What is Forest Therapy?
Forest Therapy, also known as shinrin-yoku or “forest bathing,” is the art and practice of using a combination of the human senses to become fully and mindfully immersed in a natural setting, primarily a forest, so that participants are under a canopy of trees. However, any natural environment will do.
The practice began in Japan, who studied its healing effects in great detail in hopes of addressing the growing health concerns attributed to the stresses of Japanese work culture. It did not take long for western scientists to begin to take note of these studies and perform their own. Such studies have demonstrated a wide array of health benefits, especially in the cardiovascular and immune systems, and for stabilizing and improving mood and cognition.
This rather intense, yet relaxed practice renews us in a way that allows our inner peace and health to radiate beyond the Forest Therapy walk and positively impact our day to day experiences.
Below are some frequently asked questions…
There are no formal definitions for terms like Forest Therapy, Forest Bathing, Nature Therapy and Shinrin-Yoku but this our approach to these terms.
Forest Bathing is the English translation of the Japanese word and concept Shinrin-Yoku and what has inspired this movement. It is the simple art of spending quality time outdoors, ideally under the canopy of trees.
Forest and Nature therapy both refer to a more structured or facilitated application of forest bathing that adds elements of nature teachings and mindfulness exercises. It is especially useful since the idea of spending "quality time outdoors" has become so foreign and difficult for us. How often do you see people in parks and hiking trails glued to their phones or carrying radios? Silence, stillness, and mindfulness are so far removed from our fast paced life that it helps to have someone there to guide and encourage you, and help maintain that space so that the benefits associated with forest bathing can be more readily reaped.
Forest Therapy attracts a wide range of demographics from students to stay-at-home parents to CEOs to retirees so there is no one type of person suited for forest therapy. Some guides cater to specific groups and/or take a more “New Age” type approach complete with crystals and other typical accoutrements.
We take a rather practical and simple approach, trying to avoid metaphysical jargon while still drawing on a wide range of techniques and exercises which may sometimes come across as a little “New Age.” We pull from many cultures and self-care practices to ensure there is something for everyone and to keep things varied and interesting.
As always, all invitations are optional and done in a judgement-free zone. We invite you to try new things when comfortable and decide for yourself what is useful for you. It is about the experiencing, not the doing.
There's a growing body of evidence that the practice can help boost immunity and mood and help reduce stress. The science aside, the simple act of taking a break from the stresses of modern life and the technology designed to bombard our senses and demand our attention has a positive effect on our well being.
Given the testimonials which abound from various sources that show the value of forest therapy, and the affordability and simplicity of it, we invite you to try it for yourself. As with any form of self-care, what you bring to it plays a large role in what you get out of it, so come with an open, playful, and curious mind.
While your guide will try to keep the experience varied each time, unless a specific walk includes a hike (which would be made known at registration) it is safe to expect a leisurely walk on an easy, well-maintained trail. The distance will not usually be very far (around 3/4 of a mile) and most of the walks will be under forest canopy when possible.
During the walk guests will be invited to participate in series of guided meditations and mindfulness exercises to help become more present, awaken the senses, and reconnect with Nature. At the end of each walk is a tea ceremony with some snacks.
Sessions vary from one to three hours in duration depending on location, weather, and size of the group.
Traditionally no, the walks are not intended to be strenuous and are on easy trails. Over a period of two to three hours we do not actually cover more than a mile, probably closer to a half mile. It is not about distance or getting a workout, but about the experience. Time will likely go faster than you would expect or want!
That said, we have developed a program which merges with hiking since there are therapeutic advantages to physical exercise, and the moments after strenuous activity can be conducive to mindfulness work. (Not to mention the joy of the scenic spots along the way.) We will clearly indicate when there would be hiking involved.
So let's just say there are options for those interested! We want to have fun with this!
We encourage you to get outside every day.
As far as forest bathing or forest therapy goes, its effects are cumulative and so developing a weekly or semiweekly practice will go a long way. These do not always have to be with a guide although you'll learn many techniques and exercises from one and it is easier to stay immersed and present when a guide is assisting. (We do offer discount packages for those wanting a more regular facilitated experience.)
