My Restorative Wellness Retreat Brings Good Energy from the California Redwood Forests
I traveled to Mendocino, California, where “Welltality” is the buzzword for an immersive experience with the Northern California coastline, redwood forests, vineyards, and soul-stirring scenery. I want to decompress, unplug and press the reset button on my life. I want to breathe deeply, filling my lungs with fresh, oxygenated air from the surrounding Redwood forests.
I’m having trouble finding balance in my life. I’m constantly multitasking. My relentless self-imposed pace to be productive, scratch things off my “to-do” list, and meet deadlines prevents me from being fully present. I eat, sleep, repeat. I know I need balance. In practice, it’s tough.
I stayed at the Brewery Gulch Inn in the town of Mendocino to immerse myself in the surrounding virgin redwood forests as part of my restorative wellness retreat. Brewery Gulch Inn sits on a bluff overlooking the Mendocino coast, and every room offers an ocean view. The Arts and Crafts style resort is built from salvaged redwood and serves locally grown, organic dishes.
Brewery Gulch Inn is among the first lodging properties in California to begin offering Shinrin-Yoku experiences, also known as Forest Bathing, to its guests. The inn partners with local wellness experts to offer fully-integrated mind and body experiences incorporating forest bathing with herbal tea, health strategy sessions, and restorative yoga.
I’m a big believer in energy and how it affects my mental and physical health. I book a daylong wellness experience with holistic practitioner Sara Bassindale; I could call her many titles— Forest Bathing Guide, nutrition expert, and meditation guru. I want to learn how to nourish my nervous system.
Before the meeting, Sarah had me complete a health intake by asking about my lifestyle habits—what I eat, sleep, work life, and downtime- so she could customize my wellness experience today.
I’m a mess, and I know it. I hope she can help me get back on track or achieve some semblance of balance in my life. Sara isn’t my therapist, but she is my guide to help me achieve greater body awareness and reset my nervous system—kind of like an energy medicine chiropractor—aligning my mind, body, and soul for clarity and well-being.
We start our day sipping herbal tea she custom blended with ingredients grown from her property and mixed to address my current condition. It’s a mix of lavender, red raspberry, red clover, and hibiscus tea. Based on my answers to Sara’s health questionnaire, I find out that I’m mineral deficient. I discover my first bad habit—drinking coffee first thing in the morning. Sarah suggests drinking a glass of hot water with lemon to hydrate and replenish minerals before drinking my dehydrating coffee.
Next, we head over to the Zen Hut on the property of Brewery Gulch Inn to practice Qi Gong and Energy Medicine to help restore harmony and balance and increase and circulate energy in my body.
Sara shows me how to incorporate breath work and meditation to support my nervous system. I learn about the vagus nerve, a cranial nerve, and the main component of our parasympathetic nervous system. It runs through our face, neck, down the side, into our abdomen, and belly. This nerve influences our mood, immune response, and digestion.
Sara shows me ways to support and strengthen the vagus nerve with simple techniques like vibration, humming, chanting, and even singing; anything with vibration will strengthen the vagal tone.
Sara explains that traditional Chinese medicine recognizes the triple warmer meridian, an energy line that acts as the umbrella of our body, holding everything down in our nervous system. “The triple warmer meridian runs up the finger and arm, up the side of the neck, and connects to the vagus nerve. It is associated with our stress response. Tension leads to blocked energy running through this line,” Sara explains.
She shows me ways to work with this triple warmer meridian, calm the energy line, using stretches and movements that will help energy move freely. This energy medicine concept is something I want to explore more. Techniques include tapping, massaging, and tracing energy lines to help strengthen and bring harmony and balance back into the body.
We move into Qigong, a guided meditation with movement, breath work, and visualization that helps reground your body and support your nervous system, bringing peace. We start with shaking movements to get energy moving. “Our energy lines start to run parallel when stressed, and we feel drained, heavy, and exhausted. When our energy flows, it spirals in circular movements. Working with ancient energy medicine techniques, including sound and vibration, bring this spiral movement into the body to rebalance our systems,” Sara explains.
We do “The Four Thumps,” tapping four different energy meridians to support our immune system and wake up our body by sending these little electrochemical impulses to different organs to different bodily systems.
We end our session with a sound bath. Sara “bathes” me in sound and vibrations as she plays various instruments. “Live sound through instruments creates harmonic patterns in the body. We are vibrational beings. These sound vibrations help restore and regenerate the cells, creating harmony within the body,” Sara says.
Next, we head to Van Damme State Park to hike and “Forest Bathe.” The Japanese in the 80s developed the practice of Forest Bathing based on research about nature’s healing benefits. They called it Shinrin Yoku, meaning taking in the forest atmosphere. Forest bathing is about immersing yourself in nature in a mindful way as you engage the senses, slow down, and connect with nature.
As we walk, Sara explains that the soil is a natural biome of the forest floor, full of beneficial bacteria “These microbes float around us. We touch them, and we breathe them in, bringing positivity into our energy field and boosting our immune system,” Sara says.
I breathe in the fresh pine-scented air and inhale phytoncides, natural aerosols, or oils that coniferous trees emit. It’s a tree language, a way of communicating with each other. These phytoncides protect the trees from insects, fungi, and bacteria. “Research shows that humans, when exposed to phytoncides in nature, experience an increase in vitality. The trees essentially spark happy hormones improving our sleep, decreasing stress, anxiety, depression, fatigue, and anger,” Sara explains.
As we walk, our bodies entrain or attune to the earth’s vibrations, a healing, restorative frequency that calms the nervous system. I’m fascinated by this idea of entrainment and how it closely ties to our health. “The earth vibrates at 7.83 hertz, which is a healing, regenerative vibration. When we’re in nature, connected to the land, our bodies attune with this vibration and frequency, which help reset our nervous system,” Sara explains.
Redwoods are among the oldest living organisms on this planet and thrive from Southern California to Southern Oregon. It’s a privilege to be in their presence and experience their beauty, magnificence, and wisdom.
We approach a large stump, and this is my cue to venture off by myself and explore the forest. I reflect on my meditations and feel what I’m feeling emotionally and physically. I return when I hear Sara playing the flute.
Forest Bathing is a way back to myself, bringing me good vibrations and energy to realign my mind, body, and soul. To learn more about my restorative wellness experience, watch The Design Tourist episode featuring Mendocino, California, and my work with Sara.
What to know if you go:
I highly recommend a forest bathing experience with holistic guide Sara Bassindale, you can learn more at All Rhythms Wellness.