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Arboretum Wellness Challenge

Thank you for participating! The Wellness Challenge may be over, but the benefits can last a lifetime.

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The Wellness Challenge may be over, but the benefits can last a lifetime.

In celebration of Arbor Day on April 30, the Arboretum Wellness Challenge was created to restore one’s spirit by reconnecting with trees, nature, and the Arboretum community. Trees continually provide clean air, shady canopies, green spaces, and a healthier environment, all while lifting people’s spirits. Trees are symbols of growth and strength and provide restorative power to humans.

Participants of the Arboretum Wellness Challenge program were sent weekly emails throughout the month of May which included meditative techniques, healthy tips from wellness instructors and suggestions for peaceful trails throughout the Arboretum grounds. The Arboretum Wellness Challenge also provided mindful nature-based exercises and activities. Each week, participants* were entered into a drawing for a chance to win free prizes including a free year-long membership to the Arboretum and free wellness classes.

Join a community of like-minded tree champions by using the #MortonArbChallenge tag on social media and see how fellow participants have been incorporating these wellness practices into their lives.

Give Forest Therapy a Try

Walk outside this week and spend 20 minutes absorbing the power of trees using all five senses.

As you wander along the trails at the Arboretum or walk through your neighborhood, notice the details of trees, shrubs and other natural elements that are old, worn, aged and imperfect. If you feel drawn to a particular tree or element on your path, move toward it and spend some time with it. Notice details such as texture, light patterns, color, movement, fragrance and sound. Be mindful of how these elements resonate within you. When the experience feels complete, move toward another and repeat this process.

As you prepare to engage in your challenge of practicing forest therapy, use these tips below to assist in a deep, purposeful experience:

  • Safely unplug; head outdoors with your phone on silent so it will be available without distracting you.
  • Rather than anticipating what’s going to happen or being distracted by all of the tasks you need to accomplish that day, just be present; engage with your surroundings.
  • A long, arduous walk isn’t necessary; it’s about being there, not getting there.
  • Turn your new forest bathing path into a daily practice. The more you give yourself the chance to be outdoors the more you’ll benefit each day

Where Did Forest Bathing Originate?

The background behind the practice of forest therapy is “wabi-sabi” which means “notice the beauty in imperfection and impermanence in nature,” a Japanese cultural concept. Wabi-sabi encourages appreciation of things that are imperfect, aged, worn, in decay, or incomplete. Understanding this practice has been said to aid in enlightenment.

Try Forest Therapy at the Arboretum

Have you seen the unusual trees that grow in The Morton Arboretum’s Spruce Plot (photo above)? In the 1920s, Arboretum founder Joy Morton planted a grove of Norway spruce trees (Picea abies) as an agricultural experiment. Native to northern Europe, Norway spruce trees can live up to 300 years.

If you are looking for a place at the Arboretum to give forest therapy a try, visit the Spruce Plot and savor the peace and quiet found amid these long-lived giants. You can find these trees on the East Side, near Parking Lot 12. You can also sign up for a two- or three-hour forest therapy course led by a certified guide. These popular classes are currently sold out, but additional sessions are released in June. Check back for more updates.

Breathe in and Be Balanced

Add the tai chi practice of purposeful, balanced breathing and tension release to your day.

Tai chi is all about balance; the practice comes from the belief that someone cannot be balanced physically until they are balanced mentally. A tai chi session is made up of a sequence of connected movements performed in a slow, focused manner accompanied by deep breathing. Movements focus on the three treasures of tai chi: sky energy above, earth energy below, and the energy of humanity in between. The energy of humanity is the conduit between the earth and sky, where we can find balance and connection. A tai chi session is beneficial; it releases tension so one’s energy can flow unblocked.

Here are some tips to aid in your tai chi and balanced breathing practice:

  • When you begin your practice, start with gentle movements. Stand or sit with your feet together and float your arms slowly out to the side reaching shoulder height, then back down. Then float them up slowly in front of you to shoulder height and back down. Repeat these movements for a few minutes while inhaling deeply and releasing tension on every exhale.
  • Visualization and movement invite the breeze to carry tension and worry away and clear space in the mind for love over worry.
  • Pause and notice your energy. Do you feel ease, or unease?
  • How does your connection to the earth affect the flow of your energy, or qi-chee?

