Last month, September 2019, we hosted our first Yoga Retreat ever. Our main goal was for the students to incorporate yoga into their lifestyle on a more regular basis. And by “yoga” I don’t just mean the asanas, but all aspects of “yoga” including breathing, meditation, and philosophy.
We usually perceive yoga as a physical exercise. The meaning of the word “Asana” is not known, even amongst people who seem to be practicing yoga on a regular basis. Asana is a Sanskrit word that literally means “seat.” Many people would say that it means “yoga pose,” right? And it’s not wrong. Originally, it was said that the only posture in yoga necessary was a comfortable seated position. Through time, the perception of asanas changed, but the ultimate purpose of comfortable seated posture for meditation hasn’t changed.
Although we didn’t want to stress people out with the technicality, we did want people to experience yoga as a lifestyle. Through this concept, we introduced kriya and pranayama techniques as well as various asana practices. We also conducted a cooking class on making ayurvedic brownies!! It actually turned out really well, and reminded me of India (where I actually ate it for the first time). We definitely didn’t forget to have fun!!
Ok, first of all, what do all these terms mean?!
In our yoga practice, we address Kriya as cleansing techniques. The purpose of performing the various cleansing techniques are to remove impurities and toxins in our body and to prepare ourselves for pranayama, and move the vital energy to the central sushumna (energy) channel, to attain moksha (or liberation).
There are 6 cleansing techniques in yoga, also known as Shatkriyas. “Shat” means six and “Kriya” means cleansing,
During our yoga retreat (and also during our monthly Kriya Cleansing Workshops), we preform Neti, Nauli, Kapalabhati, and Trataka.
“Prana” means breath or vital energy in the body. “Yama” means to control. There are so many types of Pranayama, but that can be for another blog! I want to point out that Breathing = Life. The reason I say this is because
humans can go…
without food for 40 days,
without sleep for 11 days,
without water for 3-4 days,
but can only go without air for few seconds ~ few minutes!! (This depends on your lung capacity).
A lot of people say “Yoga” when they actually mean “Asana.” As mentioned before, asana literally means “seat.” In the past, it was said that the seated position was the only asana needed to sit comfortably to meditate. In ancient text, it illustrates 84 asanas. Now, there are hundreds, possibly thousands of asanas including variations with crazy long Sanskrit names like Parivrtta Prasarita Padottanasana!
In Sanskrit, “Ayus” means life, “Veda” means knowledge. Ayurvedia is a medical science of ancient India incorporating diet, herbal remedies, exercise, meditation, breathing and physical therapy. Ayurveda and yoga are closely interconnected in terms of techniques used and the overall wellbeing of oneself. There are three types of Doshas which are Veta, Pitta and Kapha. Depending on which category you are, the diet differs and the treatments differ. I just want to point out that ayurvedic diet doesn’t necessarily mean vegan.
The concept of Yoga Retreat in Japan is relatively new. In a culture where taking days off of work is an unspoken taboo, where more hours of work means better reputation, where taking detours in life is seen as unsuccessful (TRUST ME, I’ve been there, done that) we want to slowly introduce the view that it’s ok to take time off for yourself and your wellbeing. We are starting to see a shift in trend and hope that more people view themselves as a priority going forward.
Our Next Yoga Retreat is coming up soon! Will keep you posted!
Hi this is Tsubaki!
Some of you may already know. We started our Kriya Yoga sessions on a monthly basis starting July, 2019! After performing our cleansing techniques, we enjoy herbal tea and recharge with our homemade energetic breakfast! Our next Kriya Yoga will be on Sat, Oct 26th from 6:30 AM! Please check our Events Page for more details!
Today, I’ll be introducing Carrot and Ginger Vegan Cake recipe, one we enjoyed in our previous Kriya Yoga.
Carrot and Ginger Vegan Cake!
① Ginger Batter
② Carrot Batter
③ For Both Batters
Looking for some refreshment this summer? Mugi cha (barley tea) is a typical choice in Japan, but there are many other healthy caffeine-free options. It’s important to stay hydrated before, during and after yoga, especially during the summer heat. Drinking water-based beverages can help regulate your body temperature, lubricate your joints, protect your spinal cord and help your body eliminate waste. Try one of these easy do-it-yourself options!
