and a water bottle for yourself. Due to weather conditions, a scheduled walk can be postponed to another date. In that case, you'll receive a message with alternative dates to choose from.

What does a Forest Bathing guide do?

In many ways, the practice of forest bathing can be compared to yoga. Both forest bathing and yoga can be done by anyone on their own, once they have learned how to do so. Most of the practitioners however agree that you first need to learn the basics, plus it's more fun when you come do it with a group. Forest Therapy guides are trained to enhance sensory perception, facilitating connection with place, body, nature and the more-than-human world. This is what we can call opening the doors. They are trained to slow people down, help them turn off the stream of habitual thinking and establish embodied contact with the present moment. They work in partnership with Nature and also have a function of a supportive witness, enabling participants to experience whatever the natural environment has to offer to them at the moment, without interfering and disturbing this process. The forest is the therapist, the guide opens the doors.

Guided walks are structured in three stages, known as connection, liminal space/time, and incorporation. The first stage (connection) uses sensory connection to shift the awareness away from ordinary preoccupations primarily characterized by thinking. Focusing on our senses gives a steady stream of input from here and now - the present moment and place. By reaching this, participants enter the second stage of the walk: liminal space and time, a state that is comparable to walking mindfulness meditation. In liminality, there is a heightened potency in the ways we are in communication with the world around us. The last stage of the walk is called incorporation, when we incorporate the forest by sharing tea made from local plants en start to re-enter ordinary life again.

Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that (...) parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life. - John Muir