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!
The internet has become such a convenient tool as the digital market has grown at a rapid pace. My daily routine is to check social networking system (SNS) to gather information. I use Instagram to search things. Not Google search, but Instagram through hashtags!
In this digital era, it’s still important to actually go out and experience things on your own. Today I want to share the beauty of real life experiences.
Where’s your dream location that you want to check off your bucket list? Within your own country? Abroad? Or maybe outer space?! It’s exciting to grow your imagination.
As for me, I’ve always wanted to visit Horseshoe Bend located in Arizona, USA. Of course, I’ve gone back again and again on my Instagram to check #horseshoebend lol. FYI, on my “saved” on Instagram are tons of photos solely of nature and yoga.
Finally, my dream come true. I visited Horseshoe Bend this year!! I went on a tour of Grand Canyon, Horseshoe Bend and Antelope.
The expansive power of the Colorado River has done magnificent things through its canyons. I was finally able to visit the Colorado River’s twisting natural wonder, Horseshoe Bend. The moment I arrived, my heart started skipping and lost my words by the spectacular landscape.
Then, just one word, “…YABAI!” (A Japanese expression meaning awesome or incredible.)
It was completely different from I’ve seen on my Instagram hashtags!! The panoramic view was vaster than I imagined. The color impressions were more than what photos could capture.
No matter how convenient life gets with the internet, real life experiences are still important and helps stimulate your five senses. It may sound obvious, but it’s always important to re-realize it.
It’s the same with yoga. I’m sure you’ve come across many yoga poses on Instagram to just stare at it thinking, “I’m not flexible enough. I probably can’t do this.” Don’t limit yourself! The point is not take beautiful poses. It’s to realize how you feel in your yoga practice. I love practicing yoga to reflect on the mind and body balance. During the lesson, I always look forward to Savasana at the end of the practice.
Of course, gathering information is always important, but going out and ‘doing stuff’ is also as important.
In the Beginning…
I visited Rishikesh last March. It was my second visit. My main purpose of this visit was International Yoga Festival (IYF) Rishikesh 2018 because my guru and founders of Jivamukti Yoga, Sharon ji and Jules ji were going to join this Festival. They were going to teach Jivamukuti yoga almost every day. I started planning this trip at the end of 2017 as I came to know my yoga friends are also in Rishikesh and Mari sensei (also teaching at Nami Yoga Studio) agreed to join me.
I sometime hear people say “You go to India when India calls you.” I wasn’t sure what this really meant, but I decided to go to India again anyway. When I travel abroad alone, I get really nervous about my safety. With my bravery and charm, I overcame the difficulties and worries. Smile is a universal language. Also, saying “Thank you” with gratitude and “I’m sorry” when I did something wrong are also universal. Especially when I can’t communicate with language, these helped me to understand one another.
Our Journey to Rishikesh, India
We arrived at Indira Gandhi International Airport in the morning, the flight was delayed about an hour and a half. Our taxi driver was waiting for us patiently and we felt at ease when we found him. Now our long road trip to Rishikesh started. It took about 7 hours including 1 hour break for the lunch. If you are not a road-trip-type-of-person, I strongly recommend you to take the domestic flight from New Delhi. If you can enjoy the sight from car window or chatting with the local driver, you will probably enjoy this long drive.
Cars, Cows, and People
The sun was setting when we arrived in Rishikesh. We soon walked to Ganga river to see the sun sets as soon as we dropped our luggage at the hotel. The Ganga River flows through Rishikesh. We use one of the two bridges that crosses over the Ganga. Ramjura Bridge is the closest one to our hotel so we passed that one every day. A lot of people walk or ride a bike over the bridge. Riding a boat is another option. There are a lot of shops near the bridge. Restaurants, cafés along with stores that sell clothes, fruits, drugstore, several goods, books, yoga, mala, jewelry and so on. They sell in stores, on the streets with a simple table, rug, or cart. The streets get really busy with cars, rickshaws cows, pigs, and horses. We often meet monkeys, dogs and other animals when we’re strolling along. Cows, who are considered gods in India, are sitting alongside people. They usually come along when you’re munching on food.
International Yoga Festival
Our main purpose at Rishikesh was joining the IYF between March 1st to 7th. The event was held at Parmarth Niketan Ashram. We stayed on the opposite side of the Ganga from Parmarth Niketan Ashram, but many people including teachers were staying at Parmarth Niketan Ashram as it has accommodation service in expansive grounds. The yoga class started from 4am all the way up to 9pm. You have to manage your own schedule as the choices are countless. There were also multiple events going on at the same time, including speeches, workshops, and concerts. There were only two types of tickets: 1-day pass and 7-day pass.
Rishikesh becomes more vibrant during the festival as many people gather from all over the world. During the event, we were able to experience another festival called Happy Holi, which took place on March 2nd. On March 1st, people in Rishikesh started gathering and start the festivity a day early. One guy was making big fire to pray for Happy Holi and we sat near the fire to keep us warm. More people joined us to give their prayers. The climate was almost as same as that of Tokyo but when the sun is strong we can be with T-shirt and the air in the morning and night was chilly. You hear music when you get up early in the morning, most of those are sanskrit mantra, singing voices and other voices of prayer. In day time, you hear more sounds of bike and horn.
If you get tired to walk or want to go where that’s too far to walk, it’s good idea to ride a rickshaw. You can get on a rickshaw from rickshaw parking near the bridge or catch one on the street. Personally, I recommend to catch one on the street because you can get on for cheaper. Usually, you share the rickshaw with other people. Now you’re on, how do you get off? The best way is to tell them a major landmark. People ride on and off at the point where they want. Just note that it you get on from Rickshaw parking with small number of people, you have to pay more. 7 to 8 people can ride on at once.
More about International Yoga Festival
The highlight of this year’s IYF was to meet Dalai Lama and vice president of India. Unfortunately, Dalai Lama didn’t show up in front of people, but a lot of people gathered to pay respect. I heard he was not in good condition. On a different day, a person from Shinto Japan was introduced to people. Night time was usually very energetic with live music and dancing. There are enough events to keep you busy at the ashram, but you can also walk around town or join other yoga studios in the area.
In the Ashram, there was buffet throughout the day. It’s only available for people who purchased the festival ticket. There are also cafes and restaurants in town that you can visit. There are all sorts of variety from Indian to Western food including fruit bowls, porridge, and snacks.
I hope you get an image of what Rishikesh is like!