Famille faisant un jeu de piste dans le Massif des Vosges
Discover The Vosges mountains Back
Massif des Vosges - Prendre un bain de forêt
Time out! Take a break

Take a long bath ... in the forest

  Forest bathing in the Northern Vosges

Massif des Vosges - Sylvothérapie dans Vosges du nord

Let’s start by clearing some things up. For those who aren't familiar with the concept, forest bathing has nothing to do with swimming in the woods. And don't believe any of the images that might pop up when searching about it online: it's not about cuddling with trees, either. Sylvotherapy, better known as forest bathing, is the meditative and naturopathic practice of finding serenity and connecting with the forest. To discover this surprising activity, we get bundled up, lace up our sneakers, and head to the forest of La Petite Pierre in the Northern Vosges Regional Nature Park.

Massif des Vosges - Promenade méditative

A walk in the woods

At first, forest bathing doesn't seem any different than a regular stroll through the woods. We walk in a small group alongside our guide. He soon invites us to give our full attention to the woods that surround us.

We continue forward, breathing in the aromas of sap and humus, feeling the earth and leaves under our feet, listening to the wind in the foliage, touching the bark, and observing the shapes and colours of the trees. As we concentrate on changing our focus, our thoughts begin to slowly drift away, and we concentrate on the present moment. This is the first step towards letting go.

Awaken the senses

We arrive in the heart of the forest, and our guide breaks up the walking with pauses to begin the forest bathing exercises. We stretch, take deep breaths, and take off our shoes to anchor ourselves to nature. Without revealing too much, the first exercises wake up our bodies to get us "out of our heads", as our guide says

Réveille des sens
Massif des Vosges - Promenade méditativepromenade-meditative-petite-pierre

Let's find our tree

With our bodies alert, we continue to walk. Even further into the heart of the forest, it's time to let go, give in to our senses, and find our tree. We spread out and spend a moment at the foot of the tree that called to us. They don't all have the same virtues. Firs provide energy, while robust oaks improve confidence. Beeches, on the other hand, awaken wisdom, and birches are associated with purification.

Our thoughts?

Our sylvotherapy session lasted two good hours. Before leaving, we share our impressions. Everyone feels a sense of calm and fulfilment. Some feel invigorated and energized, while others are a bit tired, but a good tired that came from truly letting go. In any case, the entire group is convinced by the experience. Our guide showed us a completely new way of understanding the forest. We will never walk in the woods the same way again.

So, how does it really work?

The more rational of you out there might be wondering how trees can have such power over us. Rest assured, it's not just a baseless belief. There is a very concrete explanation. To protect themselves from threats (fungi, bacteria, insects), trees release what are called phytoncides into the air. During a forest bath, we breathe in these molecules that then affect our cortisol levels, the stress hormone. This is how a forest bath can reduce anxiety, strengthen our immune system, or improve the quality of our sleep. 

If you were hesitant about the benefits of forest meditation in the great outdoors, you can leave your doubts behind.

Si vous étiez réticents aux bienfaits de la méditation sylvestre au grand air, vous n’avez maintenant plus de raison de douter.

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