Stop. Breathe. Take in your surrounds, connecting to the smells, sounds and tactile experience of the natural world around you.
In Japan, they call the active immersion of the senses in nature shinrin-yuko, or forest bathing. Based on findings by a Russian biochemist in the 1920s that phytoncides emitted by plants to help them fight off disease also benefit the human immune system, this preventative health practice is designed to unlock the power of nature to help rejuvenate and heal.
Following this theory, guided Nature Therapy Walks held at the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah invite participants to reduce stress levels through a series of sensory experiences on a mindful stroll through the rainforest of the Lady Fairfax Walk. It’s a positive and enlightening way to walk your way to wellness, a gentle kickstart to health - both for body and mind.
This is not the only way to engage your senses at our high-altitude botanic garden in the Blue Mountains, however. With 28 hectares of woodland trails, rainforest, formal garden beds and a central rock garden to explore and relax in, the wellness potential of the Garden is boundless.
Here are a few suggestions on how to unlock the health benefits of being in nature:
Salute the Sun
Bring your yoga mat and find a secluded corner of the garden to stretch your body and open your mind. There are plenty of flat lawns surrounded by shady trees, with solitude pretty much guaranteed so you can practice your downward dogs and sun salutations without interference.
Practice Tai Chi
Whether in a small group or individual practice, a Tai Chi session in the Garden will increase awareness of your inner world, allowing the five elements to inspire your breath and flow towards being at one with nature.
Jog the paths
Recent studies suggest that exercise is not only the path to a healthier body, but also to a healthier mind, literally increasing the size of some parts of the brain, such as the hippocampus. Increasing the speed of your garden exploration will certainly get the heart pumping and the calves burning, with our hillside location providing a genuine workout. Alternatively, take a power walk – the benefits are just as potent.
Roll down a hill
Perfectly manicured, weed and bindi-free and a soothing shade of emerald, the grass slopes at the Garden are made for rolling down. Release your inner child and join the youngsters who make a beeline for the hills, roaring with laughter all the way to the bottom.
Listen to birdsong
Take a moment to sit in silence, tuning into the sound of 140 species of birds that call the Garden home, from the mournful summer call of the Black Cockatoo in flight, to the raucous laugh of the Kookaburra or the chirruping of blue Superb Fairy Wrens as they flit around low-lying shrubs.
While you’re engaging with nature, feel free to hug a tree, allowing its warmth and majestic permanence inspire you. During your walks, however, make sure you tread lightly – be aware that what is underfoot can be damaged by your presence. Take note of your surrounds, and take care - what may appear to be an insignificant weed could, in fact, be a threatened species!
Many of our most endangered plant species – including the ‘dinosaur tree’, the Wollemi Pine - are particularly susceptible to pathogens that we may carry on our shoes. Please be mindful of their vulnerability, making sure you don’t wander off marked pathways if possible, particularly if you’re hiking the Gondwana or Plant Explorer Trails.
And remember, what grows in the garden stays in the garden. Please do not pick any flowers, or remove any organic matter – you may be depriving a living creature of its natural habitat.
Plan ahead and book a guided walk or check out the What's On page for activities like Nature Therapy Walks and more.