What happens when you combine forest bathing with qigong?

I was as curious as you are!

Qigong is a traditional mind-body practice from China with roots in Chinese medicine and Daoism that can be practiced by anyone, young, old, active or sedentary. The aim of this ancient practice is to increase and manage qi, or life energy, by bringing the mind and body into alignment.

Qigong is a powerful and practical tool in everyday life to transform stress or tension back into vitality. Qigong is a form of exercise that mirrors nature. It was created by observing the natural processes and it mirrors the movement that happens in nature. We are an extension of nature, we are part of nature and by practicing qigong we can be in flow with all the energy around and inside of us to feel more alive, better in our body and clear in our minds.

While there are many styles, they are all based on similar principles:

  • a relaxed, grounded posture
  • a straight, supple spine
  • mindful breathing
  • fluid ‘movement’ without excess effort and
  • tranquil awareness.

As a personal trainer and avid hiker, I realized that ‘movement is medicine,’ and qigong was offering ‘medicine’ to anyone willing to try. Well, forest therapy is the pathway to the ‘medicine of the forest.’ And then, it all made sense. Combine the two ‘medicines’ and you have a recipe for health, wellness and happiness. And, I am all about ‘being’ happy.

SJ arms stretched wide open

Why learn qigong?

After weeks of research, I was drawn to Long White Cloud Qigong and John Munroe’s approach to teaching qigong. New Zealand is one of the most beautiful places on earth, and as a hiker I felt the healing power of nature from the first moment I set foot on the trail. It did not take much convincing to sign up to the first Qigong Foundation Practice course and after twelve weeks of study and daily practice, I qualified!

I am really enjoying the journey of discovery and learning with Long White Cloud. A remarkable number of energy medicine modalities are based on these ancient practices developed by Qigong masters in China. They were the original scientists of the subtle body, working with the circulation of Qi (life force energy) for not only health, longevity and fertility, but also to quiet the mind, release stuck emotions, and heighten spiritual awareness.

Consequently, the practice has enriched my forest bathing guided walks. ‘Forest bathers’ are describing their experiences in nature as exquisite, mind blowing and life changing.

SJ in labyrinth

What happens on a forest therapy walk?

When we first begin to spend more time in nature, we may not know what to do with ourselves. I guide people to cultivate that sense of connection to nature that may be missing in their lives. Combining forest therapy invitations with qigong offers many different ways to cultivate that nature connection while relaxing our body and mind.

Traditionally, qigong is practiced outdoors, making it really beneficial to incorporate into nature-based practices such as forest bathing. Qigong allows us to spontaneously tune our bodies with flowing movements through the changing seasons and elements. We begin to be in harmony with the natural world, in ways that are healing and pleasurable.

I guide people through natural movement, allowing the physical body to freely move and experience joy, welcoming in the healing power of forest. Typically, a forest therapy invitation with qigong will last no more than half an hour. This could be one session, or several smaller ones – it is spontaneously incorporated based on the season, the weather and the group.

I also guide forest therapy walks with longer qigong sessions for people who are interested to learn more and harness greater benefits.

SJ on bridge

Try some medicine for yourself!

Next time you are out in nature, put away your phone, close your eyes, take a few deep, long breaths, tune into the sights, sounds and aromas around you, and just relax your body. Breathe slowly, and follow the breeze with a gentle movement. Very soon you be tuning into the rhythm of nature. You will feel well, happy, and I guarantee, smiling.