I had briefly explained to him about Woman'sBack and he immediately cut me off: " The forest can be useful for many women who have suffered from breast cancer.In a difficult time like this, of great confusion and anguish, the forest bath offers a safe space where to find (or rediscover) clarity about the process that is being living". After a few seconds I couldn't stop adding: " The forest is a complex eco-system, just like our body is, and it is in the reconnection with this natural environment that we find ourselves again < / em> without any type of filter ".
The Forest Bath is a technique originating in Japan (Shirin-yoku) that has become incorporated into the Japanese national health system . Thus, each year between 2.5 and 5 million Japanese attend forest therapy sessions at one of the 62 official centers designated by the Japan Forestry Agency. This technique has reached Europe and some countries are even beginning to locate their hospitals in forest areas because it has been observed that, in these environments, patients recover from surgeries and other treatments faster. According to the latest studies, these effects are due, in part, to phytoncides, volatile substances released by trees to protect themselves from pests and fungi.
Within a few minutes of talking to him, I began to notice that Alex was an extremely curious person and passionate about learning from other people and the environment. He confirmed to me that this was what best defined him as a person and that this philosophy of life had led him to guide forest baths in different parts of the world, thus giving him the opportunity to meet people of very diverse cultures and origins in unique and unique environments. . As part of this philosophy it was clear that, for Alex, we are not separate from our environment but we are a part of it, sometimes tiny!
When I ask him about the benefits of the forest bath, confirms that they have been widely demonstrated but reveals to me that, as in a great romance mystery, it is still unknown what are the exact mechanisms that make, after a forest bath, our blood pressure is regulated or that our NK cells (due to their acronym in English, Natural Killers ) multiply disproportionately ensuring greater protection against all kinds of diseases. " Science has not yet been able to explain the reason for all these phenomena, but it has been able, in some way, to measure it and the Japanese school has been a forerunner in these studies" .
In his book Feel the forest (Grijalbo), Alex describes some of these benefits and highlights how it improves anxiety, reduces hormones related to stress, increases system activity parasympathetic nerve while sympathetic activity is suppressed, production of cancer-preventive proteins increases, cardiovascular health is maintained, or systolic blood pressure and pulse are lowered. So I wonder: What medicine would achieve all these benefits simultaneously and without side effects?
After a while talking, he tells me the first thing he does as a guide when he gathers the participants of a forest bath. " Always at the beginning of a forest bathing experience, I explain to the participants what a forest bath is NOT and I deny something that many people believe or have heard: forest baths are not psychological therapy but rather, they consist of reconnecting with nature through all our senses ". He then explains to them, in a very close and didactic way, that the Forest Bath offers a safe place where they can learn to" be present "in nature and reconnect the senses with the environment feeling that we are part of it again. According to Alex, each participant will have "their" particular experience: " there are as many different experiences as there are people and the guide's job is to offer this space without judging or intervening in an experience that will be genuine for each one of them ". And he adds: " The forest does not expect any specific behavior from the participants ". After this short introduction, the participants already know that they will spend the next 2 to 3 hours in the forest in an experience they will never forget.
We are already reaching the end of our conversation and Alex reminds me of the important which can be for breast cancer patients, and l discover and practice this technique. The benefits are clear, the experience can be unique.
It is for all this that in this special month for us, we want to invite you from Woman'sBack to discover the forest baths to enjoy an experience that you will not be able to stop repeating over and over again.
Interview with Alex Gesse, October 2020
Alex Gesse, Feel the forest. The Shinrin-Yoku or "forest bathing" experience (Grijalbo, 2018).