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Teaching In Japan: Reflection On A Reflection
2018.5.24 | Karen Kim

I am now in my thirty-fourth year on the planet.  The number ‘3’ in Chinese culture sounds similar to the character for birth and is considered to be lucky, in part because there are three stages in a man’s life; birth, marriage, and death.  According to that thought, I am in my second stage of life and it certainly does feel that way.  I’ve already abandoned career number one as a professional dancer, and I made a big shift in movement career number two as a fitness instructor when my husband and I relocated to Tokyo, Japan.  I was fortunate enough to seek out many studios and begin working at two of them; one being Nami Yoga in Akasaka Mitsuke.  While my husband remains working for the same company, I have in a way, started over completely fresh.

 

I find Japan to be an inspiring and highly spiritual place.  The functionality of everything is basically better from the way Japanese queue, to the trains, to the way they so mindfully cross the street.  Everything has a distinct flow and rhythm to it.  While you can never blend in or entirely assimilate as ‘gaijin’, there is much to be learned.  I found that when living in Japan 2010, I operated as a better version of myself for the most part (minus the happy hour cruises), especially because there is very little tolerance to operate in other ways.  I am finding this to be the case this time around, as well.

 

This brings me to the “why”… I’ve been told to start blogging many times but it never seemed the right time.  I’ve always had MANY jobs, MANY friends, and muchfamily to visit.  I was frequently judging and rolling my eyes at the twenty somethings who thought they had learned all there is to learn about life and wrote about it like they were Carrie in Sex And The City… And then I started to burn out.

 

I had been working six to seven days a week in fitness in NYC, and for the first few years of that I was also juggling being a bartender/waitress somewhere in the middle.  While it is very normal for a New Yorker to work these hours, I started to reach my max.  I frequently felt uninspired even though I loved my jobs, my clients, and my life.  Everything I cooked in the kitchen felt like a disaster, and nothing seemed more appealing than a two hour nap between jobs during the day.  At one point, it got so bad that I would lay down and see how long it was physically possible to sleep, and that’s when I got out of bed and began writing blog number one, which evolved only into three.

 

Now that I’ve found a job teaching in Japan I feel a stronger sense of purpose.  I’m happy when I finish work, and I feel rewarded when I see that there are people in my class after seeing it empty for so many weeks.  I’ve been given a gift to start over here.  I draw upon my past experiences in NYC daily to teach the very best classes I can, but overall, I have started fresh.  I take the afternoon not to nap (most days), but to explore this diverse country.   My best day trips are two hour journeys outside of Tokyo.

 

My husband is aspiring to great heights in his career, and I have been given the opportunity to move in support of him and design my own future from scratch.  I considered starting over entirely, but I do feel that movement related work is my life’s path.  This feeling is only enforced as I find more and more work here in Tokyo surrounding movement and yoga.  While I’m completely unsure where this path ultimately takes me, I’m continuing to immerse myself in the Japanese culture and honor three things as frequently and as well as I can: silence, reflection, and moderation.  These arethree things that seem most basic, yet are very sporadic in my recipe for daily life.  As a yoga instructor, you would think meditation is part of my morning ritual, but for me, it is not.   With daily reflection, silence where I feel typically inspired to judge, and moderation in work instead of overload, sleep will be a reward for a day well spent versus being its focus.

 

As I reflect and edit this post for its new purpose on our studio blog, I see that I have made the smallest bit of progress in my goal for silence, reflection, and moderation.  Being that I am only human, I’ll take it!  Have you made a vision board or started jotting down your goals?  It’s fun to check in and see how far you come.

Karen Kim specializes in yoga, barre, and Pilates mat.  Karen has a Bachelors Of Fine Arts in Dance Performance and Education from Towson University where she graduated Magna Cum Laude. Before teaching fitness, Karen performed professionally on cruise ships, regional theatre, at Tokyo Disney Sea, and starred in several magic shows around the globe. Following her 500 hour certification at YogaWorks NYC under Jeanmarie Paolillo, Karen went on to receive certifications in BarreWorks under Pilates rockstar Holly Jean Cosner and Lisa Greenblatt (creator of Nice Pipes Apparel) and 40 hours worth of restorative yoga teacher training under guru Jillian Pransky.
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What Is Your Intention?
2018.5.7 | Yumi Tanaka

I’m going to share tips on maintaining high motivation and concentration throughout your yoga practice.

 

During practice, it’s not unusual for your mind to wonder off thinking of what you were doing, or what you’ll be doing.

“What should I do after class?”

“I’ll go to that cafe and read a book.”

“I need to go grocery shopping.”

“What was in my fridge?”

A bunch of daily distractions pop up in your mind.

 

If you made a choice to come to the yoga practice that day, might as well make the most out of it. In my case, I try to focus on three simple points.

 

  1. Set a clear goal

Remind yourself why you came to class today. Asanas are physical practice. Even if other thoughts cross your mind, it’s important to reiterate that you’re here to practice yoga today. It sounds very simple, but this repetition is the key.

 

  1. Count your breath

By counting your breath at your own pace, it helps to quiet the mind. Count “1, 2, 3, 4…” for every inhale and every exhale.

 

  1. Eliminate unnecessary visual distractions

Even if we intend not to see, if that item comes into our vision, we have a tendency to start thinking about it. For example, if I have a watch on I keep looking at it even though time is not a matter of concern. Then, it bothers me for the rest of practice.

What you need in class is very simple. Let’s keep it minimal. By doing this, it’ll free you from outside distractions and allow you to concentrate.

 

“It’s very important to set goals in the correct place.”

These were the first words written in my yoga teacher training textbook. The level of practice differs amongst everyone so a goal setting for yourself is necessary. We need to set a long-term goal and the steps of reaching there. Most importantly, what will keep your motivation high as you aim to achieve that goal?

 

The other day at Lululemon, we had a goal setting workshop. At the workshop, they introduced a 7-step process which is as follows:

 

The Goal Cycle

  1. Identify your values
  2. What is your best life scenario, and visual yourself in it
  3. What are your priorities
  4. What is your goal
  5. Start your process of achieving your goal
  6. Continue your process
  7. Let the things take its own course

 

The above is just one example. I hope it works as a motivation to continue your practice.

I’ve simplified the steps above, but if you want to discuss it more in detail, please come speak to me (Yumi).

 

I hope that your peaceful and meaningful practice “on the mat” leads to a peaceful and happy “off the mat” life.

If there’s anything you want to discuss or questions or requests for class, please don’t hesitate to share with me. I hope to see you all on the mat soon!

She started practicing Jazz and Hiphop dance at teenager. In 2007, she moved to Tokyo to enter university. After graduating from university, she experienced physical changes while she was working in sales and started looking for a new healthier lifestyle. Her focus changed from dancing to yoga. Through her continuous practice, she learned that yoga could be applied to daily life, thinking habits and discipline. In 2016 she was qualified as a yoga instructor.
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