We explore everything there is to know about the healing power of forest bathing and where you can experience this immersive nature therapy in NSW.
What is forest bathing?
Despite popular misconceptions, forest bathing has nothing to do with swimming, nor does it involve nudity. “Forest bathing or forest therapy means taking in the forest or bushland around you, through all your senses,” says Little. “It’s not just a walk in the woods. It’s consciously connecting to the sights, smells and sounds of the bush with a guide who takes you through a series of activities.”
Where did this trend originate?
Forest bathing emerged in Japan in the 1980s, named shinrin-yoku, which loosely translates to ‘taking in the forest atmosphere’. “But in Australia, our Indigenous communities have been practising nature connection for more than 70,000 years,” says Little. “Sometimes in Australia we call it ‘bush bathing’, there are guides who work in coastal environments, and you can even do it yourself in your garden.”
What happens in a typical two-hour forest bathing session?
After welcoming everyone and making sure they feel comfortable, Little offers guests a series of invitations. “We call them invitations, because you choose what you participate in,” she says.
The first invitation is usually an activity to take you from an internal focus to an external focus. “With closed eyes you might connect to the natural space around you simply through sound and scent.” Then you might be invited to find a tree to talk to or breathe with; sit in a traditional sharing circle; or collect natural treasures to make a mandala.
“We are guided by what is in the space and the weather – if it starts to rain, we might invite everyone to connect to the rain and wind. So, it’s a partnership with nature – nature is the therapist, and the guide is there in partnership.”
What are the benefits?
“We know that time spent in nature reduces the biomarkers of stress – you shift into a recovery response rather than fight or flight. Research also shows that cortisol responses decrease when in nature and that even the essences in the air from the plants help boost our immune function,” says Little.
Is it more powerful than meditating indoors?
Being in nature is different to being inside doing a session, and Little says that nature can be a wonderful metaphor to help bring emotions and stories to the surface. “For example, last year, Experience Nature arranged for me to do a three-hour retreat with the women who lost their homes in the bushfires. I guided the women to connect with resilience and regeneration – they could see the bushland had recovered naturally and that they themselves were doing the same thing.”
What retreats do you have coming up in 2022?
Little will be guiding an exclusive Experience Nature luxury wellness retreat with forest bathing in the Southern Highlands in April 2022. “This retreat is two nights and three days, so guests can truly unwind and create space in nature to hear themselves again, along with luxury accommodation at Osborn House.” Guests will immerse themselves in forest bathing, meditation and gentle yoga in the beautiful gardens of the property and in nearby Morton National Park. There’s also plenty of time to relax by the pool or book a massage at Osborn House Spa.
Where else can you forest bathe in NSW?
1. North Coast
Take in the incredible coastal scenery on an forest bathing session in the Bundjalung National Park on the North Coast of NSW.
2. Blue Mountains
In the incredible surrounds of the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden, Mount Tomah, you can take a slow guided Nature Therapy walk through the gardens.On their website, go to what’s on and select Nature Therapy Walks. Book here