You can add herbs, fruits or veggies to your water to infuse it with more flavor. Mint and basil work well. You can also add citrus peels or cucumbers for a fresh taste. It’s best to pick organic herbs, fruits and veggies for infusing, to avoid also leaching pesticides into your water. A great infusion option is lemon or orange peel, cucumber slices and mint.
Made from a brush-like plant from South Africa, rooibos is naturally caffeine free, high in antioxidants and may contribute to managing cholesterol, along with other potential health benefits. Rooibos tea is available in red and green versions. Red rooibos has a mild, slightly sweet taste while green rooibos has a stronger green tea-like taste. Both come from the same plant and are caffeine free. Green rooibos is unfermented, while red rooibos is fermented. Many brands are available at supermarkets. To make iced rooibos tea, one tea bag can be infused in 1 liter of hot water for around 5 minutes and then chilled.
Made from the honeybush plant, also from South Africa, honeybush tea is made from the fermented stems and leaves of the plant. Naturally caffeine free, honeybush reputedly helps with calming coughs and may provide other health benefits. Honeybush tea has a mild taste similar to red rooibos, but is often sweeter. Muji sells honeybush and lemon tea bags. Other brands can be found at stores such as Kaldi or Carnival. To make iced honeybush tea, one tea bag can be infused in 1 liter of hot water for around 5 minutes and then chilled.
Originally from Korea, corn tea is made by infusing roasted corn kernels. It is caffeine free and reportedly can help with digestion, is good for the kidneys and can help in lowering blood pressure. It has a very mild taste; some say it tastes like watered down corn. It is common in Korea to make a mix between barley tea and corn tea, which results in a drink that is a bit more flavorful than corn tea by itself but milder than barley tea. Typical ratios are 1/3 barley tea and 2/3 corn tea. Corn tea isn’t always easy to find in Japan, but Muji and Seijo Ishii does sell some. To make iced corn tea, one tea bag can be infused in 1 liter of hot water for 3 minutes and then chilled.
Generally served at soba noodle shops, soba, or buckwheat tea, can also be made at home. It has high mineral and antioxidant content and may help improve blood sugar control. It has a mild to strong nutty, earthy taste. Soba tea can easily be found in most supermarkets. To make iced soba tea, one tea bag can be infused in 1 liter of hot water for 3 minutes and then chilled.
This low-sugar lemonade recipe is easy to make:
Combine the lemon juice and the agave syrup in a large pitcher first and mix together well. Then add the water and mix once again. Chill in the refrigerator or serve immediately over ice.
It tastes best with freshly squeezed lemon juice, but if you need to use pre-squeezed lemon juice, you may want to use a bit less lemon juice or add more agave syrup, since pre-squeezed lemon juice tends to be more concentrated.
I originally found this recipe on goop, which has a good selection of healthy recipes.
If you’re looking for more ways to hydrate, Muji has a great selection of herbal teas and non-caffeinated drinks, some specifically adapted for cold infusion. In general, for making iced herbal tea, I find that using 1 tea bag suffices for 1 liter of water; you can use the infusion time indicated on the packaging as a guideline.
Happy hydrating 😉
Every Friday during my training in India, we did our yogic cleanses. We called it Kriya Friday.
To pass on the tradition, and for our students to deepen their yogic practice, we decided to incorporate that into our monthly schedule.
Our main focus is cleansing techniques. We are starting it off slowly by doing the classic Jala Neti and Sutra Neti (the two nose cleansing techniques). By clearing up the nasal passage, it helps remove impurities and dirt. It also has a significant role in improving the presence of the mind.
We move onto Kapalbhati. Kapalbhati is both a pranayama (breathing technique) as well as kris (cleansing technique). Kapalbhati is part of the ‘shat kriya’ which refers to the six cleansing techniques. It has the benefit of remove toxins from the body. Kapal means forehead and bhati means to shine. It also has the benefit of clearing the mind.
We also practice Uddiyana Bandha and Nauli, where it massages the internal organs and lower abdomen area, stimulates the digestive fire and removes toxins, indigestion and constipation. Yes, we know, it looks weird, but has so many benefits!
Trataka is also type of cleansing technique of the eyes. In the future, we hope to practice Dhouti (instestine Cleansing) and Vasti (Rectum Cleansing). Stay tuned!
