Urbanites will have the chance to immerse themselves in a nature-based wellness experience on Thursday 2 November when RSPB Sandwell Valley offers a guided forest bathing session.
Forest bathing, or being in the presence of trees, is a Japanese practice known as "shinrin-yoku" that has been shown to boost the immune system, decrease stress, lower blood pressure and improve one’s sense of wellness.
A recent academic paper extolled the benefits of forest bathing, and anyone interested in the experience can join the session, which holistic therapists Gary and Olga Evans will lead, by booking a place before 30 October. The session is free to attend, but post-session donations are welcome, and currently there are ten places available.
The Evans are yoga teachers, but also offer a range of therapies as part of their business Holistic Healing, including nature therapy inspired by the forest bathing sessions in Japan.
Sandwell Valley reserve is a former industrial site in Great Barr restored by the RSPB, and its rich, natural landscape surrounding Forge Mill Lake is a tranquil area less than five miles from the centre of Birmingham.
The reserve is known among wildlife enthusiasts as a place to view an amazing array of birds, including little ring plovers and willow tits. The habitats are also home to butterflies, dragonflies, and bats providing natural theatre.
Gary Evans said the whole focus of the sessions is to guide people to switch off and connect with the natural world.
“We combine different practices including mindfulness, grounding, and natural aromatherapy; using short exercises we also encourage the development and use of various senses,” said Gary.
“We aim to give people an opportunity to stop and look at life from a larger perspective. We have been inspired by forest bathing, currently widely practiced for its therapeutic properties in Japan and the USA.”
Sandwell Valley reserve manager Cathy Taylor added that while the area was already a destination for joggers, dog walkers and people simply looking to spend time surrounded by nature as a way to de-stress, the forest bathing session offered a more guided approach to helping people to slow down.
“Nature has a wonderful calming effect on people, however, even in these beautiful surroundings it can be hard to switch off for some,” she said.
“We hope this session will encourage the people attending to not only allow themselves to really connect with their surroundings, but also to give them some space from any pressure or stress they are experiencing.”
Sandwell Valley reserve is accessible by public transport, so visitors can connect with nature by taking the greener travel option of letting the train take the strain.
To book a place on the session, which starts at 9.30am, contact Alex Sharrod on firstname.lastname@example.org