Shinrin-yoku, the art of the forest bath

In Environment, Vancouver and Region by Lenore NewmanLeave a Comment

I’ve been recovering from appendix surgery and thus not posting, and I have also been missing out on the chance to take advantage of our excellent autumn weather. As soon as I am able, I will be hitting a trail to take advantage of our wonderful temperate rainforest, and the chance to enjoy the art of forest bathing.

The practice of forest bathing is an ancient one, and is common throughout East Asia. A forest bath consists of a leisurely stroll in the woods while performing deep breathing; literal bathing in a hot pool is optional, but of course pretty much the height of relaxation. What is interesting is the scenery is secondary; the primary purpose of a forest bath is the air. Shinrin-yoku is a form of aromatherapy. Forests are full of chemicals called phytoncides, which are the essential oils given off by the trees. These oils are antimicrobial, and the thought is that what is good for a tree is good for our lungs.

Of course forests have other benefits as well. A walk in the forest oxygenates the blood, relaxes the mind, and has been documented to promote healing and well being. And here in BC we are lucky to have exactly the right sort of forest. In Vancouver we can enjoy Stanley Park, or Pacific Spirit Park. On the North Shore Lighthouse Park presents a great chance to breathe deeply of an old growth forest. If I am in a hurry, I just pop into the Japanese garden at UBC and read for an hour.

We popped out of the forest to the seawall, and encountered these curious folks

We popped out of the forest to the seawall, and encountered these curious folks

Forest baths are also a great way to take advantage of what sunlight we have before it vanishes for the winter, not that a misty rainy forest bath is a bad thing. And on a good day, one might encounter the non-human citizens of our city, such as these baby otters who swam over to see who was on their seawall. Including a bit of salt air on a forest bath is a time honored way to manage asthma. In short, we should fight to protect our urban forests, as they work hard for us in ways we may not imagine. Happy walking.

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