Contrary to how it sounds, there isn’t actually any bathing involved with forest bathing… unless you go to use the pool in the spa afterwards, which I highly recommend. Forest bathing is not really a new idea, but it’s been distilled into a guided practice in our over stimulated, under connected world. So, under the careful guidance of Helena Skoog, and accompanied by the charming luxury of a spa weekend at Spread Eagle Hotel and Spa, we went to try their forest bathing experience, which has been available throughout the autumn.
Forest bathing is perhaps best described as a guided meditation. However, instead of a hall or a gym, it takes place outside amongst the trees. The idea is that you use the time to reconnect with nature as well as yourself. You take the time to really experience the outdoors quietly, and through all your senses. A true outdoor enthusiast, Helena is a believer in experiencing all the senses when you go forest bathing. That’s to say that if it’s pouring with rain, she will still be holding the session. So dress accordingly.
The way it works, at Spread Eagle Hotel and Spa at any rate, is that you meet up with Helena and a group of other people in the class, and head out for a walk in the woods. Under an enclave of trees, you find a spot to sit and meditate. Helena will guide you, inviting you to tune into different sounds, temperatures and feelings in the forest. She might even invite you to taste the earth and touch the plants that you’re drawn to.
There’s a childlike sense of play to the two hour experience, which Helena encourages, and it can make you feel a little bit self conscious. However, there’s no obligation to do anything in particular, and it’s all extremely gentle.
For my part, I thoroughly enjoyed it, if for no other reason than I can’t remember the last time my mobile phone wasn’t within arm’s reach. Or when I last tuned out of the worries, anxieties and buzzing of daily life for a couple of hours. It’s a very liberating reminder of how many of those stresses you actually need to keep hold of, and how many you can let go of.
At Spread Eagle, they’re experts at doing things with style. So forest bathing is followed by a decadent lunch together with other people in the group. Over mocktails and three courses, you can discuss the experience – if you choose to. To me it was quite an important part of that first experience, broadening it by understanding other peoples’ perspectives as well.
Rather beautifully, of course, this is something you can do on your own afterwards. Having learned the purpose and premise of the idea, it’s a practice that you can make a habit of, even just when you head out for a short walk at the weekends, to really add another, meaningful dimension to your everyday wellbeing. Which ultimately, is what it’s all about.
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