Island Life, JET Life

Yoga in Japan(ese)

Last weekend, I tried out my first yoga class on the island. I have been wanting to take a yoga class down here since I arrived, but I only knew about classes that met during the week. And when you’re a teacher, a yoga class at 10 am on a Wednesday is not possible. But I exhausted all my English contacts on the island and finally found a class and time that works for me!

My instructor (who is the aunt of one of my English Club students) earned her certification in Vancouver, so she speaks great English, but she leads her classes in Japanese. I thought following directions in Japanese would be my real challenge since I have been practicing yoga on and off since 2008…but I was entirely schooled in this class.

A Whole New Vinyasa
This was a vinyasa class, a style of yoga I have practiced plenty of times before. But as the class progressed, we did so much more bending, twisting, and inverting than I was used to, including the one where you look like you’re doing a pushup, but your legs are off to the side and in the air. (I believe it is called Astavakrasana.) I am flexible, but I still lack a lot of core strength, so inversions are tough for me. I also watched in awe as my instructor effortlessly went from a standing position to sitting her bottom on the ground while keeping her heels planted firmly on the floor I tried to many times mirror her, but my heels wouldn’t stay put!

Language Barriers, or..
It was really cool listening to her instruct in Japanese (with a reggae version of Concrete Jungle in the background at one point.)  However, I kept confusing my left and right leg when we’d try a new pose… but I used to make this mistake all the time in yoga classes back home, too. We’ll blame this one on me being directionally challenged and not the language barrier. It was actually quite easy to follow many of the sequences because the names were in katakana (downwarda dog-o, coooobrA, Child’su pos-o…you get the idea.) And because I brought an Army of Gaijins with me (three other ALTs), my teacher used a bit of English to explain the difficult poses.

Just Breathe
After savasana, the pranayama techniques we practiced were a mix of ones I have done in Bikram classes and ones I have never tried before.
-Kapalabhati- Breath of Fire (Exhale rapidly as you pump your stomach muscles. I’ve done this one in Bikram before.)
-Nadi Shuddhi- Alternate Nostril Breathing (Use your thumb and ring finger to close off one nostril when inhaling)
-Bhramari- Bee Breathing- (Press your thumbs into your ears and rest your remaining fingers over your eyes and cheeks in a vertical line. My teacher said this one helps to restore senses.)

I Got a Golden Ticket
I am so happy I found something I can do on a weekly basis in Japan. For so many months I’ve been hoping to find a class like this. When you are placed in a remote location on JET, most weeks you have to make your own fun because classes, communities, and AJET events aren’t staring you in the face like they are in big cities.

And do you know what the best part of this experience was? One class costs a mere FIVE HUNDRE YEN! So what I normally paid for one yoga class in America…I can pay for 4-5 yoga classes a month.

I am definitely taking advantage of this every Saturday I am around.

2 thoughts on “Yoga in Japan(ese)”

  1. You’re so lucky! That class sounds amazing. I’ve been getting by with yoga at home, as the yoga at my gym is not vinyasa/power/anything other than sitting on a mat and stretching, unfortunately! Go girl :-D

    1. Thank you! I was surprised and happy to find out about this class. All the other classes offered are a slow pace like the ones you just mentioned. That’s great you have the discipline to do yoga at home though–if I am not taking a class then I won’t do it on my own!

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