Healthy Banana Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Muffins
On a different note, we also serve homemade breakfast after this workshop. Due to high demand, we decided to post our recipe on our blog every now and then 🙂 ENJOY!
3 cups rolled oats or old fashioned oats
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 large eggs
1/4 cup honey
1 cup bananas mashed
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup milk
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a muffin pan with non stick cooking spray.
2. In a large bowl combine the oats, sugar, cinnamon, salt and baking soda.
3. In a medium bowl combine eggs, honey, mashed bananas, vanilla, milk and coconut oil.
4. Add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Stir until combined, do not overmix.
5. Fold in the chocolate chips.
6. Scoop batter evenly into prepared muffin tin.
7. Bake for 30 minutes or until set and the tops are slightly brown.
8. Allow the muffins to cool in the pan for 10 minutes then remove to cool completely.
This green protein smoothie is super easy and great for any time of day. Especially in the morning after your yoga practice or workout. The ingredients might surprise you but blend them together and you get a very very tasty and healthy drink.
I hope you enjoy!
1 cup of Almond milk (depends on how thick you like your smoothies)
1 banana (frozen is nice, but not necessary)
A hand full of spinach or Kale
A tbs spoon of peanut butter
Mid-summer days can get really exciting with all the sun. However, we have to be cautious of intense heat waves and heat strokes!! (Especially in Japan now) these words are making headlines in the daily news. Just hearing these words can make you exhausted. We have a tendency to stay inside under the AC, but this will make your internal organs cold and your whole body to weaken, resulting in summer heat fatigue.
The other day, I heard wind chimes at a café I walked into. The sound of the bells gave a pleasant feeling in this hot weather. It’s very important to use your five senses to truly experience the coolness during the sizzling summer. As a continuance of previous blog post of aroma during the rainy season, I’d like to introduce the aromas for the summer season.
Summer Aroma Recommendations
This exhilarating aroma known to be used in gum and candy gives a sensation of freshness resulting in a cooling effect. It relieves any fever and swelling of the muscles. It works on the central nervous system and stimulates inspiration, concentration and memory. Thus, during this hot season when you’re feeling drowsy with the heat, this is the perfect aroma.
It’s scented like lemon and is used in herbal tea. It’s just the smell that is very similar and the actual lemongrass has nothing to do with the lemon family or citrus family for that matter. It’s part of the grass family known as gramineae. It works to stimulate better blood circulation and digestive system. It’s usually used in my favorite food, Thai food, such as Tom Yam Kung. Bugs dislike this scent, which works perfect for outdoors this season!
A very gentle floral scent. It is said to have over 150 different positive effects. Even when you mix it with other aromas, it doesn’t diminish the effects. We can call it the aroma all-star. It has relaxation effects, regulates the autonomic nervous system, relieves muscle and nerve pain, has antibacterial effects, and is good for your skin. It can help your skin after being damaged from UV rays this summer.
It’s so easy to skip bath and just stick with shower during the summer. I’ve always liked taking a bath so it’s become my ritual throughout the year. Let me add that summer baths are the best and highly recommend it!
You’re always under the AC, drinking cold drinks, eating cool food. Although your outer skin layer may seem heated, the inside is usually chilled. By relaxing in the bath tub, it will not only warm up your body but also stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which will help with your sleep.
If hot bath is not your thing, you can lower the temperature or do a half body bath. Another suggestion is to add refreshing aroma. You can mix the 3 aromas mentioned above.
If putting the aroma directly in the tub gives skin irritation, you can either blend it with carry oil (mentioned in the previous blog post), or mix it with your bath salt. You can also put warm water in a container and drop the aroma oils in there to enjoy the scent!
Sweat out your fatigue and enjoy the aroma scent, feeling refreshed this summer!
The other day, I conducted a four-day juice cleanse. The purpose of the cleanse was not to lose weight, but to rest my digestive system. I tried out one of my favorite juice bar, Trueberry’s cold pressed juice.
We replace our meals with 5 bottles of cold pressed juice a day. (We can drink water, warm water and herb tea throughout this cleanse.)
