Autumn at Wakehurst (Image: Jim Holden) > Blogs > Welcome to the Wakehurst blog > Forest Chi – Tai Chi for tree lovers

Forest Chi – Tai Chi for tree lovers

Our Bountiful Botanics weekend, 13 & 14 October, will offer our visitors the chance to try out Forest Chi. Here's everything you need to know about the therapeutic practice.
11 October 2018
Blog team: 
Sandra Howard and Katie Avis-Riordan

What is Forest Chi?

In a nutshell Forest Chi is Tai Chi that connects us with nature. Tai Chi itself is a form of mindful exercise that originated in ancient China.

It promotes many facets of human health, encourages physical as well as emotional balance and steadily builds vitality.   

Forest Chi on the other hand is a newly developed, cutting edge practice of Tai Chi.

It uses moves that are easy to learn and chosen specifically for the ways in which they help us to re-awaken our senses, build a sense of place and help us to feel at one with nature.

If practised in a group, Forest Chi also helps us to learn to listen to each other, which creates a basis for cooperation and understanding.

Woman practising Forest Chi

Mindfulness, vitality and creativity

Forest Chi uses the basic premise of mindfulness to help us tune in to what is going on within each moment, ourselves and nature.

This kind of practice is sometimes known as 'immersive attention' and it is integral to the Forest Chi experience.

The movements and immersion in nature help to ease stress in mind and body, boost vitality and can allow creativity to flow.

Can anyone do Forest Chi?

Tai Chi is often described as 'meditation in motion', but it might well be called 'medication in motion'. 

There is growing research that this mind-body practice has value in treating or preventing many health problems. And you can do it even if you aren't in the best of health.

You just need to immerse yourself in your forest surroundings while performing the soothing movements of Tai Chi.

What do you actually do?

In this low-impact, slow-motion exercise, you perform a series of motions, without pausing, named after animal actions, such as 'white crane spreads its wings'. Other actions are named after martial arts moves, such as 'box both ears'. 

As you move, you breathe deeply and naturally, focusing your attention — as in some kinds of meditation — on your bodily sensations.

Tai Chi differs from other types of exercise in several respects. The movements are usually circular and never forced, the muscles are relaxed rather than tensed, the joints are not fully extended or bent, and connective tissues are not stretched.

Wakehurst in autumn

The concepts behind the practice

You don’t need to learn much about Tai Chi's roots to enjoy its health benefits, but these concepts can help make sense of its approach:

Qi — an energy force thought to flow through the body; Tai Chi is said to unblock and encourage the proper flow of qi.

Yin and yang — opposing elements thought to make up the universe that need to be kept in harmony. Tai Chi is said to promote this balance.

Forest Chi sessions, led by Kate Dixon, will be taking place in Wakehurst's woodlands as part of our Bountiful Botanics autumn weekend on 13 & 14 October 2018.

Along with other special activities, Forest Chi will be available with entry to the gardens during this weekend.