Nature & Forest Therapy Guiding
Put simply, Shinrin-Yoku is Japanese for “Forest Bathing” or “taking in the forest with all of one’s senses.”
It is a slow-moving, deep immersion into Nature with particular focus on reconnecting with our senses; resulting in measurable physiological, cognitive, and emotional benefits. Much like walking meditation or yoga, these activities can be practiced on one’s own and yet the benefits greatly increase with regular practice and the expertise and oversight of properly trained and certified guides.
The term Shinrin-Yoku was coined in the 1980s by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries. It was a direct response to a national health epidemic; one seemingly caused by the steady increase of time spent indoors, disconnected from Nature. The past 40 years of rigorous Japanese government-sanctioned study, insights from continuing studies in Korea, Scotland, Finland, and ancient wild-tending methods practiced for millennia by indigenous peoples worldwide, have informed the establishment and ethos of the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs (ANFT) based in the United States. We are proud to have studied with and earned full Certification from ANFT.
“The Forest is the therapist. The Guide opens the doors.”
– Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides & Programs
Nature and Forest Therapy, or Forest Bathing, is a different kind of immersion in nature than you may have experienced in the past – our walks are not fitness hikes, they are not naturalist-led point-and-name tours, nor are they psychotherapy in a natural setting.
Instead, our walks are most like guided, effortless-meditation, paired with tactile attention to, and connection with, Nature. We guide invitations – suggested ways to connect with your surroundings at any given time – that are crafted to awaken your senses, encourage you to take in nature at a much slower pace than you’re probably accustomed to, enliven a more conscious connection with the inherent healing properties of nature, and provide healing attention to the Nature around you.
Our walks generally span two-to-three hours (each walk has its own designated duration, which is adhered to), they integrate culture-repair through the facilitation of sharing circles between invitations, are otherwise silent, they honor each participant’s personal space, and cover just about a mile and half over generally flat surfaces. We encourage you consider going without your mobile cellular devices for the duration – but this is not required and is solely dependent on your comfort level.
- Please dress appropriately for the weather. If the conditions are chilly, dress far warmer than you think you’ll need, as you will not be able to rely upon body heat generated from quick movement to keep you warm.
- Rain heightens the senses, so we will continue to walk in the rain unless there is lightning and thunder. Your safety is our primary concern, and walks will be canceled and rescheduled in the event of severe weather watch or warning.
- Our destinations are public places; solitude from other visitors is not expected nor guaranteed.
- Depending on the season, be prepared for possible sun burn, insect bites, allergy conditions, excessive heat, and excessive cold. Where appropriate please bring necessary repellents, weather protection, medications, and plenty of water.
- While we will not be in the remote wilderness, access to drinkable water and restrooms may be limited. Please be prepared to carry enough water to stay hydrated during our time together.
- The Welcome Letter all participants receive after registering for a walk will confirm in-detail with date, time, location, meeting place, what to bring, and information about on-site amenities such as parking, potable water, and the facilities (or facilitrees in case of remote public restrooms).
Trail Certification Consulting
The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs (ANFT) has developed a process for certifying Forest Therapy Trails to increase awareness of the practice of Forest Therapy and to offer land managers a new marketing and programming opportunity. We at Silvae Spiritus are trained ANFT Trail Certification Consultants, and are ready to guide you through the trail certification process from start to finish.
What is a Forest Therapy Trail?
A Forest Therapy Trail is a path or area where people of a wide range of fitness levels can interact with nature, primarily through their senses. They do not always conform to typical ideas of what constitutes a trail. Some trails are found in more traditional settings, like arboreta and botanical gardens, while other places might include spas, nature-adventure parks, hospital gardens, farms, urban parks retreat centers, and others.
We consider trails for certification based initially on criteria such as accessibility, safety, biodiversity, natural features, and management. We also consider how infrastructure and signage can promote both guided and self-guided Forest Therapy experiences on the trail. We strive to affirm the beauty and dignity of all ecosystems, and so ask yourself, “Is this a place where people connect deeply with nature?” If the answer is yes, then this is probably a good candidate trail.
Reasons for Trail Certification
The concept of Forest Bathing, also known as Forest Therapy, is gaining global recognition as an evidence-based approach to wellness and health. Forest Bathing sessions consist of gentle walks in which a guide uses a range of techniques aimed primarily at slowing people down from what has become a “normal” frenetic pace, and calling attention to sensory experiences of the forest and its environment.
Trail certification provides a new method for engaging your members, the public, and developing new partnerships. Let people know that your site is a place where they can experience forest therapy. Health care organizations, employee wellness programs, and groups that promote healthy living are potential partners for developing Forest Therapy programs.
Having signs promoting a designated Forest Therapy trail increases public awareness of the health benefits of being in forests. People who see the trail sign will likely have their curiosity piqued about Forest Therapy and want more information about the practice and where they can find Forest Therapy scheduled events. This is an opportunity to direct them to your programming.
ANFT certified trails fall into two categories
- Trails where an ANFT trained guide will conduct Forest Therapy walks. Trails in this category are designed to enhance the experience of guided Forest Therapy walks through basic infrastructure and accessibility alterations.
- Trails where signage allows visitors to replicate the experience of a guided Forest Therapy session without a guide. Such trails are often modified through the addition of signage designed specifically to allow visitors to self-guide themselves.
The Process of Trail Designation
If you think your trail is a good candidate, review ANFT’s steps to certification, complete the Trail Certification Interest form and indicate you would like to contract with Leigha Horton of Silvae Spiritus as your Trail Certification Consultant. We’ll move forward together from there; see you on the trail!