Experience the art and practice of moving mindfully in nature...
Nature Connection walks are the antidote to our high-stress, fast-paced modern lives. Also known as nature or forest therapy, this restorative nature walking is informed by the Japanese practice of "Shinrin Yoku," or “Forest Bathing”. A nature connection walk is not a strenuous hike, or informative naturalist walk. Rather, it is an opportunity to slow down and allow nature to enter your body through all your senses.
Contrary to popular myth, no actual bathing is involved, no nudity required! Forest bathing is an immersive sensory experience in nature. It involves moving slowly and mindfully in a natural place and using all your senses to connect to the world around you. It’s like a calming, soothing bath for the nervous system in which you let nature soak in through all your senses.
Forest bathing is quite different to a regular bush walk or walk in the park. You can certainly do Forest Bathing on your own, that’s the ultimate goal, but especially for us Westerners it’s advisable at first to experience it with a guide, much like you would with a Yoga, Tai Chi or Meditation class. Similar to these practices, Forest Bathing is a mindfulness practice that you can learn and become skilful at over time.
During a Forest Bathing walk you'll experience being guided through sensory awareness and immersion activities that simultaneously restore and awaken the body and mind. We start with some guided meditation and slow wandering, move through some games inspired by ancient nature-based cultural practices, include some more reflective or interospective practices and end with a bush tea ceremony.
During the walk I continually invite you to expand your awareness by asking "what are you noticing". We periodically gather together to share our experience and what we're noticing on internal and external landscapes. Having our stories heard and witnessed by others is a fundamental human need, a healing and socially connecting process.
Health Benefits of Nature Connection
Scientific studies are increasingly showing that human physical and psychological wellbeing is highly dependent on nature. Since the 1980s, Forest Bathing has been standard preventative medicine practice for stress, anxiety and depression in Japan. Now in the West, we're starting to catch on.
Forest Bathing has been shown to lower cortisol, sympathetic nervous activity, blood pressure, heart rate, improve mood and lower anxiety. Contact with nature has been shown to heighten alpha wave activity (the brain wavelength associated with relaxation, meditation and increased serotonin), which causes people to relax and recover from stress. It also increases empathy, compassion, creativity and unrestrained thinking.
Interestingly, forest bathing has been shown to increase the number and activity of Natural Killer cells (the body’s anti-tumor and anti-microbial cells) and decrease inflammatory cytokines (responsible for systemic inflammation in chronic disease states). Through these mechanisms, forest bathing is thought to modulate our immune system and have a healing effect on mental ill-health, cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus, recovering from surgery and respiratory disease.