16 November 2013

Shinrin Yoku

Shinrin Yoku is a modern kind of nature cure. Japanese scientists are currently doing a lot of research on the benefits of walking in forests. Shinrin yoku translates into 'forest bathing'. Having attached various machines to people and analysed the change in blood pressure and brain activity they have concluded taking time to walk in woodlands is a good thing for your health.

The scientists say these health benefits are due to chemicals, called phytoncides, exuded by the trees. These are the chemicals contained by all plants used to protect themselves from infection, rotting and being eaten. Human bodies seem to interact with them to produce similar results (ie, they stop you rotting).

In the video below the lovely American reporter explains that science has to be employed to provide hard evidence for what most people intuitively already know because research is needed to convince town planners and the like that it is worth preserving and creating green spaces within the urban environment.

What a desperate barren world we live in when numbers have to be used to persuade the powerful that people need trees and sunlight and quiet joy.

Are phytoncides the woodland fairy folk our ancestors saw? Modern science boils down good feelings into chemicals that we cannot see. Perhaps those good feelings are just as well explained by spirits similarly invisible to the walker in the wood.

Let the trees be consulted before you take any action
every time you breathe in thank a tree
let tree roots crack parking lots at the world bank headquarters
let loggers be druids specially trained and rewarded
to sacrifice trees at auspicious times
let carpenters be master artisans
let lumber be treasured like gold
let chain saws be played like saxophones
let soldiers on maneuvers plant trees give police and criminals a shovel
and a thousand seedlings
let businessmen carry pocketfuls of acorns
let newlyweds honeymoon in the woods
walk don't drive
stop reading newspapers
stop writing poetry
squat under a tree and tell stories.

- John Wright

If you haven't already discovered her I urge you to look at the blog of Terri Wilding, 'Myth & Moor'. She has written a long series of posts about the mythic wood.