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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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Beauty of the Rainy Season
2018.6.14 | Hiroko Mieda

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.

Hiroko’s yoga practice began at age 14 and found that breathing was a whole new experience that opened doors to her mind. In 2016, she took her teacher training course at Under the Light in Tokyo and got deeper into her practice as she learned the philosophy and theories behind yoga. Just like how yoga opened doors for her, she wishes to do the same for people in many different phases of their lives. 
 "Yoga is a way of life and a science"
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Betia’s favorite Green Detox Smoothie
2018.6.7 | Betia Pappa

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!

 

Ingredients:

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

 

Directions:

  1. Pour the water first into the blender. Then add all the ingredients. If you have a very small blender I highly recommend cutting all the fruits and veggies into small pieces especially the ginger. You can even peel the ginger.
  2. Blend it all together!
  3. Add a little more water to smooth it out.

 

If you let the drink sit for too long make sure to stir the drink before you continue drinking it.

 

**TIP**

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!

 

Enjoy!

Elizabeth (aka Betia) is an avid traveler and lover of life. She considers herself a student of the world and has gained a deep respect and admiration for many people, cultures, and places she has had the privilege to visit. Betia currently teaches yoga and English in Tokyo.
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