These helpful tips were provided by certified instructor, Dawn Nader. Dawn currently leads group tai chi classes at the Arboretum. She has more than 15 years experience as a student and instructor in Wushu, Yang Style tai chi and straight sword, and is a certified TaijiFit™ Method instructor. Her journey towards wellness through the Chinese martial arts provides a personal perspective on using mindful movement as an exercise to empower the mind, strengthen the body, boost the immune system, and improve the condition of the human spirit.

Ideal Locations to Try Tai Chi at the Arboretum

If you’re looking for a few places to practice balanced breathing and tai chi movements alone or with friends, visit Crabapple Lake on the East Side of the Arboretum. With its relatively flat areas and inspiring view, it’s a perfect place to rebalance your energy and reconnect with the trees and natural surroundings. The Maple Collection near Parking Lot 14 is also an ideal location to practice tai chi surrounded by rare paperbark maple (Acer griseum) native to central China. Lake Marmo on the West Side offers a beautiful place to focus on gentle movements and balanced breathing. Stand near the Millenium Oak looking out across Lake Marmo for a peaceful, meaningful reflection.

Take a New Path

Did you know that nature walks are good for your health? Studies show that a 30-minute walk down a tree-filled path each week can lower your blood pressure and boost your immune system. It’s also good for your well-being. Walking in nature decreases stress and improves concentration.

New to hiking? Here are a few tips to help get you started:

  • Take into account how much time you have and your current fitness level when choosing a trail. Start small and increase distance gradually.
  • Bring along water and wear comfortable but sturdy shoes, such as sneakers with good treads.
  • Always check the weather forecast before you head out. If lightning is in the area, be sure to find cover in your car or indoors.
  • If you are hiking at the Arboretum, pick up a map of the hiking trails at the Visitor Center or online. Trails are marked on the map.

Hiking at the Arboretum

Hike the Arboretum’s 16 miles of well-tended, mulched, pedestrian-only trails that let you wander safely among scenic vistas, deep woods, prairies, and wetlands. Walk at a leisurely pace on a paved path around Meadow Lake. Explore the various trails that take you through the East Side and West Side. Venture deep into the woodlands on Heritage Trail, a trail that starts at Parking Lot 13 and takes you to Big Rock, a 14-ton granite boulder.

Reference the hiking guide for tips, a list of trails, and a downloadable hiking map to help plan your next hiking adventure.

Refresh Your Spirit. Try Something New.

A new outside activity or class surrounded by a tree-filled landscape will instantly invigorate your mind and body. Choose from the many in-person and online programs offered by the Arboretum to try something new. If you notice a class that is sold out, please check back soon; more sections will be added in June.

Art in Plein Air

Enjoy a creative morning outside with this art class “en plein air” at The Morton Arboretum. Under the guidance of your instructor, capture the landscape, the form of a tree, or the tiny detail of a flower bud. Bring your graphite pencils, colored pencils, pen and ink, watercolors, or other medium of choice, and get tips for building a field kit of art supplies you can easily carry with you on any trip outdoors. Enjoy plenty of time to work independently with the support of your instructor.

Guided Hikes

Hike the Arboretum’s lesser-known trails with a naturalist guide. Stretch your legs and get some fresh air while you learn about the history of the Arboretum and the plants and animals that call it home.

Solstice Yoga

Celebrate the longest day of the year and the beginning of summer with a Human+Nature–themed yoga session. Beneath the gaze of Hallow, the magnificent sculpture located at Meadow Lake, practice poses, breathing, and meditation. Connect your mind and body with the natural surroundings, and feel the restorative energy that nature provides.

Aerial Yoga

If you already like yoga and want to try something different, a session of aerial tree yoga might be just what you need to add a tree-based refresher to your summer. Simple yoga poses are transferred to a canopy seat suspended among the Arboretum’s trees for an aerial experience that energizes and refreshes.

Explore the different class offerings and see which one appeals to you. Members and guests are welcome to sign up. Challenge yourself with something new!

 

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