Yoga Lessons from Japan

I set a goal to practice yoga every day for three weeks while I was in Japan with my husband over the summer. It went differently than I expected. Here’s what I learned from my trip (and plenty of pretty photos to enjoy):

View from the Tokyo Skytree

View from the Tokyo Skytree

The Great Torii at Miyajima

The Great Torii at Miyajima

Let go of how
A friend introduced me to this concept a few months ago. Stop trying to control how things will happen and just move forward. This was so important during my trip. The language barrier was intimidating, but I kept making steps forward, by approaching people for help or going with my best guesses. Without this attitude, I would’ve missed so many experiences because I was too paralyzed by thinking about how I would get there or how to order or how to act the right way. In Kyoto, the bus system seemed incredibly confusing, but once I made it to the central station, the signs were very clear and easy to follow. Sometimes you just have to trust that the how of a situation will work itself out.
On the mat: Trying to conquer those inversion poses you see on Instagram? Me too. It’s a process of taking small steps: build strength in your plank pose and practice headstand against a wall. Rather than worrying about how you aren’t there yet in your practice, keep trying and eventually you’ll get there!

Tea fields of Wazuka

Tea fields of Wazuka

Making Matcha at Obubu Tea Farm

Making Matcha at Obubu Tea Farm

Go your own pace
My grandmother used to say “Anytime before noon is for plants and animals.” Like her, I am not an early riser! I could’ve made myself miserable trying to see all the sights in Japan. But a packed schedule doesn’t feel like a vacation to me. There were days when I needed to rest and couldn’t take any new, wild adventures. It’s all about honoring your pace. I didn’t hit temples and historical sights from 6am to 6pm because that sounds too much like work. Touring a whisky distillery one day and a tea farm the next is just my speed. I didn’t beat myself up for the things I missed by taking a slower pace.
On the mat: I really thought I’d get up every morning and do an hour of yoga with a perfectly coordinated warm up, a flow of standing and seated poses, and an illuminating meditation in Savasana. Believe it or not, that didn’t happen. Some days my yoga practice looked a lot like Child’s Pose under the covers. I guess I forgot how taxing a day of sightseeing can be. Thankfully, I honored my body. And scheduled a massage as soon as I got home!

School children at the Children's Peace Monument in Hiroshima

School children at the Children’s Peace Monument in Hiroshima

Geisha at the Temple of the Silver Pavilion

Geisha at the Temple of the Silver Pavilion

Drummers at Sojiji Temple

Drummers at Sojiji Temple

Stillness is possible anywhere
You’d think that the atmosphere of an island nation with 128 million people would be overwhelmingly rushed and crowded. This isn’t the case at all. The first thing that hit me when I deplaned at Narita Airport was the silence. My husband and I got the type of giggles you get during the quiet parts of a church service. The airport had that kind of atmosphere. This peaceful feeling was all over the country, from Tokyo to the sacred island of Miyajima. Japan reminded me that you can find stillness in any moment. All you need to do is be quiet.
On the mat: Even on the craziest days, peace and quiet are possible. There are many ways to tap into this, but of course I’d recommend yoga! Slow down, connect the breath and body, and be present on the mat.

Wild Hydrangea

Wild Hydrangea



4 Responses to “Yoga Lessons from Japan”

  1. Dave Tamanini says:

    Thanks for the serene description of a unique cultural experience.

  2. Lisa Janson says:

    Really enjoyed this read. Your insights about respecting your need to rest and pacing yourself is something I certainly need to remember. Thanks Susan for being an inspiring and motivating teacher.
    (PS – your trip looks amazing! Glad you had the opportunity)

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