Under the light – Yoga in Tokyo
Please consider exercising at home, if the noise you produce on the yoga mat is indistinguishable from the noise you make during a shuddering climax… is what I was thinking at my yoga class at Shinjuku.
For some inexplicable yoga reasoning, making sounds was exactly what was expected when working out.
I can hear the yoga teacher repeat the magic words of what sounded like ‘suytey haytey’, encouraging to push up the prana and circulate the energy and, as if that wasn’t a challenge enough… to focus on our third eye.
Eager yogis were pumping their breaths and chanting their lungs out.
Looking for a class that gave me what my body was looking for – stretching, working on muscles and flexibility without spiritual baggage wasn’t easy. Here is my short review.
I thought I liked and did experience ‘proper yoga’. Three months at the ‘Classic Yoga School’ with Ewa and Rafał Lichtarowicz in Szczecin/Poland and no back pains. A lot of stretching that resembled familiar ballet warm ups and cool balance exercises, using yoga ropes. Awesome work out. If you are ever in Szczecin – do yourself a favour (ignore the poor interior) and go for some excellent lessons with Rafał.
Now, unlike in Szczecin, finding a Yoga school in Tokyo isn’t easy. The number of yoga schools is overwhelming, but the main obstacle is that you have to be a Japanese citizen, have a Japanese bank account and address to enrol. The other obstacle is that you have to sign a contract for a longer period of time and finally, there seem to be sooo many types of yoga that it is difficult to find the right one.
I found a yoga place called ‘Under the light‘ which made enrolling for foreigners easy. All I had to do was to buy a membership card for 1,000 yen (makes little sense – but you pay to get lessons at a ‘discount’) and then another card for the lessons: four classes for 4,500 yen, ten classes for 10,500 yen (with the ‘discount’). Not a bargain in my eyes but in Tokyo rather a very good deal.
They offered some classes in English so the first one I tried was ‘Beginner Yoga‘ led by a small Italian guy with a big mouth, called Kranti. Right in the beginning he would let us pull up our bodies solely standing on our hands while sitting cross legged in the air, and added comments like ‘What? We have just started and you are already sweating?!’. Our teacher took pleasure in commenting failures to motivate. The class was filled to the brim, it was difficult not to touch anyone. People were bumping into the windows and walls to which Kranti thoughtfully replied: ‘Don’t break anything’.
The other class was ‘Ashtanga for Beginners‘ with Kaori, a Japanese speaking teacher. She was talking for the first 40 minutes and then the class did one short sequence of movements over and over again. Standing, throwing yourself skilfully to the ground, getting up, standing… Then it was chanting for the rest of our time and I obviously picked wrong again.
I tried ‘Kundalini Yoga‘ with Miles but rather than focusing on my third eye and breath, I couldn’t quiet block out the train noises (the school is located adjacent to train tracks), despite heavy rhythmical steam engine breathing that surrounded me, as mentioned earlier.
My final class was ‘Yin Yoga‘ with a very nice teacher called Takako. The lesson was solely in Japanese but the workout was probably the closest to what I was looking for. Focusing on slow stretching and holding position for long meditative moments, I wished for a bit more action instead of relaxation but if I had to come back, I would choose her class. The drawback was that it was pretty full again, so she opened up the dressing room and I was sort of in there doing the exercises.
The good thing is that Japanese people have very high personal hygiene standards which will not lead to odours, nor do Japanese people sweat, so you will not encounter a neighbour’s sweat shower.
If you do know any yoga place you can recommend in Tokyo – please do!
Wearing my carrot shaped yoga pants. I have seen very attractive yoga outfits but couldn’t find them when it was time to buy an outfit.
Yoga is a piece of cake, said the beginner.
On our way to yoga. Tomek, the gentleman, escorted me to my final class. It was our last week and I had to finish my yoga card.
Working class yoga. Many salary men in the skyscraper neighbourhood of Shinjuku.
Before yoga, we came across this fun vending machine with milk drinks where you could choose a ‘?-drink’.
The question-mark drink. I was hoping for banana milk.
Pure milk it was. And we still had two full milk cartons at home. And we were leaving the day after.
The after yoga meal. Shrimp risotto at the popular Japanese Italian restaurant.
And orange cheesecake with vanilla ice cream.
A post about yoga ending with food. This is Japan.