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Hakuba Yoga Retreat Reflection 2019
2019.10.18 | Namita Kurokawa

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?!

 

Kriya

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, 

  1. Neti: Nose cleansing
  2. Dhauti: Digestive tract cleansing
  3. Nauli: abdominal massage cleansing
  4. Basti: colonic irrigation cleansing 
  5. Kapalabhati: Skull Cleaning
  6. Trataka: Eye Cleansing

 

During our yoga retreat (and also during our monthly Kriya Cleansing Workshops), we preform Neti, Nauli, Kapalabhati, and Trataka. 

 

Pranayama

“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). 

 

Asana

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!

 

Ayurveda

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. 

 

Going Forward…

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!

 

Founder and Yoga Instructor at Nami Yoga Studio.
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To Be Stress-Free
2018.9.16 | Rinan

What stresses you out?

Relationships? Work-life?

 

You have probably encountered different types of stress: physical Stress, phycological stress, emotional stress, behavioral stress, to mention a few.

 

We have to deal with stress coming from all angles.

 

That being said, there are good stress and bad stress. Good stress usually comes when you’re trying to achieve a goal, and works as a stimulus to achieve that goal. Bad stress is when you face stressors that take a heavy toll and feel inescapable. Stress all depends on how you feel and interpret it.

 

It’ll be amazing if all stress can be good stress, but there are ways to switch your mentality to interpret bad stress as good.

 

There are four steps to go about this.

  1. Notice what is causing the stress.
  2. Don’t let it accumulate.
  3. Make it a habit to always look on the bright side.
  4. Practice to forgive yourself.

 

It’s easier said than done. This is going to take a lot of practice, and through yoga we can exercise these four steps. Yoga not only stimulates the physical, but also the mental.

 

We tend to desire a stress-free life and look outward to hope that our environment changes. Let’s say that the environment did change for this particular stressful problem and you feel less stressed. It’s good, but it didn’t target the fundamental problem. If another undesirable event occurs, you will most likely feel stressed again. Ultimately, we would have to work within ourselves. It all depends on how you perceive the situation. If we have foggy glasses, we’ll always see things unclear. If we have clean glasses, we will be able to capture the truth. Let’s aim to have clear glasses (or heart) together through practice.

 

Starting this month on Fridays, we have a class called Restorative Stretch. Restorative means to repair or renovate to its original condition. In other words, we want to bring our balance back from a chronic stressful state. Join us for a relaxation class.

 

Started classic ballet at age 3, gymnastics at age 7 and studied performing arts at university for 4 years. Yoga was first introduced to Rinan as a beauty method, but after practicing Jivamukti Yoga, she came to realize the importance of asanas with the combination of philosophy. Countless hints of happiness are hidden behind the philosophy of yoga. If we can bring the yoga practice off the mat and spread the love and peace, we would be living in a wonderful world!
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Jivamukti Yoga FOTM 2018 Aug

H2OM

patraṁ  puṣpaṁ  phalaṁ   toyaṁ  yo  me  bhaktyā  prayacchati  tad ahaṁ bhakty-upahṛtam  aśnāmi  prayatātmanaḥ

 

Whatever is offered to Me with a pure loving heart, no matter if it is as small as a leaf, a flower, a piece of fruit, or sip of water, I will accept it from one who’s mind is restrained.

BG IX.26d

 

I turned the faucet and filled a small glass with water just as I had daily for a month. The water was still brown, not brownish like weak tea, but thick and brown, like a puddle of water on the ground when it is disturbed. Today, Cape Town’s reservoir is almost empty, California has its usual drought, and the crisis of drinking water is hitting home. At our home in Woodstock, we have our own water well and I have taken the clear, untreated water for granted for many years. Panic stricken—with the vision of the heat system and water tanks filling with mud, I wondered: Will Krishna accept my offering of mud?