I felt drowsy throughout the 4 days. Depending on the person, some may experience headaches, lightheadedness and dizziness, but for me it was sleepiness. Nevertheless, my body felt extremely light and didn’t have any trouble with my yoga practice.
During the cleanse, I didn’t have to worry about what to eat next, my groceries, cooking time, eating time or cleaning time. I felt that I had a lot of time on hand. Generally, we spend a lot of our day thinking about our meals and activities around it.
From day 5, I started my recovery meal.
We have to keep in mind that recovery meal period should last as long as your cleanse days.
We slowly start off with porridge or plain miso soup. I had the most difficult time during this stage. At the end of my recovery meal phase, I found myself being very picky about my food. I was being sensitive about the things I consumed.
Things I want to keep in mind about my future cleanse!
1. It’s important to set up your schedule before and after your cleanse.
As mentioned above, recovery meal is part of your cleanse so it’s important to keep in mind the recovery days as well. Before you start your cleanse, it’ll be better to reduce the volume of your meals. In my case, I avoided eating out and had a vegetarian based diet.
2. Keep your options open.
Since it was my first time, I added in Almond Milk (not necessarily juice) as one of my juice choice. Almond Milk gives a sense of fullness, which was a good choice on the first day.
3. Allow some leeway in your schedule.
It’s possible to conduct the cleanse whether it be your days off or not. However, we have to keep in mind that every movement becomes very slow throughout this time. For example, I would get on the escalator at the train stations instead of walking up the stairs, or my walking pace would be very slow. It’ll be better to schedule your appointments with plenty of time before and after.
Everything written here are my own thoughts through my personal experiences.
We are made up of what we eat.
“Eat not for your tongue, but for your mind and body.”
Notice what makes up your body, how your body consumes energy, and how we spend our time eating.
Just like we choose our clothes, we also have the choice of food we consume.
With this in mind, I wish for your lovely dietary habit.
The 24 solar terms, based on the sun’s position in the zodiac, were created by farmers in ancient China to guide the agricultural affairs. It reflects the change in seasons throughout the year.
We refer to this season up till the summer solstice as ‘mangzhong,’ or more familiarly known as the season when the planting of the grains is done. (FYI, for us yogis, June 21st in summer solstice is International Yoga Day!)
Early summer rain (called ‘samidare’ in Japanese meaning fifth lunar month rain) is rainy season where life is given to all living things. It also affects us humans in different ways. For example, it is difficult to maintain the water balance within our body due to humidity which results in swelling of the body and melancholy mood.
However, by changing your behavior and perspective, there must be new findings!
One way is to wake up early on your day off and spend some Ayurvedic time for yourself.
You can use massage oil to self-massage your head, ears, and soles of your feet, or bathe in your favorite aromatic oil bath.
Try your tongue cleansing, nose cleansing, and then your eye cleansing!
Yes, eye cleansing (or eye brushing).
Like the famous photographer, Nobuyoshi Araki says, “In the morning when you wake up, go out into the balcony and take (a photo of) the blue sky. Brush your eyes. Like how you brush your teeth every day.”
As for me, I go out into the balcony to water the plants, look up at the sky and “brush” my eyes.
I ‘brush’ my eyes by looking at the golden beams of the sun brighten the sky, how the clouds swift along, and the leaves sway in the gentle breeze. I ‘brush’ my ears by listening to the birds chirping. I ‘brush’ my lungs by breathing in a big deep breath.
Even during this rainy season, you can look up at the clouds in the sky that form these droplets of water. You can enjoy the chilly misty mornings where the scent of the tree barks are fresh, sipping warm water, listening to the melody of the rain.
Then shifting to your asana practice. Time of bliss.
There’s a fine line between rain as being miserable and rain as being beautiful. It all depends on the perception of your mind.
As citizens of this world and nature living in harmony as one, it is important to enjoy the seasonal changes.
This photo (up top) was taken in February of this year when I traveled to Sri Lanka. It’s an ayurvedic massage oil. The lady at the store said, “This oil smells so bad, but it is the perfect oil to do self-massage! I highly recommend it.” It got me worried that there was no sample of this item, but she was so certain and passionate, I had to buy it.
Oh my… it smells SO BAD! lol
That’s why there was no sample at the store. It’s a very mysterious scent.
