Did you know that “air bathing” is actually a thing?
In the 19th century it was made popular in health resorts both by the sea and in mountainous areas. The idea or notion that bathing in the sea, taking in the sea or mountain air, whichever was the case, was a popular thing to do. Even Benjamin Franklin believed that the common cold was caused by spending too much time cooped up inside, so he began to take regular “air baths” to avoid getting sick. He opened the windows in his house and sat by them naked to get the full benefits of the fresh breeze. He believed that the air would open the body’s pores and pull out the toxins. Despite his lack of medical knowledge, he was really onto something.
One of the first things my mother told me to was to expose my baby’s skin to the air to stimulate lymphatic movement, and clean and strengthen her skin. I didn’t quite understand nor did I think to question it. It was just something we did. The air will cleanse the skin and help build strength. We’re often so afraid to let children sit in the sun or play in the dirt. But we are all a part of nature, and we benefit from being as close to nature as possible. The sun is a life-source. It provides us with important vitamins and actions in the body that keep us healthy. Connecting our bare skin to the earth gives us access to it’s powerful magnetic energy. It keeps our hearts healthy and reduces stress and pain. That’s why we all feel so great when we spend a day out in nature.
Forest bathing is a similar concept, but involves surrounding yourself with trees. This age old practice of going for a walk in nature has been around for eons, but it wasn’t until the early 1990s that japanese doctors began prescribing time away from urban centers to reconnect with nature and get grounded, de-stress and lower blood pressure. Today, it is recognized as a treatment program for ill patients. The idea is to go to a forest or park, anywhere with access to trees. Do not go with an alternate purpose, you aren’t going to hike, or have a specific destination in mind. Let your body be your guide, disconnect from technology, and walk slowly through nature. Open all of your senses to what’s around you, and fully absorb your environment. Feel the breeze and the sunlight dance through the trees, touch the bark, close your eyes, and take a deep breath. Trees and forest environments are the source of a variety of essential oils, from wood, plants, fruit and vegetables. You’ll have access to these just by being there.
The Japanese conducted studies that showed significant reductions in blood pressure and certain stress hormones after forest bathing. They found that by inhaling tree-derived compounds, known as phytoncides, the activity of white-blood cells was enhanced. The inhalation of cedar wood oils specifically was found to cause a small reduction in blood pressure as well.
The average American spends 93% of their time indoors. Between work, grocery shopping, gym sessions, and more, it’s easy to forget to spend a little time outdoors. About 42% of the US population is vitamin D deficient. Additionally, an estimated 103 million US adults have high blood pressure and are at risk for heart attacks and strokes. Do your body a favor and get out into nature. Make it a part of your daily ritual to step outside, or open a window, and take a deep breath and clear your mind. In these colder months, I love to finish a moment of air bathing with a warm cup of tea. Your skin and body will love you for it.