In a previous post we talked about Lisa Hill from Chicago who is currently teaching in Tokyo. Here is an interview of some of her students and co-teachers from the Tokyo Yoga studio in Shibuya.
What do you think about yoga students in Tokyo?
It’s becoming more competitive. Everyone is too strict, too serious. Most people are doing only two things: yoga and work. They should enjoy doing some other stuff. Girls, especially, need to make time to find a boyfriend. Most serious practitioners are not even dating.
What do you get out of Ashtanga?
Makes my creativity sharp, and gives me power to work. If I don’t practice Ashtanga, I am not inspired to do anything but sleep. It is a source of energy. Sometimes physically, it makes me tired, but whenever I practice, my mind and heart get more energy. Ashtanga can make me exhausted. It’s hard to get heat. Practicing brings results, bringing self confidence.
How is Lisa’s teaching different from yours?
I can understand her philosophy about Ashtanga, which is the same for me. I like it, because she teaches calmly. She feels very settled in my classes. Her style is traditional, not allowing people to skip what they don’t like and adjusting so frequently is hard. She has lots of experience teaching Mysore class and we can learn a lot. We are open to teachers coming in as long as it’s traditional.
How do you (Lisa) teach Mysore-style to someone who does not speak the same language? It must challenging dealing with injuries, “problem students” who push too much, new postures, etc.
That could be a whole article in and of itself. I don’t speak in American classes much, so language is not much of a problem. Japanese students are very tolerant. They never say “it hurts” as if they trying to keep feeling in. They can be not very honest in that sense. Sometimes maybe they should tell the teacher, â€œyour adjustment is too hardâ€. Japanese students are too modest, so they hesitate to say “it’s not good”. Knowing this, I’ve been adjusting very gently, working with their own breath, not pushing them. I can tell if there is pain by looking at the student and how they are practicing. Sometimes I need a translator, but some teachers have decent English, so they can help with that. So far it has not been much of an issue. Pushing too hard, there are a couple, but they refused to listen long before I came into the scene.
Are there any written materials or websites about Ashtanga practice and technique?
Yoga Mala, John Scott, Ashtanga Yoga for Women, yoga sutras websites in Japanese – there aren’t any websites for Ashtanga in Japanese. Except for Mindy’s blog, which gives them knowledge from some of the scene in Chicago.
What is the “workshop scene” like in Tokyo (or Japan)?
Very good. We have many good teachers who visit. Rolf Naujokat, David Swenson, John Scott, David Roche, Danny Paradise, Nancy Gilgoff, Govinda Kai, Mark Darby, Sharath, Petri Raisanen, Anthony Carlisi, Shankra Darby, Natalia Paison, Louisa Sears.
What are the differences you noticed between Ashtanga in Japan and the teachers who come from other parts of the world?
No difference. They just teach traditional Ashtanga system. We can learn lots of things from experienced teachers. We enjoy studying with the teachers. It’s very good to be taught by someone experienced. Sharing their experience is very good, but we are always looking for “our” Ashtanga.