The Japanese term shin-rin yoku (‘forest-bathing’ or ‘forest-shower’) refers to the practice of spending time in forests and connecting with nature so as to enhance physical and emotional wellbeing, and to allow for healing. The 485 acres of redwood, pine, fir and oak forest and sunny meadows at PPI are perfect for this practice.
There is nothing new about our seeking refuge in the forests — all cultures and spiritual traditions have acknowledged the power of being in nature and also in solitude as a means for finding calm, focus and strength. But it is only more recently that the science has caught up with this traditional wisdom, just as many humans are becoming increasingly distant from nature. As proven by researchers in Japan and now throughout the West, there is good evidence that simply moving slowly and mindfully through forested landscape, breathing deeply, will do everything from increasing the activity of NK (natural killer) cells to reducing cortisol levels. Conifer trees in particular appear to have an additional beneficial effect on humans through their low-level emission of the organic compound α-pinene (alpha-pinene) which is highly bio-available through breathing, and which has antiobiotic and anti-inflammatory properties.
Although various organizations are now springing up to provide training or certification in forest therapy, you don’t necessarily need a certificate or a guide to experience benefit. Any basic mindfulness or deep breathing technique can be used during your slow wander through the forest.
The beautiful giant redwoods of Armstrong Woods State Preserve are just 45 minutes from Black Mountain Retreat Center, providing the perfect stop-off en route to/from us, or as part of a program.
For an overview of research on the psychological and physiological benefits of forest bathing (known in Japan as shinrin-yoku) see: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2793347/ or watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jPNll1Ccn0.
For those not close to a forest but still interested in inhaling some of the benefits, here is a reliable US source for the hinoki essential oil from Taiwan as well as other wood oils. (PPI has no business or personal connection with this supplier, but uses their products instead of expensive, questionable MLM products — this company lists producer and extraction data for all its oils)
An introductory book on shin-rin yoku – http://www.shinrin-yoku.org/handbook.html, and a selection of books on the importance of being in the wilderness: http://www.shinrin-yoku.org/bookstore.html.