Shinrinyoku is Japanese for “forest bathing”.
At Thrive, Shinrinyoku involves a silent walk through the forest, carefully cultivating natural movement for a full body and soul workout.
Studies show that breathing in phytonicides(essential oils from trees) can be good for your health.
The practice of spending time in the forest has become a commonplace therapy for stress and lowered immune systems in Japan and many studies have been published showing the positive effects on both the immune system response and blood pressure.
It is essentially natural aromatherapy(breathing in phyonicides) combined with natural movement therapy.
The trails through the woods are groomed for walking but do not expect a perfectly smooth and easy walking surface!
Natural movement involves rambling up and over obstacles, working the tissues and joints in our feet and legs to move us safely along the trail. Using your arms to help move yourself along the trail is recommended for a full body workout and there are plenty of areas to stop and stretch your upper body out on a tree limb too!
Walking poles are available for those who need extra support though a goal of working towards not needing this assistance is recommended.
Silence is recommended so that you can listen to the song of the birds, the soughing of the wind through the trees and so that you can focus on your breath and/or mantra for your walk.
A water bottle is recommended and a yoga mat/towel if you have one. Carrying these items in a healthy way can become part of your workout.
We pause at the top of the hill for some yoga asana and relaxing breath work before rambling back down the trail.
Consider joining us for a natural movement class in the forest on Tuesdays or Thursdays at 8:15am or Saturdays at 9am during the summer. Check the schedule for updated class times, all classes must be pre-registered.
For more information about studies on Shinrinyoku, follow this link:
A client asked me this just the other day. She loves the movement in our yoga classes but gets annoyed by the “wasted time” at the beginning of class, when we just sit and breathe.
When I explained that meditation and working with our breath is really the most important part of our yoga practice, she asked...”but WHY?”.
It’s an excellent question. As westerners, our lives are all about productivity. Being busy has become an art form. We rush from moment to moment, determined to tick one more thing off of our list, make more money, run kids to more classes and events, DO more of everything.
And yet, we’re no happier thanks to all we’re getting done. In fact, studies show that as a society we are feeling less fulfilled, less in touch with our friends and loved ones, less content.
That’s where meditation comes in. At it’s most basic, meditation is learning to sit quietly and just breathe. There are many techniques that your yoga instructor can teach you, to really get in touch with how you breathe and help identify what stress patterns you may have become entrenched in.
There is a protective mechanism that our bodies use to keep us safe, you’ve probably heard it labelled the “fight or flight response”. It is a way to keep our bodies on high alert, ready to face our aggressors or be ready to run, if necessary. The only problem with this response is that it can’t tell the difference between a true threat(an intruder) or emotional stress(a tight deadline at work). So our bodies respond in the same way to any stress and can remain in this hyper vigilant state for years. It can become the new norm and we forget how to relax and be calm. There are numerous health related issues to remaining in this “fight or flight” response, high blood pressure, tension headaches & digestive issues being just a few.
Learning to meditate is an incredibly valuable tool, as it can help us to take back control of our bodies.
It’s not that stress, anger, heart ache and fear won’t affect us anymore. It’s that we will have learned to not react to that which isn’t a legitimate threat to our physical safety.
Sitting with our breath calmly is actually training our brains to not react negatively to stresses. If you practice this daily, you may be able to calmly react to that difficult co-worker or belligerent toddler rather than reacting in frustration or anger.
Studies have shown that regular meditation lowers blood pressure, increases the immune system response and aids in digestion. Sounds crazy, I know..but what we’re essentially doing is activating the parasympathetic nervous system so that it can do it’s job.
Simple, really. And a yoga class can be a very safe place to give this a try. Your teacher can guide you, offer suggestions and be a sounding board for any challenges that come up for you.
I challenge you to give it a try, just 10 minutes a day for the next 30 days. See how you may approach stresses in a different, more effective way!