Remember when “forest bathing” made us smile? No more. The Japanese, of course, have long believed in the health benefits of shinrin yoku, their term for it. And thinkers like John Muir and Henry David Thoreau testified eloquently in their writings to the clarity and inspiration they found on nature walks.
These days, doctors are getting into it too, even prescribing spending time outdoors as the best medicine for ailments ranging from anxiety to diabetes. “There is ample evidence that incorporating more nature into our lives improves physical, mental and social well-being,” says Washington, DC-based physician researcher Dr. Robert Zarr.
The world of technology is also part of it. A new app, NatureQuant, doesn’t track steps or sleep, but nature exposure time. “The quality of exposure,” says NatureQuant co-founder Dr. Christopher Minson, “is as important as the quantity.” Forested landscapes, for example, have a higher AQI (air quality index) than non-forested areas, and exposure to phytoncides, the natural oils that trees release into the atmosphere, has been shown to to fight disease, reduce stress, blood pressure and heart rate. in humans. Here’s where to try immersion in the great outdoors.
Shiatsu from the forest floor?
Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort, on 5,000 square miles of roadless Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia, has long been dubbed a summer camp for the HNW crowd. It’s open May through November, and rugged luxury privileges now include six-day “Rhythms of Nature” retreats. On the menu: morning paddleboarding near the Broughton Archipelago, afternoon breathing work on a floating dock and walking meditations in the rainforest at dusk. Even traditional spa treatments have taken a wild turn: your shiatsu massage is performed on a mat on the forest floor, and sea salt and herbal scrubs are administered in the floating sauna. You can dive straight into the bay to wash up. Oh, and there’s a Yin and Gin class: yin yoga followed by mindful gin cocktail tasting. Camp spirit at its best.
Yoga in a tree?
blackberry farm, the culinary mecca of Tennessee’s pine-clad Smoky Mountains, is launching its four-day “Deep Healing Woods” retreats in May. Activities include: sunrise and afternoon yoga (yin and airy – you’re cocooned in silks hanging from the trees), meditation on a terrace built into the canopy of the trees, and hikes and runs. five to six miles, during which Hope Parks, the wellness manager, will encourage you to not only pause and listen to the birds, but smell the moss and even hug a tree (you’ve been warned) . “The more we are immersed in the sounds and scents of the forest,” she says, “the more our senses awaken and put us in the moment.” All of this exposure to phytoncides is punctuated by Blackberry Farm’s famous calorie-restricted meals, complete with dinners under the stars.
Reminder of the rainforest?
The new Costa Rica Hacienda Alta Gracia, an Auberge Resort, is the first international outpost of New York’s cult spa, The Well, and the largest spa in Central America. It is set on 180 acres of rainforest overlooking the San Isidro Valley and the Talamanca Mountains, and its services go beyond the spa walls to include crystal healing sessions under bird-filled ficus trees, herbal baths in a tub on the banks of the Calientillo River and guided ecology and meditation walks led by a botanist who also explains the healing powers of rainforest vegetation. Do you prefer nature games? Climb 100-foot-tall trees using harnesses and ropes, and abseil. Also: The on-site organic vegetable garden, coffee plantation and stables make the property feel like a private estate – nice. hostelresorts.com
Qijong in the bush?
Londolozi, a Relais & Châteaux lodge in South Africa’s Sabi Sands Game Reserve, within the Greater Kruger National Park, has reinvented the safari experience for those for whom spectacular wildlife sightings and sunsets aren’t enough . A team of life coaches, sound healers and energy workers complement the expert rangers and trackers throughout the five-day healing house retreats, during which you are asked to put down your devices photo (and phones) and to be in the moment. The roar of lions and the growls of hippos become even more visceral during silent game drives, qigong classes in the trees and cold dips in a pool suspended above the Sand River. Plant-based meals replace the traditional meat-centric braai. Relax, G&Ts are still offered, but only after a sunset sound bath session in a dry river bed.
Tea on the atoll?
The great, marine-like nature is everywhere in the Maldives, a chain of 26 atolls spanning 35,000 square miles of the Indian Ocean. Also ubiquitous are the overwater bungalows of its resorts, which seem to float on the azure expanses. Newcomer Be Joali, located on the 24-acre island of Muravandhoo on the northern outskirts of Raa Atoll, takes nature immersion even further (and no, it’s not just for honeymooners). The retreat’s 68 beach and ocean villas were built using biophilic design principles that incorporate the textures and colors of nature (think soothing furnishings in aqua hues and walls that undulate like the waves of the ocean). the ocean). But what really sets Joali Being apart are the personalized programs designed in consultation with Gerry Bodeker, President of the Global Wellness Institute’s Mental Wellness Initiative. Five-, seven-, and 12-night programs help you build healthier habits and include: morning meditation sessions on the ocean sala, overwater deck; afternoons in the sensory deprivation room of the hydrotherapy room and the Russian banya; and prescribed teas concocted for you in the herbalism center – so soothing you might find yourself ordering one instead of a sunset cocktail.
A silent meander along ancient forest paths in search of hawks and osprey, and the rhythmic casting of a fly rod across a tranquil lake serve as aids to meditation at Chatwal Lodge, a new 11-bedroom retreat on a 38-acre wilderness preserve in New York’s Catskill Mountains. thechatwallodge.com
This story appears in the April 2022 issue of City & Country. SUBSCRIBE NOW
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