Shinrin-Yoku

Unlock your senses under the canopy of a green forest in the Daylesford Macedon region. Alana Rushton discovers the latest alternative therapy that involves meditation amongst trees, with incidental forest bather, Kathryn Russack.

Green Tea, Green Superfoods and Green Smoothies are all the rage for our internal health. So, what does this colour have to do with a form of physical forest therapy where you walk, lay or sit – surrounded only by trees?

The simple answer is, green forest medicine. The sound of nothing, the slow pace. It’s meditation for the soul.

Lifelong outdoors-lover, Kathryn Russack, explains that you don’t have to do anything complicated, other than to submit to the healing power of nature.

“When I first moved to Melbourne over 30 years ago, I loved the Botanic Gardens, and even when I think back now, I loved being right in amongst the trees,” Russack said.

“The Macedon Ranges has forests, and I have enjoyed just being in them. I didn’t realise there was a ‘practice’ or that it was called ‘something’. A friend sent me a research article about Shinrin-Yoku, the term the Japanese have coined for ‘forest bathing’ and I thought …’Oh, I do that’.”

Russack, who owns Colenso Café and Restaurant in Kyneton, said the practice is old, but the term ‘Forest Bathing’ is new.

In asking her what she gains from the practice, the answer really resonates.

“Stillness, a settled mind, the refreshment from another setting and the knowledge you have taken time to be ‘away’. “

Whilst she has never gone with a guided group, she said she often spent time with family in the forest.

“I naturally prefer the cooler months, as I think I like the feel of the air at those times of the year and the surrounds feel softer.”

So you can experience forest bathing at any time of year?

“Of course. And it’s best to experience them all, that’s part of the rhythm that it provides.”

Her instruction for heading out is easy.

“For those who don’t spend time in the outdoors, it can be as simple as drinking in a tree next time they are with one. Take some time to look at it. There is no pace, no path, nothing to do except to be amongst trees.

And advice for what to bring and do?

“Wear what you are comfortable in, yes take water. But I don’t think it should be considered like a trek of any kind. It is just to be amongst trees.”

Dayls 063 Dk 2014

How to Forest Bathe:

Step 1: Banish the phone. Let go of objects. Just be.
Step 2: Walk, lie or sit among the trees.
Step 3: Set the pace from the outset, slow your mind, slow your body.
Step 4: Use all five senses :  Taste, Touch, Smell, See, Hear.
Step 5: Allow the silence in. Connect with nature.