Forest bathing, trust and yoga

our trail ride destination, Mirror Lake

You might wonder how the title of this post will pull together. I’m sort of wondering myself. But these are the top three things on my mind, so…here goes.

I recently read about the Japanese term shinrin-yoku, which means forest bathing. It’s a pretty simple concept – spending time in nature is good medicine. And the gorgeous term “forest bathing” makes it sound like an outdoor spa treatment in the enchanted forest. I keep thinking about it, and how utterly perfect an idea it truly is…and how Montana is a perfect place to do it. I’ve been fortunate enough to have spent the last week doing a lot of forest bathing. I covered 18 miles on foot hiking, and 15 miles on horseback.

me and Java

Someone asked me recently, “Are you in love with him?”, referring to Java, one of my horses. It’s actually not such a strange question – I’ve mused before on how a relationship with a horse can feel romantic in many ways. Love and trust are connected. I’ve been in love with him for awhile now, but I was working on the trust part. He was too. Yesterday our relationship reached a major milestone, when we hit some challenging steep and rocky terrain on a trail ride. We’re talking breathtaking scenery – but also tough ascents, big drop offs, and what you go up, you must also come down. I had a forest bathing high going, and somehow wasn’t terrified and/or busy doing the risk analysis of the terrain. And I realized that was also thanks to Java. I trusted him and his footing, and us working together towards a common goal. I encouraged him and talked to him, and felt him focusing his energy on the best places to put his feet. I felt the horse-human connection on an entirely new level, amplified by our beyond beautiful surroundings. I was grateful that he could take me to such an amazing place.

Towards the end of ride, we came upon some hikers with big packs, apparently something Java had never seen before. He spooked and shied, which normally sends me into a bit of a panic. This time, I asked him to trust me – and talked him though it. We were a team. A bit later when we encountered more hikers near the trailhead; he hesitated and seemed to ask, “is this ok?” and once again let me lead. I couldn’t have been more proud of both of us.

After so much forest bathing, my head had barely hit the pillow before I was asleep last night. This morning, all the muscles I’ve used hiking and riding were crying out for yoga. I ended up having one of those practices where everything felt incredibly alive – body, mind and spirit. It had to have been all the forest bathing – and yoga tied it all up with a big bow. To quote myself from my June CNN interview…yoga and Montana, they really go well together. Namaste.