Bathe in a forest without stripping

Health, beauty and lifestyle with Denise McNamara

When I got an invite by email to travel to the Lake District to indulge in a spot of forest bathing, I immediately felt a shiver go up by back.

Bathing…in a forest…in April…in probably the wettest part of the UK…after the wettest winter in memory – well it did not sound particularly inviting.

But as I’d never been to the Lake District and it was a chance to hop on a plane and get out of Galway – albeit for 36 hours – I put my hand up.

Also, the fact that I could fly out of Shannon, even if it meant a marathon trek by planes, trains and automobiles, it was worth it. Or at least I hoped it would be.

So off I trotted at 4am in the morning for a 6.15am flight to Stansted before switching to the fast train to London Euston to catch a train to Oxenholme, which is the gateway to the Lake District. When the train was delayed, meaning I would miss the connection, our tour guide instead drove the minibus to Preston for the three-hour drive to our hostel accommodation, the YHA Wasdale Hall in Cumbria, a quaint country manor which overlooks the majestic Buckbarrow Fell and Wastwater Lake, England’s deepest and one of its prettiest lakes.

We were introduced to Georgie Dreher of Wild Revival who runs wellness sessions for people escaping the stresses of modern life and she directed us to the lakeside greenery just a short ten-minute hop from the hostel.

When I got all set to change into a swimsuit for our forest bathing session, it caused quite the giggle among the group.

Originating in Japan in the 1980s, shinrin-yoku is about slowing down, connecting with nature and focusing on the senses. No bikinis required.

Studies of shinrin-yoku have found that walking regularly in a forest can reduce blood pressure, lower cortisol levels and improve concentration and memory.  A chemical released by trees and plants, called phytoncides, was found to boost the immune system. The Japanese government were so taken with the results they have incorporated it into the country’s recommended health programme.

For our two-hour session, we were invited to do a guided meditation with our eyes closed, to being awareness to our senses by listening to the sounds of the forest and to do an exercise where we had to walk as slowly as we could, taking the time to listen to the sound of twigs crunching, watch the bluebells sway in the stiff breeze and feel the bounce of heather under our feet. It was not as easy as it sounds for somebody normally trundling around at pace.


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