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 other day, I attended the 4-year anniversary pooja of this yoga studio I practiced at. Coincidently, it’s also my 4thyear practicing yoga. Over the years, I came to realized that I strongly cherish my yoga community. My yoga teachings are mainly based on my daily practices, and I receive tremendous support from this yoga community of mine.
That One Friend
It all started with my one friend who pulled me into practicing yoga in the morning before work. The moment I met this friend at a beer garden in Roppongi, I knew she and I had something in common. I wasn’t a morning person and it was extremely difficult for me to get into the habit of going to my morning yoga practice, but this friend always kept me on my toes. We would practice yoga in the morning before work. After work, we would reunite again to go to our favorite Thai restaurant. On the weekends, we would practice yoga together, followed by our favorite smoothie stand visits. It was a constant repetition of this, but this repetition was a very memorable and valuable time.
From Routine and Beyond
As our individual practice continued, our community also grew deeper and stronger. We would always meet at the same time, at the same place, with the same people. That atmosphere was extremely peaceful and helped us concentrate. I practiced my inversions over and over and over again with the encouragement of my peers and teachers. I was having the time of my life!
As I expanded my studies abroad, I felt like a child exploring the real world. The more I had exposure outside, the more gratitude I had for my teachers and community back home. NYC, Singapore, and India have all been inspirational. I wouldn’t have been there growing my understandings if I hadn’t had my experience back home, with my teachers, with my go-to place, and with my peers.
At Nami Yoga Studio
It’s been two years since I’ve joined the Nami yoga studio community, and I love it!
I was speaking to one of our students the other day. This student has been coming to our studio for 1.5 years now. He said he likes our atmosphere and the people. I couldn’t be happier to hear that. “See you next week at 8:30,” he said to his yoga buddy as he left the studio. The sense of community is definitely growing here!
Many of our fellow students are persistently practicing yoga while balancing their work and family life. That attitude and energy is remarkably inspiring.
My role as a teacher is to help everyone have a good relationship with yoga. I enjoy every moment, including out chai sessions at the end of class and our little chats we have.
It’s not that easy being green
Hari bol Hari bol, Hari Hari bol, mukunda madhava Govinda bol Hari bol Hari bol, Hari Hari bol, Kheshava madhava Govinda bol
Yeah! To the one who grants liberation by removing all suffering, to that sweet-faced child of the divine ancestors,
the one with the long flowing hair who thrills his devotees with delight, yeah!
Haribol means, “chant the name of the Lord.” Bol means to chant or speak. Hari means, “He who steals away the distresses of his devotees and ultimately steals their heart/minds by His excellent transcendental qualities.” Hari is a name for Vishnu-Krishna, Narayana, It is found in Vishnu sahasranama.
In the context of Vaishnavism, Hari has found an identity as the remover of troubles blockages, pain, and bondage. Monier-Williams Sanskrit/English Dictionary defines हरिhari in over two pages, beginning with meanings like yellow or golden, green, fawn colored, reddish brown, brown tawny, pale green, and greenish. Krishna is blue/black while Hari can be green or red or yellow or gold and Hari seems to find it difficult being just one color. The brown of Hari is like the brown of the deer, the green of Hari represents growth and abundance, while the golden Hari represents the effulgent light of the sun and the Cosmic Self.
It’s not easy bein’ green
Having to spend each day the color of the leaves
When I think it could be nicer being red or yellow or gold
Or something much more colorful like that
It’s not easy bein’ green
It seems you blend in with so many other ordinary things
And people tend to pass you over because you’re
Not standing out like flashing sparkles in the water
Or stars in the sky
But green’s the color of Spring
And green can be cool and friendly-like
And green can be big like an ocean or important
Like a mountain, or tall like a tree
When green is all there is to be
It could make you wonder why, but why wonder why
Wonder, I am green and it’ll do fine, it’s beautiful
And I think it’s what I want to be1
This song is associated with identity and the important journey of finding self worth. We could also associate it with racial inequality based on skin color. By the end of the song Kermit the Frog embraces his greenness. This is a struggle that each of us endures—to understand the circumstances of our birth, the family that we have joined, the culture that we call our own, and the time we live.
Hari can also mean green frog, as well as many other species and things; sun, moon, monkey, horse, lion, jackal, parrot, peacock, goose, snake, wind, and fire.2 Hari’s desire is to be all things to all people, and His identity should be defined as unlimited. We discover Hari in all living beings and things, and not just the murti or statue in the temple. aham uccāvacair drvyāih kriyayotpannayānaghe naiva tusye ‘rcito ‘rcāyām bhūta-grāmāvamānina.3 “My dear Mother, even if they worship with proper rituals and paraphernalia, a person who is ignorant of My presence in all living entities never pleases Me by the worship of My Deities in the temple.” Although this verse from the Bhagavatam seems quite egalitarian in its assertion of the presence of Hari in all beings, it is followed by many verses constructing an argument for “all are equal, but some are more equal” based on ridiculous comparisons of number of legs and senses between species.
