“Forest Bathing” + Nudity = Naturism
In an effort to combat our indoor epidemic and reap these health benefits, a growing number of Americans have become followers of a Japanese practice called Shinrin-yoku. Coined by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in 1982, the word literally translates to “taking in the forest atmosphere” or “forest bathing” and refers to the process of soaking up the sights, smells and sounds of a natural setting to promote physiological and psychological health.
Those familiar with the German origins of naturism will immediately recognize that the movement began with this sort of trend. Around the start of the 1900s, German youth in large numbers re-embraced nature for its spiritual and health benefits. The Wandervogel and the larger youth movement took to hiking, camping, and playing in the mountains. The Lebensreform movement rejected tobacco and alcohol and embraced vegetarianism and organic food and alternative medicines.
The Freikörperkultur (FKK), or “Free Body Culture”, movement adopted both Wandervogel and Lebensreform ideas and took them to their next natural step: the temporary elimination of clothing and other artifacts of modern life. At the time there were a great many quack medicinal theories as to how nudity could heal various ailments, but the spiritual effects were (and still are) quite real. Among those benefits are those articulated by practitioners of this “new” forest breathing.
Will “Forest Bathing” take off as the new health trend in the US? I have no clue. (I doubt it.)
The more important point is that when we see folks interested in these sort of ideas, naturists need to stand up and shout, “We’ve been doing this the whole time! We are called naturists, and you should join us!”