We welcome adults of all ages and retirees frequent our walks. Walks are not strenuous unless that specific event is listed as being paired with a hike.
Ultimately we need to rely on your judgement on what level of activity you are comfortable with and events can be catered to your needs within reason. If you feel you have special needs then private sessions allow us to better accommodate you without worry of disrupting the group.
We invite you to reach out to us and discuss your needs. Adult day care and nursing homes are also welcome to reach out to us for ways in which we can help bring the forest therapy experience to your facility!
We want everyone to experience Forest Therapy. Private sessions are easier to plan for special needs, but if we have advanced notice of interest in attending a public group event we can search for places that can accomodate us.
Let's talk and see what ideas we can come up with! We may not be experienced with all situations so please be patient with us as we work out the details with you.
(We welcome service animals and ask that you check with the specified walk location to ensure the location will fit your needs.)
Here is a handy checklist of items I to bring on our walks:
- Dress comfortably. Loose fitting close and a layer or two if cold so you can add/remove layers based on your level of activity.
- Appropriate footwear (see below considerations)
- Weather gear as needed: umbrellas, rain ponchos or jacket/pants.
- Sunscreen and bug repellent.
- Water (ideally in a reusable bottle to lessen plastic use.)
- If the day is cold might want to consider bringing a thermos with a hot drink.
- Snacks or a light lunch for the end of the walk.
- Towel or blanket for sitting (if you need a portable chair you are welcome to bring it).
- If you need to take any medications with you consider this a reminder.
- Additional considerations:
Please consider using a reusable water bottle or thermos for your water so as to reduce waste. This is a great opportunity to become mindful of your personal impact on the environment. These little things do make a difference.
Bring a small bag for your garbage - we follow a carry in, carry out policy. We encourage participants to carry out at least one item more than they brought in should they stumble upon a stray discarded bottle or wrapper.
A note on footwear:
For a typical walk, there is no need to worry about heavy duty boots or hiking shoes since we do not walk very far unless that specific event was being paired with a hike. Barefoot is fine in most cases, but if you are not used to being barefoot outdoors it can be a bit intense on a trail so perhaps wear flip flops or sandals you are comfortable in which you can slip in and out of as needed. Ultimately wear what is comfortable.
Also check out our blog post on what to bring for more ideas.
It happens. If you need to leave early please let the guide know so it can be planned in a way to least disrupt other attendees.
There are many options available but a typical walk starts at $25 a person with group discounts and private walks available. While we try to use locations that are free to the public, some locations may charge a small entry fee which is not included in our fee.
We do offer the occasional free (with optional donation) event to allow those with concerns about cost or value to still enjoy their moment of self-care. These walks are exactly the same as the paid ones.
(Discounted rates for low income individuals and group rates for organizations are available.)
I limit walks to a maximum of 10-15 people but prefer 5 or less. Private sessions are available for individuals, couples, and groups (friends, teammates, staff, etc.).
Primary focus is the Garrison/Cold Spring area, but there are walks offered in all boroughs of NYC as well as in Westchester and locations further north. The objective is to explore many places to find which locations work best for the group. Ultimately we’ll concentrate on the areas that work best for our clients.
Both pets and children add an element of distraction or triggers to others so are generally not permitted on group walks. We'll make exceptions for well-behaved pre-teens if accompanied by a guardian.
However, if members are interested in organizing a pet and/or child friendly event, that can be arranged if there is enough interest or via a private session! (We're not too experienced with working with children but we love to learn and are willing to try out some ideas!)
We welcome service animals and ask that you check with the specified walk location to ensure the location will fit your needs.
Yes. I know it is not always easy to pull away from our phones and tablets, but this is an integral component of forest therapy. If you need to have your phone on at all times please book a private session so as to respect the experience of others in the group who welcome the momentary respite from our demanding technology.
If you have a watch you are encouraged to remove it as well for added peace of mind.
Not during the walk itself. We invite you to become fully present in your experience. Taking photos to capture a moment results in losing touch with the present. Social media can wait and is not welcome in this space. At the closing of the walk guests are welcome to take group photos, etc. but please ensure you have the permission of others who would be in the photos.
