If there’s one thing the pandemic lockdowns taught us, it’s that time outside in nature is precious and vital to wellbeing. This lesson is a lifeline in our fast-paced modern world. But it’s not a new concept. Japanese culture has long acknowledged the healing effects of nature and puts this into practice with Shinrin Yoku — otherwise known as forest bathing.
Someone for whom forest bathing is not only a key to wellness but a profession, is Jane Innis. The 57-year-old holistic healer lives in Croydon, South London, and has taken her work into the woods as a forest bathing guide. This work has taken Jane back to her roots. She said, “As a child, I was always happy in the woods and outdoors in nature. But as a teen that changed and life took over from the magical place the woods had been for me.”
While Jane found her own spiritual path and became a qualified hypnotherapist, Reiki Master and CBT therapist, she had developed “an indoor bias with only some time spent in nature.” Jane told CoE, “I became like so many other people in that the woods became scenery, areas for walks to be enjoyed but I was not as connected to them as I had been as a child.”
But the call of the wild came to Jane. She described the “drumbeat” of nature as it got louder and louder and encouraged her to step outdoors, recalling how “synchronicities and messages about being outdoors would pop up” in her life.
Just after she celebrated her 50th birthday, Jane experienced menopause. These flushes further drew Jane outside into the fresh air. “I just felt I wanted to walk and walk and keep walking, run outside, be outside.” As she began to live more of her life outdoors, feeling at home camping and foraging as she returned to nature, Jane’s menopause symptoms alleviated and she grew more peaceful and content.
Jane knew she needed to add this healing modality to her practice and share it with others. That’s when she hosted her first outdoor therapy session with meditation, visualisations, and tree-hugging. Then Jane, also a keen forager, came across the benefits of forest bathing; the art of Shinrin Yoku. The forest bathing sessions became so popular, Jane now offers weekly group sessions called Peace in the Park, one-to-one sessions, day events, half-day events and weekend retreats, as well as moon bathing sessions throughout the summer season.
She explained the concept and benefits of forest bathing, saying, “Nature is our home, we are nature. Time in nature really does help with our resilience and wellbeing.” During the lockdown, Jane lost her primary income when her work in professional training and personal development courses stopped. Jane said, “I would spend all day in the woods (don't tell!) alone just healing and I have never felt so peaceful.”
She added, “If I have something stressful to process, I go to the woods. Everything always seems less scary and stressful when looked at in the natural environment. It’s almost like the continual movement and life of the natural environment carry our burdens and keeps them moving, not allowing their energy to stagnate and weigh heavily on us.”
Jane has seen this experience reflected in her clients’ wellbeing, also, as they return to their roots. “In the forest bathing sessions, we become open to remembering the language of the natural environment. Nature was our home for so long but sadly now many people do just pass through woodland, forests or parks only seeing the trees as scenery.” But with forest bathing, Shinrin Yoku opens you up to see the trees and plants as a part of us and the whole, connecting us to nature and the universe. Indeed, there’s peace to be found when you pause to listen to understand the language of the world around you.
Research has proven the benefits of forest bathing, but Jane encourages you to try it for yourself, adding, “The experience alone lets you know it has been good for your wellbeing.” During her forest bathing sessions, the group meditates with trees and practices a healing technique Jane has developed in which attendees take in energy from the tree to their hearts, then release energy to the tree to be transmuted. Reiki and oracle cards are also incorporated into her outdoor therapies.
Jane says, “Wonderful healing does take place when I hold a space for people to be together, but also alone outdoors in nature. We journey through the senses and stop to listen to the bird song. When you start to spend a lot more time in nature you begin to remember the connection, noticing the small detail in the changes of a plant or a tree.” The tree-hugging forest bathing sessions were particularly profound during lockdown when, “especially during Covid, tree-hugging became the only hugging we did”.
“When so many other organisations had shut all indoor support groups we were able to continue outdoors, which was so valuable to many of those who came. One of the things I like is just being able to hold that space in nature for people. Mental space is so important.” Jane is able to help people work through their fears, to be alone in the woods and connect with others and themselves at the same time. She said, “People really change in nature and tension drops. Being in the natural environment beats any office or indoor space. I love it so much and am grateful I get to be outdoors and guide others outside.”
As an experienced forest bathing guide, Jane decided to take The Secret Life of Trees Diploma Course with Centre of Excellence for CPD to better understand the fascinating study of trees and their consciousness. “I felt the course helped me communicate and understand the trees as I had definitely removed the blocks to understanding.”
She has also studied the Flower and Vibrational Essences Practitioner Course to further her understanding of the vibration of all organisms and develop her hand-blended sacred space spray. Jane also completed the Mindfulness Diploma and the Flower Psychometry Diploma, which helped her CPD.
Holistic health had been a side hustle for Jane, who often offered her services voluntarily alongside charity work. But when she lost her main source of income, she turned to her healing, meditation teaching, Reiki healing and miracle work.
She said, “Having these qualifications with Centre of Excellence brought together my knowledge, filling in any gaps that I had and allowed me to get my insurance. This is so important when choosing courses.” Of her courses with CoE, Jane said, “I love how the study material uses a variety of mediums, text, video and audio for learning.”
Alongside her online courses, Jane looks forward to continuing her learning journey through nature and forest bathing, sharing that profound knowledge and calm with others.