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Forest Bathing in Cowichan is more than a walk in the woods

Healing with trees: the benefits of Forest Bathing, and how to do it. #k5evening
Credit: Erickson, Anne
Guide Georgia Newsome leads forest bathing walks in Cowichan, British Columbia

Cowichan, British Columbia — EDITOR'S NOTE: The above video was originally shot in April 2018.

One thing you notice about hiking guide Georgia Newsome – she seldom leads the way.

And she stops a lot.

Because this journey's not about the destination.

"It's not about getting anywhere, it's about being somewhere."

As she leads a group through Bright Angel Park in British Columbia, she stops to appreciate budding leaves. Stroke moss. Sniff at a white fungus growing on a downed log. Or simply listen.

This is 'Forest Bathing'. Or 'Shinrin-Yoku'. It was developed in Japan in the 1980's and is an actual healthcare practice in Japanese medicine. A prescription with no co-pay that lowers blood pressure and raises immunity. An antidote to a stressful life.

"We're so busy with the rest of our life, with everything else, rushing around, that we don't connect anymore,” said Newsome.

Forest bathing is all about connecting with mother nature.

Newsome is a guide for Coastal Bliss Adventures, where she leads multi day hiking and kayaking tours. But she also leads forest bathing sessions in Cowichan British Columbia – a place with plenty of forests to bathe in -- and where slowing down is a way of life.

"We're a Cittaslow Community down in Cowichan Bay. And that's something that we really try to encourage people to do is slow down,” explained Newsome. A Cittaslow Community is an official designation, and it means that a community must follow rules and procedures to ensure its citizens slow down, and savor the simple pleasures of life.

So that's why Newsome is the slowest hiker in this bunch – because this is not about the hike.

And right about now some of you are likely saying to yourselves, 'Well isn't this just walking in the woods?'

"Yes, it can be just walking in the woods. But it is about engaging your senses, being in the moment,” explained Newsome.

Newsome has some tips for do-it-yourself forest bathers. First of all, you’ve probably figured this out by now, but you don’t need a bathing suit for forest bathing.

Don't pick a hard hike, take it easy.

Do engage senses other than sight.

And don't hurry.

Finally, it's okay to hug trees while forest bathing. Once you see the blissful on Newsome’s face when she embraces a green, mossy trunk, you’ll want to try it yourself.

“Some people call it tree-hugging or hugging a tree - it looks like you are hugging a tree, but it's really about connecting.”

Newsome says you don't even need a forest for Forest Bathing -- a body of water, a single tree -- any bit of nature will do.

You just have to slow down...and let nature take its course.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The above video was originally shot in April 2018.

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