 

This verse from Bhagavad Gita says that the substance of the offering is less important than the sincerity with which it is offered, but I can’t help but wonder, if by “sip” of water, drinkable is implied. I rushed to the grocery store to buy big plastic containers of “spring” water. They cost 3 dollars each, and I wondered if that was just the cost of the fancy plastic container with built-in handle and spout, or if it is the cost of the water inside. Many of the cities that we have visited to teach yoga over the years are threatened with imminent drinking water shortages: Bangalore, Beijing, Cairo, Moscow, Istanbul, Mexico City, London, Tokyo, and Miami. In each of these places we were offered plastic bottles of “drinkable” water.

 

Each city has different stressors and it is not really possible to conceive of a universal cure. Surely, changing the underlying water usage patterns of human beings is called for. These patterns are deeply ingrained and propelled by a tendency to take clean water for granted, as we flush it down the toilet or run it from the tap. Although the Earth is 70% H2O, only 2.5% of it is drinkable, and only 1% is accessible. More than a billion people live without enough clean, safe water.

 

The use of water in animal agriculture is probably the single most profoundly wasteful use of water resources. It takes 1,800 gallons of water to produce a single pound of beef 1, compared to potatoes at 60 gallons, or wheat at 108 gallons per pound. But it is not just water usage that we need to look at in order to preserve safe drinking water. For the bulk of human history we have regarded elements like water and air as inexhaustible and infinite, as well as always replenishing, free, and unpollutable. As we see our resources dwindling or spoiling, the door opens for the corrupt elite acquisition and privatization of the vital elements that are necessary to sustain life and that should be freely available to all.

 

A few years ago there appeared on New York City streets some amazing guerilla art posters depicting a popular brand of bottled water containing air rather than water. The point of the poster was that unless we safeguard our precious natural resources and protect them from privatization we will lose them in an ocean of plastic. In California, scarce water resources irrigate pomegranate and almond fields–exotic foods for a privileged class.

 

This is economic based scarcity. In sub-Saharan Africa, people’s true potential is lost gathering water and suffering water-born diseases, especially women and children. When many demonstrate on Wall Street for the re-distribution of the wealth of a hoarding, privileged 1%, how many of those demonstrators see themselves as the ones with unlimited access to 1% of the available clean drinking water? How many of them drink that water from expensive plastic bottles?

 

We travel to India often, and lately we have been traveling to China, and there are some interesting perspectives to be gained. For one thing, it is very apparent what happens when the human population grows beyond the carrying capacity of the Earth. All around us there are people eager to take from each other in order to survive another minute, day or week.

 

The Earth is running out of water that will support human existence. “Family living can be existing and everyone can come to be a dead one, and not anyone then, is remembering any such thing.” 2According to some Hindu scriptures, the Kali Yuga (the current age) will end in a fast and fiery way, wiping out all forms of life as we know it. It is our job as yogis to maintain the innate serenity of mind throughout, and to carry on with the righteous activities devoted to dharma. The destruction of this world is followed with the creation of a new one. The Satya Yuga (Golden Age), is followed by Treta Yuga (less virtuous, the advent of agriculture), then Dwapara Yuga (Tamasic, discontent, disease), then our present Kali Yuga (with some 427,000 years to go of liars, hypocrites, pollution, and scarce water). During Kali Yuga, rulers become unreasonable and no longer promote spirituality or protect their subjects; they become dangerous. People will migrate, seeking countries with water and food; people will have thoughts of avarice, wrath and murder; acquisition of material wealth, lust, addiction to food and drugs, treating living things as objects (animals, people) becomes the central facet of life. Only the lucky few will respect teachers and teachings.

 

The good news is that for the first 10,000 years of the Kali Yuga there will exist a Golden Age in which yoga practices will still be present on Earth. Today, 5,000 years of the Kali Yuga have passed and we have 5,000 years remaining where we will be blessed with the knowledge of the yoga traditions. We still have time to bring peace to this place, calming the muddy waters of distress.

 

Written by David Life
From Jivamukti yoga official site: https://jivamuktiyoga.com
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Four-Day Cleanse
2018.7.15 | Yumi Tanaka

Juice Cleanse

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.

 

Recovery Meal

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.

 

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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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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