Friday, April 7, 2017

Event Preview: Shinrin Yoku Meditative Walks

The Historic Gardens and Iris Bridge.
Duke Gardens visitors often remark that they feel calmer and more focused after a stroll through the Gardens. Consider taking this benefit to the next level by joining forest therapy instructor Dana Malaguti for a Shinrin Yoku meditative walk.  Dana spoke with us about this intriguing practice that is gaining popularity.
Fountain at the entrance to the Culberson Asiatic Arboretum.

In what ways is being in nature calming, and how does Shinrin Yoku enhance that effect?

People seem to be “wired” for nature – we evolved out of the forests and, deep inside, we recognize the forest as home. Shinrin Yoku helps us tap into that calming space of nature with a mindfulness approach.

Shinrin Yoku translates as “taking in the forest atmosphere” through our senses.  A walk in nature can calm and soothe the mind, and in the process change the workings of our brains in ways that improve our overall mental health. Research studies demonstrate that Shinrin Yoku reduces stress and promotes health by improving our cardiovascular and immune systems as well as elevating our mood and increasing our ability to learn.
The Memorial Garden.

How might a typical Shinrin Yoku gathering unfold?

It begins with an introduction and overview of the walk. I will guide you to an immersive experience through sensory invitations. As I've led these walks I've been surprised at how powerfully these simple invitations connect people to the environment around them and their own emotions.

This walk, which is under a mile, is not exercise or hiking. It is a wellness practice that encourages slowing down, walking, sitting, breathing, observing and opening up your senses to the world of nature in the present moment. We will end our walk with a refreshment that is grown in nature, so we will leave our experience with the forest inside of us.

Is there an age limit for this class, or can children participate?

For this particular group, I would say 18 years old and older is ideal.  This is a very mindful and personal practice for each individual. However, there is not an age limit if a particular individual is mature and understands the guidelines.
The Virtue Peace Pond.

What if I have a hard time walking, or if sitting still and trying to meditate hasn’t worked for me in the past?

The walking time is very slow and mindful. And if people have a hard time sitting still, movement is encouraged. Some people start doing yoga poses during an invitation. They may choose to wander, make art, do journaling or do something playful. While Shinrin Yoku is an organized practice, there is no “right way.”

Can I learn to practice Shinrin Yoku in my own back yard or neighborhood park?

Bird Viewing Shelter in the Blomquist Garden. 
Yes. Many people who have gone on one of my walks have found them to be so beneficial that they have created walks of their own. Others have shared that they have found “sit spots,” a place where they sit in nature and tune in to their senses on a regular basis.

Photos by Duke Gardens volunteer photographer Lori Sullivan.

Update with 2018 dates and links for more info:
April 12, 5:30-7 p.m.
May 17, 5:30-7 p.m.
June 7, 5:30-7 p.m.

2017 dates: 3-hour walk (April 27 or June 8), 5:30-8:30 p.m. $55 for Gardens members; $68 general public.
1.5-hour walk (May 18), 6:30-8 p.m. $45 for Gardens members; $55 general public.

To register, please call 919-668-1707 or email


  1. We visit at each season change and Love Duke Gardens. A Real NC GEM.

    1. So glad you enjoy Duke Gardens and consider it a state treasure. We hope you are able to visit often!