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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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Community
2018.12.2 | Yumi Tanaka

The Beginning

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.

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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