Why not take a (forest) bath ?
There are a great many benefits to forest bathing: sylvotherapy awakens the 5 senses and breathing in forest air is good for your general health. The practice can also fulfil a more serious role as a complement to medical treatment, it can lower stress levels and negative thoughts, help when you’re feeling under pressure, increase energy, lower blood pressure and help you to concentrate…
AN ANCESTRAL PRACTICE IN THE HEART OF NATURE
Magic? Not quite, but breathing forest air allows you to absorb a number of helpful substances such as phytoncides, terpenes and negative ions, not to mention oxygen. Forest air is pure thanks to phytoncides, a volatile substance produced by trees to defend against attack, but also to communicate with each other, and very beneficial to our immune system. The trees that produce them in the largest quantities are birch and poplar.
“Scientific studies in Japan have been able to show that forest bathing increases the level of lymphocytes in the immune system, which leads to better protection from viruses. Terpenes are fragrant organic compounds produced by conifers and deciduous trees (contained in the resin) to communicate with each other and purify the air. They have anti-inflammatory, anti-allergenic and pain- relieving properties. Turpentine, camphor and menthol are all terpenes most commonly used in perfume-making.
In the forest, you can also soak up negative ions. When the wind makes tree branches rub against one another, it stimulates their atoms and charges the air with negative electricity. Just like phytoncides and terpenes, negative ions are present in our blood, and breathing them in lowers our cortisol (stress) levels. They’re the opposite of positive ions (found in large quantities indoors), which cause inflammation and cell damage. That’s why it’s so important to get regular fresh air, in a forest for example” explains Frédérique Arthuis, a sylvotherapy practitioner in Chamonix.
A FOREST BATH IN LES 3 VALLÉES
This winter, a number of sylvotherapy sessions, run by herbalist and tree therapist Sabrina Millot, are taking place in Saint-Martin- de-Belleville. During the two-hour session, she combines a little theory with lots of practical experience.
“Sylvotherapy is all about communicating with trees and nature. First of all, you need to wear comfortable clothes and walking boots. For beginners, it’s easier to start with a spruce than a daisy. I invite participants to call upon their 5 senses. The session begins with a short meditation, followed by a slow walk with breathing exercises. Everybody finds their own relaxation technique and way to switch off from their routine. Often, I give them edible tree leaves to taste, and invite them to smell bark and moss. By listening, we pay attention to the sounds that surround us. One of the practical exercises we offer consists of touching a part of a tree and communing with it. One part of the body has to be in contact with the tree, the hand, the back, whatever you like”, the tree therapist explains.
In the Belleville valley, there are both deciduous trees and conifers. Each participant chooses their own tree. “Forest bathing lets you de-stress and find answers to existential questions.
I’ve been practising sylvotherapy for thirty years. It brings me a sense of well-being and answers to questions. The forest is like my coach. I go there every day, whatever the weather. I encourage those who attend my sessions to go out into nature as often as possible, even if it’s just a park in town. In France, 75% of the population lives less than 30 minutes from a forest,” adds Sabrina Millot.