Very few people who come to the city, be it for a visit or to stay, can argue with the fact that Tokyo moves. All the time. This constant state of perpetual motion can leave us feeling a lingering sense of fatigue and stress. If you’re looking for a way to cope, yoga is an option that has gained popularity in Japan over the last 10 years.
Tokyo is home to some of the most active and long-running yoga establishments in East Asia, and with a dedicated community of practitioners catering to both the home-grown and international communities, Tokyo could be seen as a very diverse one at that. With the potential for daily exposure to stress at an all time high, yoga is one option for making a pro-active change towards a healthier lifestyle at the start of the new decade.
‘Yoga practice stimulates various different facets of wellbeing. The physical practice primarily works on toning the nervous system and circulatory system, toning and stretching muscles, as well as promoting a healthy function of all major joint complexes. Different to that of physical exercise, the physical yoga practice can be comprehensively sustained long into old age. The physiological and psychological benefits are continually stimulated through perseverance in an experiential understanding of this,’ says YogaJaya director Patrick Oancia.
Here are some of our picks for studios that not only offer a great way to introduce yourself to yoga, but will also diversify the people you surround yourself with too.
Dominica Sergiano first opened Shizen in 2002, wanting to focus on smaller classes and better instructor/studio ratios. With a new, larger studio space since 2008 Shizen has continued to grow with a set of offerings especially notable for pregnant women, or those who are looking for post-natal, yoga for mothers, or even baby yoga. In addition to standard Iyengar and Hatha offerings, Shizen also offers special classes such as partner yoga, meditation, and chanting.
The studio brings a full-lifestyle approach to yoga, believing that the benefits go far beyond the physical. ‘The first effects of yoga are usually physical. Your body will move more easily, or feel sore in places you forgot about. You will move more easily and be more aware of posture etc. You will sleep better and feel better overall. But many people also quickly notice a more clear, focused mind, find it easier to deal with stress and that their breathing becomes easier. You will also begin to have a better sense of well being overall,’ says Sergiano.
The studio offers one-time drop in rates as well as multiple passes and family memberships to encourage families to try yoga together. Mats are available for use free of charge.
Address: Entopia Kichijoji #201, 2-5-9 Kichijoji Minamicho, Musashino, Tokyo
Telephone: (090)3814 4488
YogaJaya is one of the more visible yoga organisations in Tokyo, with regular events and workshops that are attended by a wonderfully international mix of enthusiasts, resident instructors, and international guest teachers. The approach aims to be practical but diversified, offering various styles of yoga from Hatha, Sivananda, Ashtanga to more recent hybrids like Yin & Yang and AcroYoga. ‘We hope that students are able to reflect on how the physical yoga practice can initiate optimum physical health and how this can influence a more relaxed and perceptive state of wellbeing,’ says Oancia.
YogaJaya also takes the integration of yoga into the everyday life further, for those who want to become trained yoga instructors. Public information sessions are regularly held, with the next one being Sunday Feb 14. Check the website for details.
Trial classes cost ¥1,500, making it good choice if you are new to yoga and want to try it out but don’t want spend a lot of money. Classes can get rather busy, though. If you find a larger group intimidating, you might want to try a quieter time of day. Mats are available for a ¥300 rental fee.
There is the option for an annual membership, which also gets a discounted rate on ticket passes, as well as other perks like free mat use and a free t-shirt. Until Jan 31 there is a special offer for 40% off an annual membership when purchased with a ticket pass.
Address: 2F, 1-25-11 Ebisu Nishi, Shibuya, Tokyo
Telephone: (03)5784 3622
Tokyo Yoga (TYG)
Former media professional Mamoru Aizawa (also known as Chama) started Tokyo Yoga after taking a break from the fast-paced life and wanting to bring the benefits of yoga to those around him. His studio incorporates interdisciplinary influences such as anatomy and craniosacral biodynamics into the yoga teachings in order to bring self-awareness to others.
‘Continuous yoga practice makes you realize about the way you breathe, your body and yourself. It makes easier for you to handle difficult conditions, or even better, you might be able to avoid them beforehand,’ says Chama of the benefits of taking up yoga practice.
Tokyo Yoga studio offers several types of yoga including Ashtanga, Sivananda, Kripalu, Budokon, Yin Yoga and Vinyasa. Some TYG studios offer body movement classes for those who want to improve their mobility. Morning Mysore classes are offered in addition to special workshops on yoga lifestyle, philosophy, and nutrition.
For first timers, a two-class ticket can be purchased for ¥3,000 and used within 10 days. Mutiple-class passes are also available and feature a slightly discounted rate. Mats can be rented for ¥300.
Address: 5-18-6 Minami Aoyama, Minato, Tokyo
Telephone: (03)6427 9993
International Yoga Centre (IYC)
This studio with multiple locations in Tokyo, was co-founded in 1994 by Ken Harakuma, the first Japanese yoga instructor to be accredited to teach Ashtanga Vinyasa by Indian yogi Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. It is one of the longest present yoga studios not only in Tokyo, but also in Japan and hold a special place in the development of yoga culture in the country.
With a large, diverse community of practitioners and studios IYC definitely fits commuters or someone with a busy schedule. Classes with English speaking instructors are available at most studios, and classes are available at studios in centres like Ogikubo, Jimbocho/Kudanshita, and Hibiya/Ikebukuro and varying class sizes IYC has something for everyone.
Whereas many yoga studios offer varying styles, IYC focuses on Ashtanga yoga, a form of yoga that combines postures together into a flow of movement and breath. Despite the tight focus, IYC also offers special workshops, lectures, classes with visiting teachers and retreats.
Introductory classes are available at the regular one-time drop-in rate of ¥3,000, and rental mats are only available at the Kudanshita and Ogikubo locations. For those who want to explore yoga further with IYC, drop-in tickets as well as multiple-class tickets can be purchased.
Address: Fukumura-Ogikubo Bldg, 5-30-6 Ogikubo, Suginami, Tokyo
Telephone: (03)5397 2741