National parks are full of calming things, like dozens of shades of green, fresh air, the sound of running water, bird calls, or simple, beautiful silence. Take advantage of these drawcards and supercharge your relaxation routine with these four relaxing activities:
What is it? Modern meditation can take many forms, ranging from simple breathing exercises to something far deeper and more spiritual. All types of meditation aim for a lasting sense of peace and calm.
How do I do it? Meditating can be as easy as sitting somewhere comfortable, breathing deeply and relaxing your muscles, or you can add exercises designed to quieten the mind. There are a number of smartphone apps available for guided meditation, and many even offer a free trial.
You may find it easier to meditate in a natural place like a national park, especially when you are starting out. The peaceful setting removes external distractions, while the natural habitat and sounds will increase your sense of wellbeing.
2. Forest bathing
What is it? Also known as shinrin-yoku, forest bathing is a popular practice in Japan. Essentially, it means to immerse yourself in nature, and it has been shown to have great effects like lowering blood pressure and heart rate, and even the production of stress hormones.
How do I do it? Take an hour or 2 and go for a gentle walk in the bush, concentrating on your surroundings rather than speed or distance. You could also just sit under a tree and relax, noticing the colours, sounds, scents and textures around you.
Touch things like leaves, bark and stones. Let the bird calls wash over you and watch the way the shade patches move on the ground. Take your shoes off and feel the grass or dirt beneath your feet. Look at small things closely, like flowers, insects and seed pods, and really appreciate them.
What is it? The practice of yoga originated in India, and includes meditation and moving the body into specific poses that encourage flexibility, relaxation and, for some people, deep spirituality.
How do I do it? Start with a basic class or even just a how-to video from the internet to learn some easy poses, then take what you’ve learned to your local park. When practising yoga outside, you might prefer to stick to standing poses to keep your hands and clothes clean, but if you have a soft grassy surface, you could expand your range. Remember to breathe deeply throughout your session to take full advantage of that fresh air.
4. Tai chi
What is it? Tai chi is a Chinese martial art with gentle, graceful moves that are paired with deep breathing, and can be practised by people of all ages.
How do I do it? Like yoga, a basic class or how-to video is a good place to learn some simple moves. Tai chi moves are designed to flow into each other, so your body is always in motion. Many people practise tai chi outdoors, alone or in groups, so a park is the perfect place.
Looking for the perfect park for your next outdoor relaxation session? Visit National Parks and Wildlife Service’s website for some ideas close to you. Already zen? Check out these must-do adventures in SA’s national park.
(Main image courtesy of Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs)
This story was originally posted in March 2018.