Soak Up The Atmosphere: Forest Bathing
Forest bathing, or the Japanese art of shinrin-yoku (‘taking in the forest atmosphere’) is tipped to be the next yoga with many people taking part in a bid to give their wellness some welly. 25% of Japan’s population regularly get out among the trees and it’s becoming a major trend in hotels and spas worldwide.
But what on earth is it? For a start there are no baths involved and you are fully dressed! It’s a moving meditation in nature, calmly walking in a forest, senses totally tuned in to every sound, scent, colour and ‘feel’ (tree hugging and leaf collecting, all positively encouraged).
Spa and Wellness Journalist, Suzanne Duckett is Spa Editor of Tatler Spa Guide, a regular contributor for The Telegraph and Contributing Wellness Editor of Psychologies magazine.
Banner Image Credit: Six Senses Hotel & Spa
It’s more than just a walk in the park – you meander mindfully, actively aware of your breathing, your footsteps, helping you to tap into a high level of consciousness, both of yourself and your surroundings. Evidence has also been growing for years on the medical benefits of being exposed to phytoncides – airborne, aromatic chemicals and oils emitted by many trees. These compounds impact the body, reducing stress, lowering blood pressure, heart rate and cortisol levels, even boosting the immune system by as much as 40%. But where to go to be guided? Try it out here:
Villa Stéphanie, Germany
Hiking as a leisure pursuit was invented in Germany’s Black Forest at the end of the 19th century by a haberdasher named Philipp Bussemer, so it’s fitting that at Baden-Baden’s Villa Stéphanie the thread continues. Nature, space and silence are prized. The 10,000 hectare Black Forest National Park – the country’s largest which opened in 2014 – offers forest bathing of untamed beauty.
Image Credit: Villa Stéphanie
Brenners Forest Bathing is a guided walk tailored to your fitness level, quietly exploring, stopping to rest and taking time to drink in beautiful forest and valley vistas. You then return to the soothing vibe of Villa Stéphanie’s spa for even more renewal – a relaxing oil bath with a view.
The 3-hour package costs 290 euros (70 euros per additional person, up to a maximum of five).
Nature Hotel Forsthofgut, Austria
You’ll find this spa at Leogang in the Austrian Alps, deemed as Europe’s self-styled first ‘wellness centre forest’. Guided forest bathing here involves being taken out to the forest where you are taught soothing breathing exercises, which allow the pure forest air and energising scent of fresh pine needles to flow through the lungs.
Image Credit: Hotel Forsthofgut
There are barefoot forest walking paths and you can enjoy a massage in a forest clearing, all part of the philosophy that entices guests “to get back to their roots and find harmony with nature in an especially gentle and soothing way”. Owner Rupert Schmuck is a certified mountain bike guide, so if you’re feeling more active guests can also bathe in the forest trails on two wheels.
Rooms cost from 120 euros per person, per night.
Six Senses Hotel And Spa In The Douro Valley, Portugal
Six Senses hotel and spa in the Douro Valley, gets you in and amongst its surrounding five hectares of forest, where you can, should you wish, hug trees that date back to centuries old. Its forest bathing activity is a one-hour guided meditative walk (usually one-to-one for a more intense experience) with your guide commenting on the woods and natural highlights as you go.
Image Credit: Six Senses Hotel & Spa
Or you can take it up a notch, and, with the help of the resident tree-climbing specialists, climb a tree. Not only is this the ultimate anti-ager (you’ll feel like a kid again), the breathtaking views across the stunning Douro valley are well worth the effort.
The Mayflower Grace, New England
Forest bathing among 60 acres of landscaped gardens and woodland is hugely popular at this ace American resort.
Image Credit: The Mayflower Grace
The two-hour forest bathing package offers the chance to integrate the natural outdoor world with the mindful hiking. Afterwards, guests enjoy a deeply restorative treatment with potent organic ingredients that capture the essence of evergreens and phytoncides, the health-boosting chemicals and oils emitted by trees. Skin is cleansed with plant-derived lactic acid and exfoliated with bioactive white peat enzymes and ripe antioxidant-rich berries. The lymphatic system is stimulated with a mushroom and phyto-nutrient wrap, finishing with a berry oil massage and application of rich arctic berry extracts.
Forest Bathing for two hours for $110 or $80/person if there are two or more people.
La Clairiere Bio & Spa Hotel, France
Set in Alsace’s Vosges du Nord National Park, this hotel offers a window onto the forest via massive floor-to-ceiling windows, but the emphasis here is on getting out there among the sylvan surroundings to oxygenate the mind and body and recharge energy levels. You’re encouraged to visit the Zen temple of Ryumon Ji in the nearby chocolate box village to up the meditative ante but it’s the healing power of trees that is the headline act here.
Image Credit: La Clairiere Bio & Spa Hotel
The urban stressed should try ‘A Wellness Week’ in the Forest – refreshing and inspiring yoga, qi gong, t’ai chi and zazen meditation, as well as Pilates, Nordic walking and meditative walks focusing on breathing, the action of walking and your hara or ‘vital energy core’ as you take in the area’s beautiful flora and fauna.
Seven-night Wellness Week in the Forest 1105 euros per person
Aqua Sana Sherwood Forest, UK
Aqua Sana is taking forest bathing mainstream: due to launch in Spring 2017, its Forest Bathing area has a pool in a forest setting – and you can even sweat it out in a treetop Nordic sauna offering bird’s eye views over the surrounding tree canopy.
A two-bedroom Woodland Lodge for a midweek (four-night) stay costs from £299.
Image Credit: Aqua Sana Sherwood Forest
If the lure of the trees takes hold and you want to immerse under the canopy 24-7, book into Sweden’s Treehotel. Set in a pine forest, its futuristic rooms, 4-6 metres up and reached by ramp, bridge or electric stairs, include Mirrorcube, a 4 x 4m hide-out built around a tree trunk and camouflaged by mirrored walls, The Cabin – a capsule up in a tree, The UFO which seems to dangle from the branches and The Bird’s Nest with an exterior that is simply a mass of branches. The treehouses of the future are here…
From around £430 per night.
Image Credit: Graeme Richardson