Soak Up Nature with Forest Bathing | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Soak Up Nature with Forest Bathing

Ancient Japanese therapy practice invites people to slow down and feel the healing energy of trees

People living in Central Oregon are no strangers to spending time outdoors. With the rivers, mountains and lively outdoor events, being outside is a part of living here. Sure, existing outside is good for you, but taking the time to slow down, connect with the Earth below your feet and feel one with nature can provide many health benefits. It's called forest bathing.

click to enlarge Soak Up Nature with Forest Bathing
Stacie Muller
Forest bathing is an ancient Japanese therapy practice (shinrin-yoku) that focuses on deep connection and immersion in nature.

This ancient Japanese practice (shinrin yoku) is a process of relaxation and calming sensory connection to nature — observing, deep breathing, feeling, smelling, existing in harmony. Forest bathing studies have shown that the practice reduces cortisol (stress hormone) levels after just one immersion, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Missie Wilker is a certified forest therapy guide and owns a yoga studio in Bend, R'oming Yoga. Wilker hosts two-hour guided forest bathing sessions in Central Oregon, mainly at Shevlin Park. She defines forest bathing as "slowing down to cultivate an intentional relationship with the natural world through sensory practices." After her first guided forest bathing session, she was hooked.

click to enlarge Soak Up Nature with Forest Bathing
Stacie Muller
Forest bathing can take place in any setting with trees, plants and organic nature.

"I left the [my first forest bath] feeling so incredibly connected," Wilker told the Source Weekly. "I felt this deep relational connection with nature that I've never had felt before."

Wilker immediately searched for a program to become a forest therapy guide after her meaningful experience. Her forest bathing sessions start with an introduction and lead into a sensory connection practice, Wilker calls it "forest immersion." The introductory practice is about grounding participants into the environment and opening them up to the experience—touching bark on trees, breathing in natural aromas, listening to the wind or noticing small organisms in the nature around them.

The guided sessions continue with invitations to walk slowly and lie/sit on the Earth as well as time for individual connection. At the end of the session, the group sits for a tea ceremony to connect and reflect on the experience. Wilker's next forest bathing session is Sunday, May 7 at Shevlin Park.

click to enlarge Soak Up Nature with Forest Bathing
Stacie Muller
Missie Wilker is a certified forest therapy guide and leads forest bathing sessions in Central Oregon.

People interested in forest bathing don't need a guide to practice. All you need is a space in nature, an intentional mind and a slow moment to connect. Central Oregonians have ample options to forest bathing locations — such as the Deschutes National Forest, Shevlin Park or the Deschutes River Trail, to name a few.

Guided Forest Bathing Sessions
Sun., May 7, Sat., May 20, Sat., May 27, all at 10am
Shevlin Park
18920 NW Shevlin Park Rd., Bend

Allie Noland

Allie graduated from Gonzaga University with a degree in journalism and public relations. She loves writing articles that have anything to do with the outdoors and culture. When she’s not writing, you can find her skiing, playing volleyball, backpacking, gardening or sitting at a local coffee shop.
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