That lady from the kingdom of Ayurveda mentioned multiple times that it smells bad, and now I know why.
I tried it out anyway. I massaged from head to toe and the next day, I’ve never felt lighter and in better condition!
It’s like this strong herbal medicine smell that even cats run away from.
Like stripping the bark off the trees from deep in the forest and mixing that with algae.
Like the astringent smell of a cat’s pads.
It’s weird, but you’ll get hooked.
If you’re interested and have a chance, please try it out.
This green detox smoothie if great for any time of day. Especially in the morning before or after your yoga practice or work. All the ingredients are individually great for your health and combining them all together creates a power drink. I think!
This drink will make you feel good inside and out and will boost your immune system so you’ll stay strong and healthy and avoid getting sick.
I hope you enjoy!
1 Cup of water or a little more (depends on how thick you like your smoothies)
1 or 2 celery sticks
1 cucumber (with skin-give you more fiber)
½ and apple (with skin- more fiber)
1/3 cup o f frozen or fresh pineapple
a small piece of ginger root (depends how much you like ginger) Without the skin
One whole lemon
If you let the drink sit for too long make sure to stir the drink before you continue drinking it.
For the summer!
If you like your smoothies cold, I recommend precutting all the ingredients and freeze them over night. Then when you blend, it comes out nice and cold.
In case you have a small blender, leave the frozen ingredient sitting in the blender for ten minutes for them to soften and avoid breaking the blender.
So you can put ALL the ingredients in the blender, get ready for work or practice, come back blend and drink!
The rainy season is about to start. Although it is said that rain is a blessing, it may become a burden for some as it gets very humid and sticky. You start to feel woozy and melancholy as well.
During times like this, I use aroma therapy to refresh myself. The scent has a huge impact on how our body or feelings react. I’d like to introduce you to some of my favorite oils for the rainy season.
Essential Oil Recommendations
Rosemary has a very sharp, clean scent. Along with loving the name, it is also one of my favorite essential oils. It heightens concentration and motivation. The wooziness from this season will definitely be eased with this oil.
Tea tree also has a very sharp, clean scent. It is said to have a strong antibacterial effect and can be used for cleaning the kitchen and keeping the bacteria and molds away. We also use it in our studio to clean our yoga mats! When you’re feeling down and low, this oil will help.
Lemon has a citrusy, fruity scent. It has an antiviral, antibacterial effect as well as purifying the air. This aroma will help ease your mind.
How to Use
We have all been acquainted with diffusers and aroma light as they are being sold in a variety of stores these days. By using these items, it will help purify the air in your room and prevent bacteria from spreading. Also, during the rainy season in Japan, we hang-dry our clothes inside the house, welcoming mold to grow. The use of these items and oils will remove the unwanted smell of mold.
No worries if you don’t have diffusers or aroma lights. You can also do the following to enjoy the same benefits:
・Pour hot water in a mug and add a few drops of oil
・Add a few drops in you bath
・Add a few drops on a towel or handkerchief and place it next to your pillow before sleeping
When using aroma oils for massage, always dilute them with carrier oils. Carrier oils are derived from vegetarian sources and have a neutral scent. The concentration of essential oil in this mixture should be less than 1%. Jojoba oil and grapeseed oil are a popular choice usually sold in aroma stores.
Aroma and Yoga
You can also enjoy yoga with aroma. Essential oils are made by extraction of flowers, leaves, resin and peels of these plants. It is a blessing of nature. It’s like a form of perfume that people have been using from long ago.
Not only can scents be physically absorbed through the skin or inhaled into your lungs. You can also breathe in and activate the sense of smell stimulating the nervous system and the brain. The body systems such as autonomic nervous system, endocrine system and immune system are affected though the oils and can result in relaxation and balancing of the hormones.
・Do not use undiluted oils directly on the skin. Always dilute them with carrier oils before applying
・Do not apply directly on skin for pregnant women and small children
・Use up the bottle within one year of opening (or 6 months for citrus oils)
You can enjoy aroma therapy by choosing the essential oil that suits your needs or constitution. By blending the oils, there are infinite ways of relishing it. Try finding your combination that best suits you!
Japanese Book 『Aroma de Fuchou wo Iyasu Hon』（Author Miho Sonoda）Daiwa Shobo Publishing Company