Take a Deep Breath
Published: October 5, 2017
There’s a new favourite exercise in town, and her name is Yoga.
From the perspective of one who was never athletically talented (I am the proud defending champion of the award for Always Picked Last in Gym Class), yoga is greatly appealing. It’s low-impact, doesn’t require fancy equipment, and focuses on self-awareness and meditation, both of which help slow us down in these jittery modern times.
So, warming up to the idea of starting yoga is easy.
Walking into one of the hundreds of studios offering yoga classes though, can be a little intimidating.
With no gear, no mat, and next to no knowledge, I wasn’t sure what to expect upon entering Studio Yoga Chitta, located just across the street from the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo. The studio is situated on the second floor, which gives it a sense of privacy. Inside, a homey entryway leads into a spacious, airy practice area. The floor is made of Japanese red-cedar and gives the whole place a relaxed atmosphere, along with the little aromatherapy diffuser huffing quietly in a corner.
Owner and yoga instructor, Aki-sensei, greeted me kindly and warmly. Seeing her bright smile, I felt a little more relaxed.
“There’s a changing space right there, and baskets for your clothes,” she said.
While students do have to bring a change of clothes (something you can move in), Chitta lends out all necessary equipment—mats, blocks and blankets—so beginners can feel at ease knowing they’re taken care of. It also saves you from lugging stuff to the studio and back.
Before class started, Aki-sensei told me a little bit about the benefits of yoga.
“Yoga works on proper breathing techniques, flexibility, mobility, and strengthening the body’s core and axis to help maintain proper posture and balance. Many people who do other sports often find yoga to be a great supplement because of this.
“What’s great about yoga too, is that it’s very relaxing. It’s beneficial not just physically but mentally, and can be a wonderful change of pace from going about your daily life.”
Feeling quite comforted by the way in which Aki-sensei described yoga and her assurance that the class I was participating in was for beginners and therefore not too straining or difficult to follow, we got started.
The class was 75 minutes long and took us through a series of movements designed to stretch and strengthen the body. There were easy poses like the spinal twist…
As well as more challenging ones like the famous tree pose! (Miraculously, I did not fall down.)
One day, I might be able to go so far as to master a pose like this, which Aki-sensei pulled off with ease and grace, but that seems to be far in the future. For now, I am content to be a normal tree.
Besides learning the postures, there was a lot of focus on when to breathe, ensuring our inhalations and exhalations matched the appropriate movement for optimal benefits. Just taking deep, full breaths felt wonderful, each one more cleansing than the last.
By the time we were lying down on the floor to take our final pose—the corpse pose—my body was feeling warm and fluid. My breathing had deepened considerably, and it felt like my blood was flowing better. Most surprisingly, somewhere during the 6 minutes or so we spent in corpse pose, I fell asleep, and awakened to the sound of Tibetan bells Aki-sensei hand rung to signal the end of our session.
“It happens all the time,” Aki-sensei said to me with a laugh when I mentioned momentarily losing consciousness. “There’s even a belief that spending 6 or 7 minutes in the corpse pose is just as refreshing as taking a 4-hour nap. Well, how do you feel?”
I felt great! The 75 minutes had passed in a breeze. My body felt lighter, and my muscles had definitely gotten some workout, but I also didn’t feel tired or ragged from the practice. In fact, I felt ready to get on with the rest of my day!
Studio Yoga Chitta offers a variety of classes at different times, from beginner’s yoga to interesting variations like “aromatherapy yoga”, “rejuvenating yoga” and “maternity yoga”, all of which cater to different students’ needs.
And best of all?
“Feel free to drop in anytime!” Aki-sensei said.
Really? I don’t need to call and reserve in advance, or stick to a set curriculum?
“Nope. We want people to be able to practice at their convenience. You just need to show up 15 minutes in advance to the class of your choice—our schedule is on our website. Our rates are per class, or you can purchase passes as you like.”
This is amazing for those who feel they can’t stick to a regular schedule because of work or lifestyle issues, and of course for visitors in Tokyo who want a temporary place to keep active while on vacation. Studio Yoga Chitta even offers a special price of 1000 yen for the very first class you take, regardless of level.
If ever you feel a little harried from the stress of everyday life, consider dropping by Studio Yoga Chitta.
Take a deep breath—
Today will be a great day.
Story by Xianru Shen（Koto City Office Coordinator for International Relations）