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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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My Cup Of Masala Chai
2018.4.22 | Namita Kurokawa

Childhood Favorite

As a child, I’ve always loved chai. My father would drink it every morning and I would have a sip of it. Today, it makes me happy that my kids love it, too. I’m sure there’s the caffeine concern, but I use decaf or smaller amount of tea leaves when I make it for the kids.

 

Another way to go is to scratch the tea leaves completely and make spice milk. The spices used in chai have many benefits, especially on the digestive system.

 

Spices and Benefits

Ginger

Ginger is known to sooth upset stomach and promote the digestive fire. It’s a natural anti-inflammatory, lowering swelling and pain that comes from poor diet or even stress. I recommend to keep the skin on while chopping or grading to maximize the nutritious value.

 

Cinnamon

Cinnamon balances blood sugar levels and kills harmful yeast in fungus in the gut, increases energy, improves skin health and supports weight loss. It is said that less than one teaspoon is enough to see these benefits.

 

Cardamom

Cardamom is known to improves digestive functions and balance stomach acids. Similar to ginger, it reduces swelling and reduces pain and cramps. The spicy flavor you taste when drinking chai mainly comes from Cardamom. Even if you don’t have any other spices, just make sure you have this one!

 

Clove

Cloves have the property to dull pain associated with toothaches, headaches, joint pains and menstrual cramps. It also has anti-bacterial and anti-viral qualities making it a perfect ingredient to add during colder winters when we tend to get sick more often.

 

Peppercorn

Peppercorn aids digestion and weight loss as it warms up the body. If available, I recommend getting the fresh, green peppercorns from local spice stores since it has natural oil that maximize its benefits in the digestive system.

 

Anise

Anise helps with upset stomach, intestinal gas, and runny nose. It also regulates mensuration, and reduces symptoms of menopause.

 

Sugar vs Honey

I recommend honey over sugar for the following reasons:

Less amount of honey required for same sweetness

Honey is slowly absorbed in the bloodstream, thus a healthier digestion process

Honey has more nutrients

 

Masala Chai Recipe

Makes 2-3 cups

Ingredients

3 cardamom pods (smashed)

1 cinnamon stick

1-2 teaspoon black peppercorns (green, fresh ones if possible)

1 piece fresh ginger (graded)

5 whole cloves (ground is ok)

1 piece star anise (optional)

2-3 teaspoons cheap loose black tea leaves

1 cup water

2 cups whole milk

Honey as you wish

 

Steps

  1. Prepare the spices accordingly.
  2. Put water and spices in a pot and simmer over low-med heat.
  3. Once it comes to boil, add tea leaves.
  4. Add milk and let it boil. Before it overflows, reduce to low heat. Bring it back to high. And repeat 3-4 times.
  5. Add honey as you wish and enjoy!
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