Dr Maria Shapoval

Naturopathic Doctor

De-Stressing in Nature or Shinyin-Yoku Outside My Doorsteps

Shinyin-Yoku is  “forest bathing”. This practice comes from the early 80’s of Japan and helps to relieve negative emotions, balance cortisol and release stress. It is a practice that incorporates the healing power of nature with stress management techniques and provides a way to connect to the environment.

My recent experience:

Pause… take a deep breath in. Savor the scent of soil, far away flowers and some unknown, yet sweet and familiar fragrance. Then breath out fully and completely, as if all the worry I carry is but how stinky gas that stagnates my chest and constricts my soul. A few meters away the birds are putting on their afternoon musical, chirping and tweeting without a pause for full ten minutes and then falling into complete silence. In their silence the rustling of the leaves and flapping of their wings become more prominent. Soon these sounds are replaced by a calm, melodic solo by an anonymous bird hiding from my sight within the red maple tree.

Another breath in… and another one out.

My focus shifts towards the subtle sensation of the warm wind on my face and the seemingly cool breeze on my bare feet. The wind seems to be blowing off the steam and tension that I habitually carry in my calves and toes.

Life is stressful. But here, in these brief moments of peace, it seems but far away background noise. I can feel my heart rate slow down and the tightness in my belly begin to uncoil. How long has it been trapped like that I’m not really sure, but its not surprise I’ve been feeling exhausted and brain fogged lately. How could anything flow to my brain or heart or limbs, when everything has been trapped inside these tense muscles?

The nourishing green.

How I’ve missed this colour with all its richness and diversity; the forest greens, the limes, teals, and olives. It is no wonder that the roots of medicine, and in particular naturopathic medicine, are steeped in nature. The sanitoriums and nature retreats focus not only on good clean food and healthy doses of exercise but also immerse their participants into nature’s healing elements. 

Whether its barefoot walking, meditating under a tree, breathing the sea salt infused air or being massaged by the strong mountainous winds – at its heart, these practices connect our senses with the elements of nature that have inspired our evolution, regulated our genes and evoked powerful emotional, soul-enriching experiences, which we’ve tried so hard to put into words and onto canvases for a very, very long time. 

A poem on the subject:

“The grass so little has to do,-

A sphere of simple green,

With only butterflies to brood,

And bees to entertain,

And stir all day to pretty tunes

The breezes fetch along,

And hold the sunshine in its lap

And bow to everything;


And thread the dews all night, like pearls,

And make itself so fine,-

A duchess were too common

For such a noticing.

And even when it dies, to pass

In odors so divine,

As lowly spices gone to sleep,

Or amulets of pine.

And then to dwell in sovereign barns, 

And dream the days away,-

The grass so little has to do,

I wish I were the hay!”

~Emily Dickinson


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