A different way to get outside – Forest Therapy

This post is by Kristina Domsic, one of the facilitators of our upcoming Seeds of Intention: Yoga & Nature Retreat, May 24-26.

One of the things that makes our upcoming Seeds of Intention retreat unique is that participants will get to try out Forest Therapy, also known as Shinrin-yoku, or Forest Bathing, with a certified guide. This is an amazing way to explore the beautiful landscape around Harmony Dawn retreat centre. The landscape of rolling meadow, gardens, and forest around the centre have so much to offer.

When people first hear about the idea of forest therapy, they often have an intuitive sense of some of the ways this practice could be beneficial; since we were young, many of us have heard that fresh air is good for us! When we have felt overwhelmed by stressful situations, loved ones might have suggested we go for a walk to help shake it off and gain some new perspective. That part makes sense.

So, why not just go for a simple walk outside on your own?

Well, going for a walk outside on your own is definitely a good idea. But, there are also some stand-out benefits to joining a guided Forest Therapy session! Here are some of the highlights of what you can expect on our Forest Therapy sessions at the Seeds of Intention Retreat this spring:

1. Time to unplug

One of the biggest differences from walking on your own is that with a guide, you have a real opportunity to relinquish control, and leave your phone, watch, or other electronics behind. Much like a yoga class, in Forest Therapy you will be encouraged to leave your electronics behind, where their electric buzz can no longer call for your attention. Let your guide keep the time! Put your trust in the idea that now you are just here, doing this forest therapy thing.

2. Slow down

Another great reason to join a guided forest therapy session is that the guide can set your pace. Just like a race pace bunny, the guide will make sure to keep you on track. The big difference is of course that forest therapy isn’t about getting to the finish line in a certain amount of time. Instead, she’ll help you move slowly. Slowing down can be difficult at first, and generally, a guide will help bring you to a much slower pace than you are used to. The slowness creates space for the real magic of the practice to unfold.

3. Connect with nature in a new way

Throughout your session, a number of therapeutic ‘invitations’ will be offered. These invitations are often centered around bringing attention to one or more of our senses, similar to what you might experience in a guided meditation. You might be invited to notice, listen, play, create, imagine, or spend some time getting to know the beings who call the forest home. Sometimes your guide will pick up on the nuances of the weather or the wildlife and be called to co-create new invitations on the spot! A skilled guide can craft these invitations in a way that makes them accessible to all.

4. Be heard

One aspect of forest therapy that often surprises people is that there are many opportunities to share your experiences with the group. Of course, there is no pressure to share anything in particular, or even to speak at all, but the option can be a welcomed complement to periods of quiet time spent on the trail. We often follow a tradition of council in which the participants form a circle and speak to the center one at a time. A talking piece is typically passed around to signal the speaker who is invited to speak from the heart, while the rest of the circle listens.

5. Take it all in

At the Seeds of Intention retreat, our Forest Therapy sessions will end with tea; a wild-foraged, local, herbal tea, to be exact! This is an opportunity to learn a little bit more about one or two of the plants that live in the landscape you’ve been exploring during your session.  Enjoy the scent of the tea and the feel of the steam on your face. Maybe take a sip, or two, or three.

It is important to remember that forest therapy guides are not generally therapists. They do not prescribe medicine, or dictate rules. Guides hold space. They listen openly. They offer ideas of how you might explore your own unique journey.

Kristina Domsic, one of our co-facilitators for the Seeds of Intention retreat, trained with the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy in 2017 to learn more about this very special practice. She can’t wait to share it with you at our upcoming retreat. Our retreat sold out last year – click here to save a spot!


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