(At free events the guide may request to take some photos for use on the website/blog but this is an infrequent special exception.)
So as not to disturb the other participants we ask you to allow yourself this time to become more present and centered. There will be plenty time to chat during breaks and after the event.
This is your time. You will be invited to participate and that participation is completely optional.
If you are shy or have social anxiety consider a private session or just speak with a guide so he or she knows to respect your space. While any invitations from the guide will be simple and non-intrusive, please let us know when something makes you uncomfortable so we can better accommodate you.
You can absolutely do your own forest bathing. In fact you are encouraged to take away and use anything you learn from your walks with a guide on your own. The trick to getting the benefits of forest bathing is to 1) get into the woods and 2) slow down, quiet down, become present. It’s that second part that can be difficult and why many like to supplement their personal practice with the help of a guide.
A guide’s role is to help keep you engaged and provide various tools through which to help maintain presence and mindfulness. It can certainly enhance one’s experience but everyone is encouraged to also do forest bathing on their own.
Apart from when the weather is deemed a safety concern our sessions will still take place.
Rain, light snow, and overcast days can really enhances one’s sensory experience and thus benefit your session.
Be sure to check the weather and bring appropriate gear. Umbrellas are fine, rain ponchos are very useful and easy to pack.
No. Forest Therapy is not a substitution for professional help for those that need it - be it medical or psychological.
"Therapy" here refers to the therapeutic and healing attributed to the immersion in nature. Nature is the inferred therapist/healer. The guide simply provides structure and invites guests to participate in various exercises and practices to get the most out of the experience.
The event is smoke free. If you are not able to wait until the end to have a cigarette or e-cigarette you can quietly excuse yourself from the group to smoke at a reasonable distance from the others. Please be mindful of how smoke can travel and that these breaks remove you from the experience.
Drugs and alcohol have no place here and would impede your experience. You will be respectfully asked to leave if you are found to be under the influence.
Pretty much! The outdoors has its inherent risks (insects, wildlife, poisonous plants, and tripping hazards). We do our best to choose trails which are well maintained and generally the risks of insects and wildlife are low in this area. Still, if you are not familiar with the environment a certain level of caution is to be maintained. Never touch or eat plants you do not recognize, avoid disturbing insects and wildlife, and be mindful of your surroundings.
Traditional Forest Therapy walks are not strenuous but we sometimes include hiking so in those cases (which would be clearly indicated with the event's information) be sure to discuss any health concerns with the guide to ensure the level of intensity is within your limits.
Yes. We live in litigious times and even a leisurely stroll through the woods has its inherent risks. All participants sign a simple liability waiver at the start of the event to allow us peace of mind in offering our walks to the public.
John, the host was really friendly and the overall experience was awesome! The group was really open minded and friendly as well.
John has such a calming demeanor and brings such warmth and soul to his forest therapy programs. I highly recommend spending this guided time in nature if you’re feeling burnt out and disconnected from nature. The world would be such a better place if more people took the time to get back to nature and mindfulness in this way!
A lovely place and charming way to spend the morning. You will leave with a deeper connection with the natural beauty around you.
If you want to discover, try something new or realign with whom you are, try forest therapy. John is an outstanding life coach. He combines the senses and nature for self-discovery. Coach John is inspirational, humble, and sees coaching as art and a discipline. He takes excellent care of the group through the walk and at the end, he had tea and snacks for us! Who does that and he played the flute. Forest therapy is a good ending or beginning for the week. Thank you, John.
Thanks to John’s exceptional guidance I now have a broader perspective of my relationship with nature.
The host (John) was excellent. He was knowledgeable and provided a great experience which I found meaningful and interesting
Lovely experience. Our host John provided a supportive atmosphere to calm and relax and appreciate our time together and the nettle tea was wonderful!
John has this subtle humor at times which is hysterical once you catch it. Really a fun person to work with!!! This guy has class!
What a fun guide! Thanks for making me feel comfortable since I did not know anyone. I had a blast!!!
Very well-run event. Our guide John was personable, knowledgeable and experienced. We had a blast and made several new friends. I thought I knew Central Park but this Meetup Experience opened a whole new side of the park to me. Highly recommend!