30 Sept 2022

Japanese Forest Bathing in Offaly Castle

Japanese Forest Bathing in Offaly Castle

Alicja Pilarska practising the Japanese art of Forest Bathing in the Victorian Fernery in Birr Castle.

A Japanese-inspired concept called “Forest Bathing” has been introduced in Birr Castle.

“Covid has been very difficult for many people,” said manager Grainne O'Malley, “and we are now promoting a secluded part of the gardens as a possible location for bathing in nature and reconnecting.

“The area is the beautiful Victorian Fernery, with its waterfall, and we are suggesting to people that they sit in this area, relax, meditate, pray, reconnect, and let all the bad stuff fall away from them.

“Yoga sessions have also started in the gardens, which is another excellent way of destressing.”

In Japan, they call their practice of forest bathing “Shinrin-yoku”. Shinrin in Japanese means “forest,” and yoku means “bath.”

So Shinrin-yoku means bathing in the forest atmosphere, or taking in the forest through our senses. It does not entail vigorous exercise, only being still or walking slowly. It is simply being in nature, connecting with it through our senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. “Shinrin-yoku is like a bridge,” says one Japanese proponent. “By opening our senses, it bridges the gap between us and the natural world.”

Never in the West have we been so far from merging with the natural world and so divorced from nature. By 2050, 66% of the world’s population is projected to live in cities. According to a study sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American spends 93% of his or her time indoors.

Even a small amount of time in nature can have an impact on our health. A one or two hour forest bath will help you to unplug from technology and slow down. It will bring you into the present moment and de-stress and relax you.

When you are practising Shinrin-yoku make sure you leave your phone and camera behind. Youwill be spending a long time still or will be walking aimlessly and slowly. You don’t need any devices. You let your body be your guide. You listen to where it wants to take you; following your nose and taking your time. It doesn’t matter if you don’t get anywhere. You are not going anywhere. You are savoring the sounds, smells and sights of nature and letting the forest in.

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