By Wathiqah Rosli on August 20th, 2021
Asian cultures have practiced their versions of mindfulness since time immemorial. Given our current circumstances, these rituals and exercises seem more crucial than ever — staying grounded (and sane) is especially difficult during a pandemic. Here’s a deep dive into how our ancient ancestors used to do it, along with the benefits that they believed in. Give these a try to calm your body, mind, and soul.
The fancier name, “forest bathing” (known as shinrin-yoku in Japanese), is essentially a routine of leisure walks in the forest to engage your senses and feel re-energized. In the 1980s, Japanese researchers popularized this ritual (there are 44 accredited shinrin-yoku forests in Japan currently) as a form of healing with remarkable benefits. However, Malay culture has also long practiced this under “Mandi Embun,” which translates to “bathing in the forest dew.”
According to historical tales of this practice, Mandi Embun was a significant part of the morning ritual (“Subuh”) for Malay warriors that mastered the martial art form Silat (known as a Pendekar). The morning dew on leaves was thought to symbolize the awakening of a new day and a chance to recharge a Pendekar’s energy to protect their lands. Since nature was considered an ultimate source of longevity, Mandi Embun was practiced by consciously inhaling the crisp morning air and bathing one’s skin with the dew. According to modern scientific research, plants emit an airborne chemical called “phytoncides” that provides a natural immunity boost as humans breathe it in.
Try it yourself: Plan a hiking trip to the nearest forest reserve, or a lockdown alternative is simply to apply morning dew from leaves you can access onto your skin. Opening up your windows during dawn will invite crisp air into your home for those living in an apartment.
Ancient China practiced a meditative physical state that was once a martial art, and this gentle movement has been called “moving meditation” for the physical body and soul.
The core of Tai Chi is the intention behind it, and it is this that cultivates mindfulness. According to Chinese culture, “Qi” signifies the life energy that flows in each one of us. When the Qi is believed to be strong, an individual balances the inner and outer self. In light of current times, why not strengthen our Qi by practicing Tai Chi in our daily routines? The vital trio in a Tai Chi practice is Intention (Yi 意) – Internal Energy (Chi 气) – Strength (Li 力).
Try it yourself: As this movement relies on the flow of the physical body, we highly suggest following a YouTube video. Enjoy this tutorial, set in a scenic snowy landscape, or transport yourself to a lush and soothing garden.
Wathiqah is currently a first-year student at the University of Warwick studying Economics, Philosophy, and Psychology, whilst also being a full-time mentor for The Kalsom Movement, which aims to eradicate education inequality. She deeply admires heritage artists, and her interests range from batik painting to reading Farish. A. Noor history books. She tries to live by a #seekdiscomfort philosophy, whether that's by bungee-jumping or free-diving.