RACHEL BELLE

Forest Bathing: a hiking alternative that connects you with nature

Mar 29, 2018, 5:19 PM | Updated: Mar 30, 2018, 8:06 am
forest bathing...
Cascade forest Therapy founder Michael Stein-Ross preparing the tea ceremony. Freshly foraged cedar buds are steeping in his thermos. (Photo by Rachel Belle)
(Photo by Rachel Belle)
LISTEN: Forest Bathing is a walking meditation that connects you with nature

I’m standing in a wooded area of Seattle’s Discovery Park. The sun is shining, the sky is blue, my eyes are closed. I’m with Michael Stein-Ross, a certified forest therapy guide, who is leading me through a sort of meditation by asking me to become aware of each of my senses. This is my first time forest bathing.

RELATED: What happened when Ron tried to bathe in the forest

“It comes from the Japanese term shinrin-yoku which translates loosely as forest bathing,” Stein-Ross said. “It’s basically taking in the forest through all of your senses. We call it forest therapy in the Association [of Nature and Forest Therapy] because it’s a wellness practice. The forest is a therapist and the guide, we’re there to help you reconnect and communicate with the forest.”

He says forest bathing is different than hiking.

“When we go on a hike you usually have a destination in mind, watching the trail and trying to get to a waterfall, get to a lake, get to a point of interest,” he said. “In forest bathing there is no destination. The point is to just be. So we won’t cover more than a mile of trail, usually, in a forest bathing session. We’ll stop when we need to stop and wander about. It’s okay to go off trail. The birds are chirping, just stop and take that in.”

Stein-Ross founded Cascadia Forest Therapy. Outings always start with “Pleasures of Presence.” It’s that meditation I described at the beginning of this article. From there, he offers different invitations.

“One invitation that I like to do is called ‘camera,'” he said. “We’re walking down the trail and I say, ‘Stop.’ I’ll have you close your eyes and I will lead you carefully to this interesting element of this tree that I see. But you don’t see it yet. I’ll position you and have you take a breath and open your eyes. That’s a camera shot for you of the forest. You take that in and we can talk about it if we like. Then we’ll trade positions and you will then take me to a spot that you see as particularly interesting or calling to you.”

Forest bathing

One of the goals of forest bathing is to drop into liminal space.

“Liminal space, it’s that space when you lose track of time and you’re so into something,” he said. “Artists get it all the time and runners get it all the time. The role of the guide is to help the participants drop into that space of liminality. Because it’s in that space that we can more fully communicate and understand the information that the natural world has for us.”

I found the experience to be intensely relaxing. When I hike I move pretty fast, and often lament that I’m missing out on seeing the beauty around me because I need to look down at the trail so I don’t trip over a rock or miss a step. This is a completely different experience. It’s like a walking meditation. Stein-Ross says there is science behind its health benefits.

“To reduce stress and to increase your immune system and to increase creativity and productivity in the work place,” he said. “Time spent in nature is invaluable. It just takes a little bit, fifteen minutes a day. A nature therapy walk may be three hours and those results can last a month or two.”

At the end of every three hour experience, Stein-Ross concludes with a tea ceremony. He thoughtfully and carefully forages something in season, like nettles or new growth on a cedar, steeps it in his thermos and pours everyone a taste into tiny tea cups.

Stein-Ross is a certified massage therapist. He’s also certified in permaculture design, and he’s worked as a teacher for 12 years.

“I realized that this is a practice that brings all three of those things together at once; healing the earth, healing people and healing relationships.”

 

  • listen to rachel belleTune in to KIRO Radio on weekdays to hear Rachel Belle.
Who is Rachel Belle?

Your Last Meal

Rachel Belle

Teenager toxic masculinity...
Rachel Belle

This teenage boy wants to help your teen be vulnerable and fight toxic masculinity

15-year-old Zach Gottlieb started an Instagram and TikTok page for teens to submit questions on topics like anxiety, breakups, and more.
12 days ago
Lab grown salmon...
Rachel Belle

Seattle CEO prepares to bring lab-grown salmon to sushi bars, grocery stores

The next generation of sustainable, environmentally sound proteins will come from actual meat and fish. Wildtype is growing cuts of Coho salmon using salmon cells.
1 month ago
menopause...
Rachel Belle

No one is talking about menopause, not even your doctor

Let's Talk Menopause founder Donna Klassen says most women don't know the symptoms and most medical schools don't include menopause in the curriculum. 
2 months ago
Nadiya Hussain...
Rachel Belle

New ‘Your Last Meal’: British Bake Off winner, Spice Waala brings Indian street food to Seattle

As a child, Great British Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain, felt frustrated that her dad served watered down, westernized Indian food at his restaurants.
2 months ago
Toxic positivity...
Rachel Belle

Seattle psychotherapist on how to cope with ‘season of toxic positivity’

Telling your loved ones to look on the bright side when they're feeling down is toxic positivity, and no one likes to hear it. Not even you.
2 months ago
birthday cake...
Rachel Belle

‘Your Last Meal’ podcast explores history of why we eat cake and light candles for birthdays

We all eat birthday cake, but have you ever wondered why? Award-winning chef Christina Tosi dives in on the latest episode of "Your Last Meal."
2 months ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]
...

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]
...

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
...
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
...

Delayed-Onset PTSD: Signs and Symptoms

Lakeside-Milam Recovery Centers SPONSORED — You’re probably familiar with post-traumatic stress disorder. Often abbreviated as PTSD, this condition is diagnosed when a person experiences a set of symptoms for at least a month after a traumatic event. However, for some people, these issues take longer to develop. This results in a diagnosis of delayed-onset PTSD […]
...

Medicare open enrollment ends Dec. 7. Free unbiased help is here!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]
Forest Bathing: a hiking alternative that connects you with nature