In Japanese culture spending more time in nature is linked to good health
Limerick City and County Council celebrated heritage week with a very relaxing forest bathing workshop in Baggots Estate. This is located near the busy Crescent Shopping Centre and is a hidden oasis from the busy city life. The event was kindly funded by the Heritage Council and this year’s theme was learning from our heritage. Heritage also encompasses the natural world and forest bathing is a brilliant way to connect with the outdoors.
In early 2019, LCCC became a partner to the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan 2015-2019 and committed to implementing the actions outlined in the AIPP Guidance for Councils. Also in 2019, Limerick was awarded the title of European Green Leaf City 2020, due in part to its commitment to developing green infrastructure and promoting biodiversity throughout the city and county.
Nadine Buttery introduced everyone to the principals of forest bathing while I talked about the trees, plants and insects. I really enjoyed working with Nadine as we both have a passion for engaging with people.
Nadine has been teaching Tai Chi, Qi Gong and medication in Limerick since 2004 and works with people of all abilities.
Forest bathing or Shinrin-Yoku, is widely prescribed for health by Japanese doctors. The practice has been found to lower blood pressure, reduce cortisol levels caused by stress, giving the practitioner a sense of grounded calmness and improved physical wellbeing.
It encourages us to spend more time in nature and start to engage all of our senses. As people have learnt over the last few months, been out in the natural world is good for our physical and emotional health. The busiest parts of our lives are often in our own heads and it is so important to take time to pause breath and reground ourselves in the natural world.
Forest bathing is suitable for all ages and on the day all the generations were represented. The event was pre booking only due to Covid restrictions and Sharon, who is an Environmental technician with the Council was on hand to welcome and book everyone in.
We started off with some gentle deep breathing and Nadine asks to remember what we were like as seven year olds. We had the perfect role model to remind us, as an eight year old girl was there with her Mum and Dad. We also started to visual the first tree that we felt connected to. Mine was a tall Horsechestnut tree across from my grandmother’s house in Castleguard Limerick.
Growing underneath our feet was pineapple mayweed. It smells like pineapples when crushed between fingers and scent is one of our most important senses. We also found broad leafed plantain and this is very soothing on nettle stings and insect bites. Ragwort yellow flowers had attracted the attentions of a common carder bumblebee. Leaving more flowers for bees is part of LCCC plan to help these important but declining insects.
The path was lined with mature lime trees, hawthorn and of course Horsechestnut trees. Trees like us are the most upright of species on the planet but are also firmly rooted in the ground. They are home to countless species from birds, animals to tiny insects.
Nadine brought us back into the circle under the shade of a massive Lawson cypress tree. When you stand still nature often come to you. A tiny shrew crossed our path and he is intimately connected to his environment. Sharing knowledge, reconnecting with each other and developing new stories is part of the ethos of forest bathing.
In a large clearing we focused on our movements and breathing and as Nadine explained smile at the very noisy traffic just behind us. As we listen to our bodies the noise will fade into the background.
Back in the woods we leaned our backs against strong trees. Trees enrich and support our lives. They cleanse the air and also provide homes for countless creatures. Long tailed tits were foraging through the branches and colourful fungi were scattered on the forest flower.
The group came full circle as we arrived back at our starting point. Thanks to Limerick CCC and the Heritage council for organising the event and Nadine for staring us on a journey toward a more connected life with ourselves and nature.
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