Imagine a world where all body types were accepted and loved.
Where natural differences in colour, shape, size and ability were respected and appreciated as the norm.
A world where cookie-cutter ideals of beauty were a relic of the past.
And women were free from the self-critical gaze of each other and deep mistrust of the sisterhood (reinforced by centuries of patriarchy and internalised misogyny).
Welcome to the world of Japanese Yoga.
Not just a yoga style.
Not only a holistic approach to life and eating in sync with the seasons and nature.
But a movement.
A movement away from colonised, power-over ‘push yourself no matter the cost’ domination-over self and others.
A movement away from body-hatred, measuring scales and the notion you must lose weight or look a certain way to be worthy.
And a step towards collaborative repair- first with your health and self, then with others, our living environment and the systems around us.
What does this look like?
A Japanese yoga class starts with a few breaths meeting yourself exactly where you are – the physical and emotional – warts and all.
If you’re exhausted with a cracking headache after a crappy day at the office, that’s what you meet.
If you’re bloated, uncomfortable and anxious after a month (or several) in lockdown, that’s what you greet.
Nothing to change – simply a softening into what is.
And from this point of self-honesty, your class begins.
Seasonal yoga movements following Mother Nature’s lead.
Ebbing and flowing between dynamic and slower-paced poses, yin meets yang.
All designed to clear blockages in the body and mind that keep you stuck in pain, overwhelm and illness and separated from the natural world.
Deceptively gentle- where you can expect to feel clear headed and more relaxed by the end of the class while at the same time, prepared to feel it the next day.
Itakimo いた気も is a special Japanese phrase for this feeling.
It hurts AND it feels good.
What many Japanese yoga students discover after a while is yes- they’ve achieved their original goal of losing weight, toning up or becoming stronger and more flexible than before by taking up yoga.
But these goals transform to become a fringe benefit rather than an end in itself.
And what remains is the essence of Japanese yoga: a return to health, Self, nature and your connection with the changing seasons.