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!
June 21st was International Yoga Day.
International Yoga Day was proposed by the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, in 2015 and was declared by the United Nations to raise awareness of yoga and health to the world.
Yoga was practiced worldwide on this day for the mind and body as well as for the wellness of the society.
As for myself, I participated in Lululemon’s event. The theme was “Yoga Changed My Life” where we practiced yoga for 60 minutes. It was an excellent opportunity to reflect back on the words, people, experiences that changed my life.
I was introduced to yoga on my first year as a new grad. My life was work after work and was devastated with the thought of it. I guess I was overwhelmed with the work environment and couldn’t think of anything else. One day, I found a yoga studio near my train station and jumped in. I loved moving around as a child and yoga sounded like an excellent option. Oh, how I LOVED savasana in that first class I joined. It seemed like I basically went to class for that (lol). Even now, Savasana is one of my favorites!
Yoga seemed to always normalize the chaotic feelings and anxiety that I had. My family even says, “you’ve changed since you started yoga.” I’ll leave it up to you to imagine how emotional I got before I started yoga. lol
The depth of change is not the focus. Coming onto your mat and quietly breathing will also bring change. “It’s a little easier to breath,” you may say, and that small change makes a big difference.
Let’s try to practice connecting the mind to the body.
I’m thankful for being introduced to yoga. Namaste.
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.