« I lived in Mumbai, which is a concrete jungle, but it still has trees in the streets, and I love trees ». Vaishnavi Viswanathan is an FTHub Forest Bathing Guide and trainer living now in Bangalore, a pioneer in Corporate Forest Bathing in India. As a Psychologyst and MBA in Human Resources, she has guided hundreds of people through the healing energy of nature and her beloved trees. Become inspired by her amazing journey from the concrete jungle to the « garden city« . Hes advice to new Forest Bathing guides based on a distinguished entrepreneurial career that was enhanced by strong spiritual experiences with trees.
« I lived in a place in my teenage years named after a tree, Gulmohar tree, and there was one patch just outside our apartment and all would be cut, and I was really frustrated and upset because whenever I looked out my window I would see those trees.
« My dad and I tried to call all the NGOs to try to stop that from happening. I think that is one of my earliest memories about how passionate I was for stopping the construction from happening. I remember looking at this thick directories with phone numbers with my father, page after page, looking for someone else to call to avoid the trees from being cut ».
« I studied Psychology and there was nothing about nature as a career in those days so later I got my MBA in Human Resources. I’ve been doing that for the last 20 years and I still work on it, training, developing leadership skills, and understanding behavior. I use a lot of psychometrics instruments.
« In 2016 I was going through a lot of changes including moving to a new city, Bangalore. It is called the garden city, filled with lots of trees. Everytime I came here on business trips I would enjoy the trees. I got here with my partner and all I wanted was an apartment that would have trees in the street. I would actually get on a bike and see where there were most trees, it seemed very clear not to see the road from the window.
« That period was about having to start from scratch to build a network as an entrepreneur in a new city was quite difficult, I had to adjust to the whole culture.
« And I had a curious experience, so to call it a spiritual experience, something that shook me. When I got deeper into that experience, I had a life coach that helped me to understand the meaning of it and told me that I was supposed to be taking people out to nature, connecting them to the energy of the trees, and I had no clue of what it meant but the message was loud and clear« .
« At that time I didn’t know there was something called forest bathing. I was experiencing, going to the park, just sitting and doing some exercises to connect to nature. And then I started talking to trees, I think I’ve gone mad, and I googled and saw there are a lot of people who talk to trees, or that could hear trees. I got to know forest bathing and it has given me a structure ».
Corporate Forest Bathing
« I got curious if that would help, so I got the Certification and it gave me a language, I started doing it with the corporate. I had my own clients, with leadership workshops, and started including nature during the sessions. It worked wonders. I decided that it would really help, I worked for companies like IBM, LinkedIn, and others.
“In corporate forest bathing walks, we have a previous chat with the company and we set an objective for the walk. In public walks there is the connection with nature, slowing down, but in corporate there is connecting with nature plus an objective that can be team bonding, or people becoming more self aware, supporting people coming back to office after the pandemic who lost the connection with each other, to break the ice through nature. All the activities and sharings are geared to that objective ».
« Every walk has these magical moments, and I always say ‘you will feel relaxed but beyond that you will also get something based on what you really need in your life’.
« There was an adult who got in touch with writing poetry, which is something he had done as a child and almost totally forgot he did, so he got inspired to do that again, was very excited. An elderly woman who had injured her leg, she was not able to sit on the floor with ease, like in India we sit on the floor quite often, but after the walk she was able to sit with ease, that was amazing. A lot of people have a-ha moments, inspirational moments, some get a flashes about doing something different, quit a job.
“Since Covid I’ve been doing a lot of online forest bathing walks but I’m also an expressive arts therapist so I’ve been offering those during my maternity leave. I am starting in nature in a month ».
Becoming a Forest Bathing Guide
“I think that would help motivate people who read this, especially new forest bathing guides… I started connecting with different forest bathing guides in India, and each one would offer a walk at the same time, like in the Equinox for example, and it really helped to spread the word, and that energy really helps more than if you do it all alone.
“I ended up guiding 900 people in the past five years, so I want to let people know it may not look so great in the beginning but as you keep going, and start keeping track of each person that came to your walks, it is amazing. And it does happen. Collaboration walks are great and work a lot in case you feel lonely.
« Luckily, my company Nature Connections operates on a circular economy mode, so a part of all our proceeds go into planting and nurturing of trees. Till date we have planted 815 trees – a mini forest, this way we give back to nature as much as we receive from her”.
Ph: Courtesy Vaishnavi Viswanathan