Human beings have extended this tradition and constructed equally absurd hierarchies based on species, religion, ancestry, gender, and skin color. We find second, third, and fourth-class members in all cultures. These beings suffer economic, educational, and other deficiencies based on arbitrary delineations. In India, the darker the shade of skin has a direct relationship to caste. In the States, African Americans and Hispanics comprise approximately 32% of the total population but a disproportionate 56% of incarcerated people.4 Every country has its lower class members, and worldwide women and children are victimized with alacrity. We could cite many more examples: Albinos, Indians and Pakistanis in Sub-Saharan Africa; Muslims in China; Catholics, African Americans and Native Americans in the U.S; Kurds in Turkey and Iraq; Jewish people in Muslim countries; Palestinians in Israel (and elsewhere); Women and girls in Muslim countries; Handicapped/crippled/disabled people everywhere; But at the very bottom of these completely arbitrary discriminations live the insects, animals, and fish.
The animals that have been segregated to become food for human beings suffer the worst indignities and deprivation of all. Their suffering is ignored or classified as a necessary evil. Dogs and cats are loved as family members and sometimes quickly abandoned when the family moves. People who fish say that fish do not have sensation around their mouths and do not feel pain. Of course this is ignorance, but it is the same kind of insidious, intentional denial that accuses races of human beings as functionally incapable of literacy, or compassion.
When I step on a bug I do not feel like I am killing a person. But why don’t I feel that way? These feelings are confusing to me. Some decisions are clear, like black and white. But most of our ethical decisions are multi colored. Vegans take the lives of plants to support their living, but cause less suffering than meat eaters. By “less suffering” I am drawing a line between those plants and beings with a nervous system and their ability to feel pain. But is this an arbitrary line? Other people draw their lines in different places than me, according to different criteria. Are those people wrong, ignorant, or unconscious, or are these divisions ingrown over millennia by humans who try to scramble to the top of the heap by any means possible? To come to right decisions and proper actions we have to ask what is our desired result.
If our desired result is to create a world where the green ones can live as free as the yellow ones and the red ones, we need to proceed carefully—one step at a time to untangle the confusion and ignorance that underlies much of the life we share on this Earth with infinite beings, who are all holy temples of an infinite Hari. Eventually, we can come to the knowledge that “otherness” itself, is avidya –misknowing. We will become aware of the ways to sift through the important ethical decisions we make every day and be sure that we do not act unconsciously with biases wired invisibly and arbitrarily into our nervous system by each other, and the larger culture. As we make the important decisions that each of us need to make, we must pray for the grace to make the right decision, the conscious choice: to be kind and compassionate.
Written by David Life
From Jivamukti yoga official site: https://jivamuktiyoga.com
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.
Where does yoga lead us?
Is your goal to raise your leg the highest? Or to hold inversions the longest? Or to be the most flexible or to build muscle? Or are you here to lose weight?
What are you trying to get out of yoga?
In my class, I occasionally say, “Don’t fight in the asana.”
Humans naturally have a huge ego and have a tendency to (maybe unconsciously) think “Iwant my pose to look the best in this class.”
This deeply rooted concept can be let go through practice of yoga.
Within the eight limbs, there is Niyama which represent self-discipline that should be performed in your daily life. Further, one of the Niyamas is Santosha.
In sanskrit Santosha means ‘satisfaction’. Are you all satisfied? Us humans have a tendency to look towards things we don’t have.
Even celebrities who seem to ‘have it all’ are not necessarily always satisfied. Amongst them, some may feel miserable. We periodically see on the news that they get addicted to drugs or sadly commit suicide.
All humans have a difficult time maintaining the state of satisfaction.
For example, you see a beautiful dress or a gorgeous watch and you want to buy it. You decide to work hard, save money, and go buy these items. At first, you feel extremely happy that you possess these items and use them with great care.After a while, you walk past that store and see new items on display. You strongly feel the need to buy those as well.
This is probably something we’ve all experienced.
Through this example, you can see that humans are particularly terrible at keeping the state of satisfaction going.
Musk Deer Example
Here’sa story of a musk deer. One day, this deer smelled a lovely scent frome somewhere. So, he started searching for the smell. He walked and walked, but couldn’tdetect where the fragrance came from. Then, he realized that he himself was the root of the smell.
We usually get carried away with the fast moving environment and don’t have time to realize that the most important things are already with you and inside of you.
With our hatha yoga practice, it is possible to train our mind and body to be in a consistent state of satisfaction.
So, it’s ok if you pose is not perfect. First, place yourself in an environment to practice yoga. Feel grateful, and be satisfied. Although you may not have a perfect asana, pat yourself on the back for not running away from your practice and putting in the effort. Then, focus on your breathing and focus your attention to your mind and body.
Being a yoga instructor doesn’t liberate you from these desires. I still feel envious of others and of things I don’t possess. It’s important to continue your practice throughout your lifetime
As mentioned before, it’s difficult to always feel satisfied. I hope that through practice, the duration of satisfaction slowly multiplies. And don’t hesitate to take your practice off the mat!
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.
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.