Shinrin yoku means “taking in the forest atmosphere” or “forest bathing.” Developed in Japan in the 1980s, Shinrin-yoku has become a key for the study and practice of preventative health care and healing.
The embodied experience of Shinrin yoku has slowly become a fitness trend here in the United States and is growing (as is the research on the importance of spending time outside in nature). Articles have suggested it is gaining momentum (think yoga 30 years ago) and can be a healing process that can save your life.
Each and every moment that I am outside forest bathing has been powerful. I find myself returning to my day's work with more clarity and purpose. I have often talked about these times as woods wanders where my intention is to be mindful in motion. To see where the light accentuates the landscape. To hear the scurrying of squirrels preparing for winter. To smell the mix of decomposing leaves and the sweetness of the evergreens. To feel the cold autumn breeze on my face. (The blog Mind, Body, Green shares more on the why and how of forest bathing).
Forest bathing is about going slowly and spending long periods of time being mindful and present. My approach is a bit modified as I tend to walk farther than some of the research I read far suggests (one article I read mentioned not going more than a quarter mile in a 2-4 hour time period! WOW!).
Like most anything, I take what works and modify it to fit me best. My version of taking in the forest atmosphere includes going slowly and paying attention to all of my senses. It also includes carrying my camera and a small notepad and pen. I leave the phone at home. This is an unplugged experience. Sometimes I just walk. But often times I want to write down a quick observation or capture something that I am seeing or feeling. Moments that were possible by being mindful in motion—slow motion.
I have put together a brief photographic experience for you to get a sense of what bathing in the forest might be like as I have experienced it through my woods wanderings (and perhaps you might give Shinrin-yoku a try).