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When work never seems to end and the stress continues to pile up, running into the woods and disconnecting from society sounds like a dream. But what if it could be reality?
We don’t mean straight up abandoning your work and responsibilities. We mean taking some time to go nature-exploring at the different parks in Singapore to find your inner peace through the zen art of forest bathing. We speak to Yap Youmin, a certified Nature and Forest Therapy Guide, to find out how forest bathing can help you better connect with yourself. Make sure you have your wipes and bottle on hand for when you need to freshen up and hydrate!
Read to the end to find out how you can access an experience like this at Jewel’s Shiseido Forest Valley!
What is forest bathing?
Despite its name, which comes from the Japanese term ‘shirin yoku’(literally ‘forest bathing’), it doesn’t actually have anything to do with taking a bath in a forest. It does, however, involve stripping away your emotional baggage and letting all your worldly worries wash off your back as you reconnect with nature.
On the surface, it’s as simple as going into a forest, taking in some fresh air, inhaling the stress-reducing aerosols from the forest and becoming one with Mother Earth. But forest bathing actually goes deeper than that.
Yap Youmin, the brains and backbone of XIU Nature Connections, describes forest bathing as a way to effortlessly slow down, rest and attend to all the richness of the earth hidden beneath our busy day-to-day lives.
“It is a way of being that brings together self-care and earth-care.”
In short, forest bathing is the act of connecting to nature and everything around us, and in the process, reconnecting with the inner self.
Should I try forest bathing?
We’d actually go out on a limb here and say everyone ought to give forest bathing a try if circumstances permit!
Singapore is a fast-moving country, with more and more people reporting increasingly higher levels of stress and burnout, especially in recent years. In times like these, it helps to take a step back from all that blue light from our screens and recentre ourselves.
Forest bathing, Yap says, can help us tap into our inner peace. By getting in touch with nature again, it gives participants a greater sense of awe, pleasure and belonging. Not only does it help improve mental health, but it also gives participants some much-needed emotional uplifting.
Research has also shown that forest bathing provides tons of physical benefits to participants such as (and not inclusive to) improving blood sugar levels, improving their quality of sleep and improving immune response.
A forest bathing guide?
For those who’ve yet to experience the wonders of forest bathing for themselves, it might be a hard concept to wrap their heads around. The idea of someone being a professional forest bathing guide might seem even more unusual.
More often than not, they think it’s no different from a walk in the park or a trek through the wilderness. Participants even asked her when to start their fitness tracker before a session.
Forest bathing, as we now know, is nothing of that sort.
“It’s not hiking. In forest bathing, we are not chasing steps, not chasing distance, not chasing a destination,” Yap explains. “It is more of a work-in than a work-out. It’s also not a typical nature walk where we focus on the science behind the flora and fauna.”
Having conducted close to 200 guided sessions, Yap has seen firsthand the healing effect it has on the lives of participants.
Once, at the end of a session, a man told her: “I’ve walked [through this forest] every week, been here countless times in my life, and [only] today I feel I’ve really been here.”
She watched another individual rediscover the beauty in the earth - he had crouched down, lowering himself to the ground to observe the grasshoppers and other tiny creatures. When he shared his findings with the group, she remembered how his eyes were sparkling with joy and wonder.
In the time of a pandemic, Yap has helped many participants heal and connect with their inner selves through this form of mindfulness.
Can’t I walk on my own?
It’s definitely possible to go forest bathing on your own. In fact, Yap encourages spending time alone surrounded by nature, if you have the know-how.
“If they’ve never attended a guided therapeutic forest bathing session before and don’t fully understand the principles and nuances of it, they may end up on yet another typical nature walk in the park.”
Guides function as a counsellor of sorts to lead participants on their journey. Some of its benefits include:
- Pacing: Singaporeans are one of the fastest walkers on the planet. Slowing down is just not in our genes, so a significant shift to take it easy can be challenging for most. With a guide, it’s easier to just have them set the pace and focus on what really matters — the present.
- Facilitation: Where do you start with forest bathing, really? A guide would be able to provide a sense of structure to the session, yet also maintain an openness for each participant to embark on his/her own journey. It will also help you to learn how to tune and awaken your senses one by one to the earth, as well as explore different ways to interact with nature.
- Community: Part of the forest bathing includes a sharing session, where participants and their guide share their observations, listen to one another and form an intimate social connection between one another.
Yap likens forest bathing to a massage. Sure, you could definitely give yourself a massage, but getting a professional massage is a completely different experience.
“In the same way, a trained and experienced forest therapy guide leads you through a sequential journey. When you’re not thinking your way through forest bathing, that’s when you’ll find your mind, body and spirit in a more immersive experience effortlessly,” she adds.
Forest bathing in Singapore?
Despite the name, it’s not actually necessary to enter the forest just for this. Nature is everywhere, Yap shares. Forest bathing can take place anywhere, anytime — from gardens to beaches, from outdoor parks to indoor forests — wherever you’re comfortable.
That’s why Changi Airport and XIU Nature Collection are bringing forest bathing to Jewel Changi Airport. This will be the first-ever indoor forest bathing experience specially curated for the luscious Shiseido Forest Valley. You wouldn’t have to worry about your (lack of) physical stamina, but simply enjoy the healing forest bathing brings within an air-conditioned environment. Those with mobility challenges can also join the experience.
The experience will be unlike anything you’ve ever experienced within Jewel. Inside the Shiseido Forest Valley — an idyllic landscape that houses over 900 intriguing trees and palms, and about 60,000 shrubs from all over the world. — participants will get to spend 2 hours on a sensorial re-discover to one’s self and nature.
And since the session is held within a comfortable indoor garden, sportswear is optional, so long as you’re comfortable with your attire. No heels of course!
We all could use a little self-love, so why not take this chance to give forest bathing a try?
Dates: 25 February, 11 & 25 March, and 8 & 22 April
Timing: 8:00am - 10:00am
Address: Shiseido Forest Valley at Jewel Changi Airport (exact meeting location will be provided in the information kit)
Fees: $88 per pax. Sign up here.
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