Forest Bathing with Frontier Wellbeing in South Tyrol, Italy
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Deep in the South Tyrolean forest, mighty oaks mingle with spindly beeches and spruces. At altitudes of 600m to 1800m, varied biodiversity, pure Alpine air, and a cool yet humid microclimate create the ideal atmosphere for slowing down, breathing deeper, clearing the mind, and re-engaging the senses. In other words, to practice Waldbaden. Literally translated from the German as “forest bathing,” this ancient form of nature therapy originated in Japan (Shinrin-yoku), and today is fast-gaining momentum as a restorative escape from the stresses of life spent in the concrete jungle.
Far from esoteric, the benefits of forest bathing on our well-being are backed by an ever-growing body of scientific research. The positive impact of the forest is said to extend to three major systems in our bodies, helping to balance the autonomic nervous system, stabilize parts of the hormonal system connected to inflammation, blood pressure, and heart rate, and boost the immune system through exposure to anti-cancer proteins in the filtered forest air. On a psychological level, the practice de-stresses and nurtures mindfulness. Of course, it helps to have an expert on hand to demonstrate how to harness the forest’s potential.
That’s where Martin Kiem comes in. South Tyrol’s only certified nature and forest therapy guide, the affable psychologist co-founded the wellness coaching company Frontier Wellbeing together with Christie Little in 2015. Eventually expanding their repertoire from general corporate well-being and stress management to nature-based forms of therapy, Martin today leads regular forest- bathing walks. Participants are guided through a series of gently paced exercises which engage all the senses, from touch – like walking barefoot on mossy ground and dipping one’s hands into a river – to smell and taste, such as drinking pine needle tea – and, ultimately, presence, through focus on breathing and meditation.
When the mind is engaged and time seems to stand still, even an afternoon of presence can have the rejuvenating effect of a week-long holiday.
Feature Image Credit: Helmuth Rier, Courtesy of Südtirol
Produced by Cee Cee Creative for the Berlin Travel Festival and originally printed in The New Traveler Magazine 2019 Edition.