Morning bathing in the forest

by Jill Kelly

The warm breeze on my face, the sound of birds and cicada overhead, dappled sunlight through the trees; and the earthy smell of pine needles radiating from underfoot.  As we gather at the trailhead of Springdale Park in Markham, our therapeutic guide, Ben Porchuk invites us to reconnect to the natural world using both body and mind. We’re about to embark on a 3 hour Forest Bathing or Shinrin Yoku session, tapping into the therapeutic benefits of being completely immersed in nature.   

With  the support of the Greenbelt River Valley Connector Program, the City of Markham is working with the Global Institute of Forest Therapy (GIFT) to enhance a series of trail systems across the municipality with the goal to create places that people can connect to nature, their local urban river valley systems and engage in passive recreational activities, such as forest bathing.  

“The health of the watershed is directly linked to the health of the community. We need to experience joy in nature so that we willingly and enthusiastically direct ourselves towards sustainable living”, Marlise Eguchi, Parks Renaissance Planner with the City shares as we meander slowly along the narrow forested path.

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Her words resonate as Ben invites us to stop and ‘talk with the trees’.  Shinrin Yoku gives us permission to playfully reconnect to nature. Any self judgement dissipates as you observe those around you sharing a quiet word with a neighbouring tree.  Over the course of the session I could feel the layers of inner tension washing away, I could breathe a little deeper (oh the divine smell of earth) and I truly felt the biological need to be connected to the natural world.  It was empowering and extremely humbling.

With the expansion of the Greenbelt to include the protection of 21 urban river valley systems across the Greater Toronto Area, people now have more opportunities to directly connect, celebrate and care for special places such as Springdale Park.  

Click here to learn more about the City of Markham’s Forest Therapy program or register for a session.

Watch City TV’s news segment on the opening of Markham’s Forest Bathing Trail. 

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