By Lynn Burshtein
Taking a drive in a luxury SUV may not exactly conjure up images of deep relaxation in the wilderness, but the folks at Mazda Canada, in collaboration with Canadian fitness organization participACTION have teamed up to encourage us to do just that. With their recently launched month-long fitness challenge, Mazda CX-50 Minute Challenge, the two improbable partners are calling on Canadians to spend 50 minutes a day, at least three times per week, exploring the great outdoors (though indoor activities can count toward the challenge as well). Activities are tracked through the participACTION app and there are approximately $30,000 in prizes to be awarded, including weekly gift cards toward purchases at local outdoor gear and outfitters, Sporting Life and Atmosphere, and two Grand Prize gift cards of $5,000 each toward purchases at Mountain Equipment Co-op.
The benefits of time spent in nature are widely acknowledged by the health and wellness community, including a study by Harvard Medical School, where stress-induced levels of cortisol were measurably reduced in test subjects after they took a walk in nature. Giving us the chance to unplug from our myriad devices to immerse ourselves in the outdoors seems like the perfect antidote to the stressful world we live in. And when many of us are still leery of indoor settings, this is the perfect moment to celebrate all that nature has to offer.
To drive the point home (pardon the pun), Mazda Canada and participACTION recently hosted a group of media influencers from across Canada at the beautiful Whispering Springs, an upscale “glamping” resort in Grafton, Ontario, Canada. While the property’s features are luxurious under ordinary circumstances (think spacious safari- and tree-top tents equipped with electricity and plumbing and luxe linens, plus an outdoor pool and hot tub for guests to enjoy), this curated program was particularly elegant. Our sponsor partners presented a bevy of Japanese-inspired wellness offerings, paying homage to the car manufacturer’s Japanese origins.
After a smooth 90-minute ride (in the Mazda CX-50) from Toronto, we were greeted with matcha lattes (matcha is derived from green tea, a Japanese tradition that is well-documented for its health benefits), shortbread cookies, and almonds mixed with wasabi. We soon began our “forest bathing” experience (known in Japan as “Shinrin-Yoku”) led by our knowledgeable guide, Wendy, from Second Wind Forest Therapy. In contrast to outdoor hiking, Forest Bathing is comprised of a slow, meditative walk among the trees, where individuals are invited to experience the quiet setting using all the senses. This experience seemed to lead to noticeable decrease in stress among us, a group of influencers who are normally glued to our mobile devices.
This mindful walk was followed by a green tea ceremony, another longstanding tradition in Japan. We were given some down time to explore the resort (the outdoor pool was a popular attraction), before congregating for a delicious, six-course Japanese-inspired meal (both traditional and vegan-substituted) featuring themed cocktails and sake, and comprised of oysters/tofu with cucumber foam, yuzu pearls and fermented chili, tuna or watermelon and fresh wasabi, shaved King Oyster mushrooms and cherry blossoms, scallops with umeboshi, and refined Japanese “street food” including porcini and miso tempura, crab and caviar with umami aioli, shitake and eggplant ramen, grilled jackfruit with sour cherry and white shoyu and, finally, matcha and cherry sorbet to conclude the four-hour meal. (It was then I decided that I never wanted to go back to eating franks and beans on a campground again.) Retreating to our tents for the evening, the group slept semi-quietly among the resident toads and other creatures before breakfast was delivered to our tents in the a.m. The morning was filled with an instructor-led yoga class and more exploration of the property before our departure from this luxe retreat.
As much as I would like to spend every remaining weekend of the summer this way, I knew that wasn’t possible. But living close to the heavily-treed ravines in Toronto, I realized that I can, in fact, dedicate time to do my own “forest bathing” and reap the benefits of this practice well after this glamorous camping experience was over.
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Lynn was a guest of Mazda and ParticipACTION at the Whispering Springs Retreat in July.