Forest Bathing: Connecting with Nature
Next month, Cheekwood will offer a new wellness class called Shinrin-yoku Forest Bathing for Beginners. The class offers a gentle sensory walk on our newly renovated Carell Trail while encouraging individuals to connect with nature – no water needed! Read on to find out what Georgia Bromehead, certified Association of Nature and Forest Therapy (ANFT) guide and owner of Forest Therapy Nashville, has to say about this unique practice.
What is Shinrin-yoku forest bathing?
Forest bathing, or forest therapy, is a guided, sense-based and mindful way to be in nature. Taking place in a small area with a forest therapy guide, crafted invitations offer ways to interact with natural beings that make space for healing of mind, body, and spirit in a simple yet profound way. Based on the Japanese practice of “Shinrinyoku,” or “forest bathing,” we “bathe” in not only immune-boosting chemical compounds of nature, but also in the feeling of being present and connected.
What are the benefits of practicing forest bathing?
Forest bathing became an official idea in the 1980s after Japan realized its population was working itself into an unhealthy state. They conducted experiments on blood pressure, stress hormones like cortisol, and even the immune system and found benefits from being in the forest even for a short period of time. Phytoncides, particles put off by trees to combat assailants such as fungi, are breathed by us and increase immunity. We are literally bathing in healing air! The practice and scientific studies are still big in Japan and Korea. Along with physical health benefits, people have experienced increased peacefulness, creativity, calmness, and joy after a forest therapy walk. Inspired by the movement, Amos Clifford brought the idea to United States in the early 2000s and combined it with his background in psychotherapy, creating forest therapy and, later, ANFT.
Is this something I can do by myself?
With practice, you may begin your own forest bathing, but let me help you at first. Guides with ANFT learn a specific sequence of sensory-based activities that allow folks to bathe in and journey through the healthful benefits of nature. One important thing that forest bathers and ANFT guides note is, ‘The forest is the therapist; the guide just opens the doors.’ Guided forest bathing practice helps you learn how to approach nature in a way you can do on your own.
ANFT highlights secondarily the importance of “culture repair” that comes along with gathering with other human beings to “be” and truly listen, which is a beautiful part of the experience. Forest therapy and forest bathing are not therapies in a traditional sense, and can look incredibly simple from the outside. Sometimes, however, within each participant, there is a profound connection and healing taking place through remembering the self and our connection to the natural world.
What inspired you to lead forest bathing experiences?
I am passionate about forest bathing and forest therapy because there is no pass or fail. It is not a meditation to feel guilty about not doing enough. It is not a plant identification course to exercise the brain. The practice is a very simple opportunity to be in our bodies and senses in a way we do not often live. It can feel quite childlike – not in a silly way, but a way that makes you feel alive. If all I do is provide a short time for a person to be quiet and smell a tree they have never smelled, that brings me immense joy.
What can I expect from a forest bathing class at Cheekwood?
Forest bathing classes at Cheekwood will be shorter, modified versions of a full ANFT style forest therapy walk, but will be a great primer and time to connect. Participants should expect to move slowly through a series of mindful prompts and invitations and, if comfortable, share their experiences.
What should I wear?
Participants should wear comfortable shoes and clothing for both walking and sitting. Since we will be practicing in the summer, bug spray, sunscreen, and hats are encouraged too! And don’t forget to wear your cloth face mask when social distancing is not an option outdoors.
Experience the beauty of our new Carell Trail while joining others in the peaceful practice of forest bathing. Shinrin-yoku Forest Bathing for Beginners classes will be held at Cheekwood each Wednesday morning in August at 9:30 AM. To register, please visit our Wellness Programs page.
To find out more about forest bathing and forest therapy, we encourage you to visit these websites: