How can Japanese yoga nourish your soul?
Japanese yoga is a distinct style of yoga that is entrenched in the flow of nature. Classes change with the seasons to match both the internal and external needs of body and environment. Alternate names for this style of yoga are Ryoho Yoga, Ki yoga, Shinshin-Toitsu-Do, Oki-do or seasonal yoga
Japanese yoga is an active and dynamic practice that incorporates traditional yoga postures, or ‘asanas,’ with elements of martial arts, zen shiatsu, Traditional Eastern Medicine and modern exercise science. Also included in this practice are breathwork techniques, meditation and dietary adjustment.
Deeply-rooted in the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Japanese yoga works on the energy lines in the body, known as ‘meridians,’ which is similar to an acupuncture or shiatsu treatment. This is to support the flow of energy through the body. Emphasis is placed on developing ‘ki’ (also known as ‘Qi’), which is life energy.
When ki is stuck, as a result of injury, stress or poor lifestyle habits, it may cause energy blockages, resulting in disease or illness. By working on the meridians and focusing specifically on the needs of the individuals in the class, Japanese yoga cultivates ki to achieve balance, health and vitality.
Shinshin-Toitsu-Do, “The Way of Mind and Body Unification,” is a specific form of Japanese yoga and meditation founded in the early 1900s by Nakamura Tempu Sensei, and is widely practiced in Japan. The International Japanese Yoga Association is a non-profit organisation dedicated to the study of this particular style of Japanese yoga.
Japanese yoga is taught worldwide by many teachers instructed and influenced by Masahiro Oki who founded the Oki-do style of yoga. This traditional style is upheld by the Okido Dojo in the Netherlands.
Yoga Australia is also a peak body for yoga in Australia, providing membership, resources and support for yoga teachers across the country, including those trained in styles of Japanese yoga.
Benefits of Japanese yoga
While there is a need for more research studies focused specifically on Japanese yoga, there is evidence to support the overarching health benefits of yoga in its entirety. Considering Japanese yoga integrates physical yoga postures, breathwork and meditation, this style of yoga may be a way of achieving an overall state of mental, physical, social and spiritual health and well-being.
Literature also provides evidence that yoga may promote positive outcomes for mental health. In a systematic review it was reported that mind-body exercises, such as yoga, were linked to significant reductions in perceived stress. Moreover, studies have shown that yoga may alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety.
There is an increasing body of research to suggest that yoga may provide many benefits for the physical body, such as reduced pain, increased flexibility and balance and improvements in overall body composition.
Japanese yoga may assist in relieving symptoms related to:
- Back pain
- Balance, stability and coordination
- Blood pressure
- Energy and vitality
- Flexibility, endurance and strength
- Insomnia and sleep disorders
- Liver issues
- Mental health
- Muscle spasm, tightness and cramps
- Nervous system and neurological conditions
- Respiratory and breathing issues
- Stress and tension
- Weight control and obesity
What to expect from a Japanese yoga session
Your Japanese yoga instructor will vary the session depending on the season and the time of day. This is said to harmonise both your physical and emotional health.
Although classes will vary, you may expect a sequence of movements that incorporate traditional yoga postures, elements of modern exercise and martial arts techniques intended to activate certain meridians and stimulate the energy flow through the body. You may also expect diaphragmatic breathing exercises, dietary and lifestyle suggestions to be included into the session.
The majority of the work will be done on the mat in a supine position, with the spine a major focus of the class. More familiar poses such as sun salutations, downward dog or tree poses are less common in this practice.
Japanese yoga is a creative practice that is suitable for all ages and abilities.
As with any exercise or wellness program, please consult your medical professional before commencing Japanese yoga. If you suffer from any underlying health conditions it is important to discuss this with your Japanese yoga instructor who will be able to tailor the session according to your needs.