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Okinawa

What does practicing while on vacation look like?

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What does practicing while on vacation look like?

"I'm going to meditate and practice yoga every day while in Japan," I told myself just before heading there for a two-week vacation. I sincerely believed it at the time too -- but yeah, right.

When I actually found myself there I didn't want to sit still and "just breathe." I wanted to immediately dive into my surrounds, into the sights, into Japanese culture. And into Japanese food.

Instead of starting my mornings off with yoga, most days began with desperately trying to find breakfast in a country that doesn't really do breakfast places (but apparently still does breakfast). I'd usually end up at Mos Burger, the only eatery around open before 11am, where I'd chow down on a rice, egg and soy sauce sandwich and alternate between sipping coffee and miso soup. Then I'd waste no time in taking to the streets, rarely coming back to my hostel before sundown -- there was too much to see. And too much people-watching to do. 

The first several days (the entire time I was in Tokyo) the bliss of practicing yoga took a clear backseat to the joy of exploring a fascinating and brand-new-to-me country. But eventually, in Kyoto, I began to crave some breath-led movement and centering. I was getting cranky, sluggish and overwhelmed by mental clutter. I missed my practice. It was time to circle back to the mat.

Instead of practicing at the Airbnb apartment I stayed at, where where there wasn't much space and because I was incredibly curious, I decided to check out what public yoga in Japan was all about. Over the course of three days, I attended three yoga classes, all taught in Japanese, at a studio called Tamisa in the middle of a shopping center not far from Gion. The first class was Level 1 Vinyasa. It was very slow. Lots of low lunges. The second was a busy Level 2 Vinyasa class. It was less slow. Lots of low lunges. The final class I took was a noon class, something called Tri Yoga. It was the slowest, but also the most challenging class of the three. There was a strong focus (I inferred from the teacher's body language) on smooth ujjayi and moving with the breath. Lots of low lunges. An unreal amount of cat-cows.

Chaturanga wasn't instructed once in any of the three classes I attended (though I have to admit I snuck a couple in). And the unhurried pace felt great. It was the perfect vacation yoga.

I wonder if most yoga in Japan is in line with what I experienced: gentle, leisurely and more focused on stretching than strength. I should probably practice that way more often.

In my personal practice, I know have an excess of fire that needs to be balanced, but even though I know water'd be good for me, I only ever crave fire. I'm always thinking "vigor." I avoid restorative and yin and anything too sleepy, but in Japan it came to me. And, you know what? I didn't hate it.

In fact, in Okinawa, my last stop in Japan, I stayed at a summer cottage with plenty of floor room for yoga. I finally rekindled my home practice there, and I did it in the Japanese style. I lingered in each breath and doused each pose in breath. Three-legged down dog, which is usually a one-breath affair, I held for five. And it felt like smooth, hot sake in my body. You might guess I took several low lunges. I did indeed. And I certainly took my sweet time to wind it all down before savasana. 

Looking back on the trip, I explored a lot and practiced a little (but the little I did do taught me a thing or two about the power inherent in practicing with tenderness). I think I did alright in terms of maintaining balance...for a vacation. But next time I'll bring breakfast bars so I can at least fuel a daily morning meditation session. #vacationyoga

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2 Weeks in Japan

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2 Weeks in Japan

I'm back from two sensory, delicious, relaxing, cherry-blossom-filled weeks in Japan! 

Though I'm glad to be home in SF again, where there are Whole Foods and public trashcans on every corner and people don't smoke cigarettes in restaurants, I know this trip is going to be one I return to time and time again in my mind. There will surely be days when I'll crave the ramen, sushi, okonomiyaki, gyoza, Asahi, and Boss coffee cans that come out hot-to-the-touch from vending machines. And I'm going to miss seeing the world's cutest babies (which there were a ton of everywhere, despite all the claims that Japan has a birth rate problem) and some of the coolest fashions I've ever seen. But most of all I think I'll miss the general sensory overload. There was so much crazy to see!

I visited Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Okinawa and each had something unique to offer. If you're planning a trip to Japan anytime soon, feel free to reach out for recommendations! I stayed on top of documenting what we did almost daily, and I'm happy to help.

Tokyo highlights:

  • Shopping in Shibuya and Harajuku
  • Hanging out with the bartender from Hiroshima and eating the dry squid he fed us in a tiny Shinjuku Golden Gai bar, where we were the only patrons around noon one day
  • Splurging on Sushi Yuu in Roppongi Hills where we were referred by a well-connected friend
  • Checking out the arcades in Akihabara, and getting our hands dirty with a drumming game

 

Kyoto highlights:

  • Mingling with monkeys on the monkey mountain - the hike up was so worth it. No fences so there's no real separation between you and the monkeys. But don't touch them or look them directly in the eye!
  • Walking around Higashino Park near Gion. There are temples, street food stands and beautiful creeks and trees. Something for everyone.
  • Attending three different yoga classes at Tamisa Yoga. (More to come on yoga in Japan in another blog post.)

 

    Osaka highlights:

    • Food
    • Food
    • Food

     

    Okinawa highlights:

    • The Churaumi Aquarium, one of the largest in the world, the visitation of which is a half-day affair
    • Staying in a music-themed Airbnb cottage and practicing yoga there
    • The beach!

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