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The Art of Forest Bathing 

Cedar and pine boughs with a bottle of St. John's Wort tincture.

In my travels as an herbalist, I have witnessed plants used in many ceremonies. One of the first that I learned early in my path was spiritual bathing. Spiritual bathing is using the plants and the elements (fire, water, earth, sound, air, nature) to facilitate wellness on an energetic level. From birth to death, spiritual bathing ceremonies use elements such as incense, sacred water, decocted plants, sound, and even “forest bathing'' to bring balance. In my own practice, I have found it to be one of the most powerful modalities for times of transition and transformation.

We take herbs, eat well, and exercise to support our bodies. We meditate, see our therapist, and take herbs that help the mind. How do we similarly feed the spirit? Many traditional indigenous practitioners throughout time recognized that nurturing the spirit or the soul is an important part of wellness. Their patient care included plant-based remedies, but also baths, prayer, symbology, and mantra use. They understood the importance of invoking and evoking the power of plants in all ways to support the health of the mind, body, and spirit. In the process, they harnessed the power that can come from giving someone a personal role in their own journey to wellness. I have seen this power firsthand and use it as a main focus when working with people to move grief and other emotions in the body.

Finding Your Voice in the Forest

We have all heard of the term tree hugger and many of us have been called one. According to Matthew Silverstone, author of Blinded by Science, there is evidence that being with trees leads to substantial increases in oxytocin, which is the same hormone that your body produces during moments of emotional bonding. Silverstone believes this has to do with the vibrational properties of the trees and plants. 

In Japan “shinrin-yoku” is a mindfulness practice in which people immerse themselves in the sounds of nature. Shinrin means “forest,” and yoku means “bath”: so, forest bathing or taking in the forest through the senses.

I was speaking about this with sound healer, music alchemist, and fellow North Carolina native, Rickie Byars. We were discussing difficult transitions and I asked her what is one practice that grounds her quickly in such times. She said when she was a child, she would lean up against a pine tree that was in her front yard and dream. The trees have always brought her comfort in times of change. Now while creating a new life and new vision for her work, she has come back to this practice to realign herself in her garden. “I lay my spine against the pine tree at my home and feel it align me...not only my physical body but my spirit.”

We also talked about using sound and song to deepen this forest bathing experience as it connects to Africa. “Sound is the original language of the universe,” Byers said. We spoke of African cultures where a mother wanting to have a child would go into the woods to listen for the song of the child that would come. That child’s song would be sung throughout its life in times when they needed strength from the village and to remember who they were. The power of a song or a personal mantra can help ignite the fire of change and support one in reclaiming personal power. May you speak sweetness into yourself and find your soul song. 


Woman sitting with her back to a tree in the forest.

Forest Bathing Using Sound

  1. Find your favorite space in the forest. 
  2. Sit next to a tree with your back against it and begin taking deep belly breaths.
  3. When your mind begins to settle, begin to allow the sounds of the forest to
    come in. Notice the smells and how the wind, ground, and tree feel.
  4. Place your hand on your heart and sing the favorite song of your soul, chant
    “I AM,” or simply scream to release. 
  5. Gently rise and hug the tree, thanking it for the medicine while slowly walking back.

 

Bringing the Forest to your Bath

I love this ”seeing the forest through the trees” bath for grounding, ancestor connection, and mental clarity. This bath experience pairs well with pine and peppermint tea to sip. Add in skullcap for extra chill.

Forest Spiritual Bath Tea

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Bring water to a boil in a medium pot and turn off.
  2. Add lavender, cedar or willow, and pine needles.
  3. Cover and let steep for 20-30 minutes. Strain herbs from infusion and compost.
  4. Meanwhile, combine carrier oil and essential oils in a small bottle and roll between palms to blend.
  5. Add herbal infusion, mixed essential oils, salt (purification), clay or earth (grounding), St. John’s wort extract or oil (illumination), and optional coconut milk to warm bathwater.
  6. Light a candle, find your song or recite your mantra, soak in all that is natural and pure, and be ready to release that which isn’t serving you. 

 

Spiritual Body Scrub

You can also create a  sacred and invigorating body scrub instead of a bath.

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Add all ingredients and mix until fully incorporated.

To Use

  1. Add a few drops of tree-inspired essential oils directly onto your shower floor.
  2. Inhale as you mindfully rub the herbal scrub onto your skin, shedding all that is unwanted or not helpful and unveiling clean fresh skin that is able to soak in more light. 

 

Want More soothing soak options?

Learn to Make Herbal Bath Salts, Oils, and Tea Soaks


You may also enjoy:

The Art of Forest Bathing Pinterest pin for Mountain Rose Herbs.

 


Topics: Aromatherapy, Natural Body Care, Recipes, Herbalism

Lucretia VanDyke

Written by Lucretia VanDyke on June 30, 2021

With a journey that began as a little girl mixing herbs, clays, and muds on her grandparents’ farm, Lucretia VanDyke has been in the herbal industry for over 20 years. A holistic educator, speaker, herbalist, ceremonialist, spiritual light coach, intuitive energetic & reiki practitioner, diviner, storyteller, artist, and world traveler, she has accumulated over 3000 hours of training. She has studied with indigenous healers and some of the greatest minds of our time. Lucretia has been a holistic esthetician & healing arts practitioner for over a decade focusing on integrating indigenous healing rituals, plant spirit medicine, and meditation into modern-day practice. Lucretia brings her vivacious spirit and message of self-love in her work to inspire others to embrace their unique beauty and purpose. Her work with herbs and sacred practices honors women's wholeness through grief work, sexual trauma, ancestor connection, womb healing, self-empowerment, food alchemy, and holistic skincare. She is currently collecting stories throughout the south while working on expanding her BIPOC community healing arts and herbal education program.


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