One of the top 10 trends highlighted for SpaFinder Wellness 2015 Wellness Report is Forest Bathing.
“In the world overwhelmed by technology, there has emerged a search for simplicity and return to the lost, healthier ways of living. This can be seen in the growing popularity of meditative forest bathing as well as the definition of high luxury to encompass experiences in which nature, space and silence are prized above all.”
Since I was in Japan and seeking nature, space and silence … I discovered a hidden gem, Yakushima island. Yakushima is a subtropical island covered by an extensive cedar forest that contains some of Japan‘s oldest living trees. Trees more than 1000 years old are affectionately called yakusugi (a combination of Yakushima and sugi, the Japanese word for cedar), the most ancient of which may be over 7000 years old. I couldn’t think of a better place to do forest bathing.
“The term for this bathing has nothing to do with water. The Japanese government coined the term in 1982, a translation of shinrin -yoku, which literally means ‘taking in the forest atmosphere’. More than just a poetic way of describing a walk in the woods, The concept revolves around a deceptively simple practice quietly walking and exploring with a mind deliberately intend on – and all senses only open to – every sound, send, color and feel of the forest, in all it’s buzzing biodiversity”.
“With forest bathing, as well as the increasingly expert lead ‘forest therapy’ the goal is the bathe every cell of your entire psyche in the forest’s essence. No power hiking needed here; just a wander through nature, breathing deeply and mindfully, and stopping to experience whatever catches your soul” – be it a wildflower fragrances, moss covered ancient roots or the texture of a 3000 year old tree’s bark.
“Both poetic and pleasurable, it’s the science behind the practice that is taking forest bathing global, as a growing mountain of evidence indicates there is strong medicine for human bodies and brains within any forest setting. Studies indicate that forest bathing significantly lowers blood pressure, heart rate, cortisol levels and sympathetic nerve activity compared with city walks, while also alleviating stress and depression” (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2793347/).
“Forest Bathing is now a pillar of preventative medicine in Japan, with millions visiting more than 50 official forest therapy trails annually, and there are plans to designate an additional 50 such sites within 10 years.” In Yakushima island I discovered 2 such trails in Yaku-Sugi Ceder Land http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e4655.html
and Shirataji Unsuikyo http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e4654.html
As you sit in front of you computer screen or on your phone reading this, I thought you might enjoy a few highlights from the trails:
Yayoisugi is a 3000 year old tree that is 8.1 meters in circumference and 26.1 meters high. The Yayoi period in Japanese history was between 500 BC and 300 AD hence the trees name. If you look closely it has 10 different species growing from the surface of its trunk including Rhododendron, Japanese Rowan and Japanese Wood Oil
“In an era of precedented urbanization and digitisation, with the average person now ‘bathing’ their face seven hours a day in the glow of a screen, we humans are in the throes of a forest-deprivation crisis. The convergence of these two trends – growing awareness of the medical benefits of time spent in forests and alienation from this essential, yet increasingly exotic, human experience – will drive demand for forest bathing experiences in the years ahead.