Puneites is approaching and personal with nature through the forest bath

While it is not uncommon to see people exercising or jogging at the SPPU Alice Garden on a daily basis, on weekends you may find yourself doing the exact opposite, such as meditating in a quiet corner, creating works of art from leaves and branches, or 'open your senses to the surrounding vegetation'.

Meet the forest bathers: a growing clan in the city, which believes in the healing power of trees and forests.

The Shinrin-yoku practice, or bath in the forest, originated for the first time in Japan in the 1980s. Tanya Ginwala, a clinical psychologist and practitioner based in Pune, describes it as simply being in nature, connecting with him through our senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. It acts as a bridge between you and nature. By opening our senses, it closes the gap between us and the natural world. All you need to do is reduce speed and follow your senses. Find a place, sit there and enjoy all that nature has to offer.

India was introduced to Shinrin-yoku recently, and at the forefront of this trend is the filmmaker Nitin Das, whose 51-minute documentary film, 2018, titled The healing forests of India , brought the practice to the center of attention in the country.

Meet the growing tribe of bathers in the Pune forest

The documentary, which takes viewers on a journey through lush rainforests, sacred forests, cloud forests, city forests, food forests and deep valleys of the Himalayas, presents different people from various areas of life that express the benefits they witnessed after participating in the activity. .

The filmmaker believes that the activity can facilitate healing. He explains: “Certain coniferous trees such as pine, cedar and cypress produce phytoncides to protect themselves from pathogens. Breathing these phytoncides is beneficial for the human body. ” In fact, Tanya has also instilled forest baths in her therapy sessions. We take a closer look at the practice and the new tribe of bathers in the city.

THE ART OF FOREST BATH

So, how is a bathing session in the forest, we ask Tanya, who proceeds to break down. “One of the first things we do at the beginning of the session is to talk about our only memory with nature. I meet people who don't even remember the last time they were in such a green space, so I start remembering memories in nature. Then the sensory activity begins, which consists of connecting with your senses. Then, we begin to perceive the environment through that sensory organ. Although we have five senses, we hardly use them all these days. So many things are happening that we tend to ignore our surroundings. You will be surprised by the kind of things that people hear, see and smell, ”explains Tanya.

She clarifies that these sessions are different from nature walks, where one learns about different types of trees or flowers. Instead, it's about talking to yourself and slowing down, so you can appreciate and understand things.

In addition to this, it also incorporates art, poetry and, most importantly, solo time in the sessions. “I ask participants to collect anything from the space around and create something with the help of others, I also ask them to write about how they feel and, more importantly, in the end I give them time alone. When they can find a quiet place to spend time with themselves, says Tanya.

Tanya organizes these forest bath sessions once or twice a month, in areas such as Lake Pashan, SPPU and Koregaon Park. She always prefers smaller groups and activities are decided based on the type of participants attending the session.

THE FOREST BATH CAN HELP YOU AWAY FROM DISEASES, LIKE EXERCISE AND YOGA

Several studies have pointed out the various benefits of the practice, which go beyond being an antidote against stress and depression.

According to a study by the Department of Hygiene and Public Health of the Nippon School of Medicine, Tokyo in 2007, bathing in the forest leads to an increase in the number of NK cells, perforin, granulisin and granzymes that express A/B in the body, that can prevent the development of cancer.

“Human beings have lived in nature for centuries. Only in the very recent past, with the growing urbanization and technology, have we disconnected from nature. This disconnection is affecting our mental, physical and spiritual health, says Tanya, who has been trained with Nitin. The latter clarifies that bathing in the forest alone cannot help with medical conditions. This practice is more as a complement to ongoing medical treatment. “Bathing in the forest is a preventive activity, as is exercise and yoga. It is not a substitute for doctors. The benefits start as soon as 20 minutes in the activity. Most professionals recommend at least two hours a week. To get the best results, which can last up to a month, you should try a two or three day trip to a relaxing and natural area, explains Nitin.

Navneesh Makkad, therapist and other forest bath facilitator, who is also trained with Nitin, believes that in order to obtain the benefits of nature, it is not necessary for one to be in a forest. A single tree can also help you, he says, and adds: “A park can also have the same effect on you. A forest is considered ideal for ancient reasons, but anything in its neighborhood can work, ”says Nevneesh.

IT IS RELAXING AND EXTREMELY ILLUMINATING, THE FOREST SWIMSUITS SAY

According to the facilitators, most of the people who attend these sessions are between 25 and 35 years old. One of the main reasons why, Navneesh explains, is because that is the demography that recognizes the importance of mental health. “Today, young people recognize and address these problems much more, compared to the previous generation. If they are stressed, they will say: I am stressed and I want to fix it. That is also due to the reducing stigma around it. You can go out and talk about it, ”says Navneesh.

Narendran Rajendran, a training consultant, who attended a forest bath session recently, says: “I was very curious to attend the session. The name Shinrin-yoku itself was fascinating enough to get my attention. But the session was much more than I expected. That hour was a much needed break from my busy life. I have to reconnect with nature and observe it in silence and be one with it. For the first time, I could be here, and my mind was calm.

Siddhant Mantri, a full-time investor, bathed in the forest to distract himself from his daily routine and reconnect with his childhood memories in the midst of nature: “I had an experience that was extremely enlightening. Walking in the forest in silence makes you realize your own nature. I felt a wave of silence invade me. The forest has a lot to offer, if only we could reduce the speed and learn to assimilate it. It helped me relax, appreciate beauty more and feel a connection to the universe. I went home feeling very charged and excited to live, says Siddhant. And he adds: “As a practice, I walk slowly in parks and gardens every day. This is one of the best parts of my day. I try not to touch my phone during this time dedicated to myself. I go wherever my body goes, I play what I feel like touching and I try to consciously absorb nature using my senses. Over time, the practice of enjoying the forest is effortless. I am grateful to have found this, it has benefited me immensely. Best of all, it's free and available to everyone.

With increasing urbanization and increasing deforestation, Nitin believes that logging can be controlled through this practice, because people will strongly oppose. “The more people connect with nature, the greater the possibility of protecting our forests. If people cannot easily access the forest, as in the case of the elderly or people with disabilities, sensory-based exercises can also be done around indoor plants and nature-related objects, ”says Nitin.

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