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Newbie’s Information to Japanese Yoga Classes


A number of years in the past after I lived in Japan, a yoga studio opened up close to my work. I used to be fairly wired on the time and beginning to get stress complications, and I assumed this could be a good way to assist scale back my stress. I had carried out yoga a couple of years prior, so I wasn’t a complete newbie, and my Japanese was at a excessive sufficient degree that I felt fairly assured I might deal with a yoga class in Japanese. How laborious might it’s?

So I signed up — after assuring the very useful but barely involved employees that I might deal with an all-Japanese language yoga class, no worries! — and began going twice every week. And I used to be proper, it actually wasn’t too laborious to grasp what was occurring and what I wanted to do… but it surely additionally wasn’t the instantly stress-free expertise I had signed up for, at the least at first.

All collectively, the collection supplies a superb basis for Japanese language yoga classes, and contains data I want I had identified after I first began.

On this article, I will share my experiences taking newbie and intermediate yoga lessons in Japan so that you will have a greater concept of what to anticipate in a Japanese yoga class earlier than you even unroll your mat. First I will undergo a few of the issues that I discovered difficult as a Japanese language learner, then suggest some Japanese yoga sources accessible on-line and introduce a few of the vocabulary generally utilized in lesson titles and descriptions. Whether or not you are taking in-person lessons or do some on-line, I hope that this text helps you are feeling extra ready to offer yoga classes in Japanese a attempt.

That is additionally the primary a part of a collection Be taught by Doing! Vocab to Jumpstart Your Japanese Yoga Journey, which goals to be a information for doing yoga lessons in Japanese. The opposite articles on this collection can be extra vocabulary-focused and can discover the sorts of phrases and phrases you possibly can count on to listen to in a Japanese yoga class. All collectively, the collection supplies a superb basis for Japanese language yoga classes, and contains data I want I had identified after I first began. So maintain a watch out for the remainder of the collection — they’re popping out over the course of subsequent few weeks!

Stipulations: This text assumes you already know hiragana and katakana. If that you must brush up, take a look at our Final Hiragana Information and Final Katakana Information.

Challenges of Taking Yoga Courses in Japanese

a couple people doing yoga

There have been a couple of challenges I hadn’t considered after I determined that taking yoga lessons in Japanese was undoubtedly going to assist me loosen up and on no account trigger me any further stress or nervousness. In the long run, none of those challenges had been unsurmountable, however figuring out about them forward of time would have undoubtedly helped me keep away from fairly a little bit of angst in my first few lessons.

1. I Do not Even Know the Identify of that Bone in English

First, whereas I knew the Japanese phrases for many of the elements of the physique, I had not realized that I didn’t know the names for bones or joints, and it grew to become obvious in a short time that yoga lecturers use phrases like scapula, pelvis, tail bone, and hip joint slightly loads. And naturally the very nature of yoga necessitates transferring stated physique elements, and it seems that there are far more methods to say twist and switch and bend and curve and curl than I had ever seen in any textbook.

Normally, even when I did not know a few of the phrases she used, I might perceive what I wanted to do by additionally watching the trainer display the pose. Nonetheless, sooner or later in each class I might find yourself in poses with my ear mashed on the mat dealing with away from the trainer, so undoubtedly it is useful to know a few of the extra specialised vocab that comes up in yoga lessons.

Within the second article on this collection, Japanese Vocabulary for Yoga: Physique Components, I cowl vocabulary for physique elements (together with these seemingly-obscure bones), so remember to test it out.

2. Cannot Look Up, or Write Down Throughout Courses

Subsequent — and naturally, this could have been apparent if I had simply thought concerning the nature of yoga and yoga lessons forward of time — I used to be just a little stymied by not having the ability to instantly lookup phrases in a dictionary and write them down. It seems that if you end up in downward canine and attempting to tilt your 骨盤こつばん (pelvis) excellent, it’s totally laborious to additionally bear in mind the phrase こつばん for one more hour till you possibly can write it down… so you possibly can hopefully bear in mind it for the subsequent class.

I used to be just a little stymied by not having the ability to instantly lookup phrases in a dictionary and write them down.

After which there are slippery phrases like せすじ. I heard this one phrase on a regular basis and thought it referred to backbone, however was fairly certain that せぼね meant backbone. So I assumed I used to be in all probability improper, however after I lastly remembered to lookup this mysterious phrase that in all probability did not imply backbone, I could not bear in mind precisely what I had heard. Wasn’t it せっすじ or せっつじ…? Or possibly it was せすじ or せつじ? And even せすじん? After many failed makes an attempt, I ultimately discovered it was せすじ, and sure, it additionally refers back to the backbone.

3. Phrases That Sound Precisely The Identical However Imply Tremendous Totally different Issues

Third, I forgot that Japanese is legendary for homonyms. It took me a slightly very long time to determine that the phrase I used to be listening to in school, じょうたい, was nearly by no means the じょうたい I used to be conversant in — 状態, which means state of affairs. As an alternative, the trainer was almost all the time referring to 上体, or higher physique.

I additionally acquired myself all in a tangle with inhaling and exhaling. Logically, I knew that the phrases いき いて meant to exhale, however 吐いて sounds just like はいって, and although 息を入って shouldn’t be a phrase or near being right in any method, my mind switched the phrase that really means “exhale” with a phrase it made up that, in an alternate universe, may need meant “enter breath” (= inhale??). And I in some way endlessly after confused myself and was continually inhaling on the improper breath and stressing myself out about it.

4. Even in Your Personal Language, Yoga Is Not That Simple!

Lastly, I forgot that even yoga lessons in English might be demanding — I undoubtedly like wanting like I do know what I am doing, and regardless of what number of occasions a yoga teacher says that you just should not examine your self to what another person is doing… I all the time do this! And so, whereas I actually can not help anybody else not fear about what their downward canine appears to be like like as compared with their neighbor, or not be concerned that their prime is driving up bizarre, or not be involved they can not clear their thoughts in corpse pose — I can undoubtedly provide help to bypass my months of frenzied nervousness from attempting to maintain half-remembered phrases in my head whereas additionally contorting my physique into triangles and pigeon poses by means of this collection of articles.

Given all these challenges, I like to recommend you start your yoga journey by beginning with on-line yoga movies. There’s loads of high-quality content material accessible, and provided that we’re nonetheless in the course of a world pandemic, attempting YouTube movies or on-line lessons within the consolation of your individual house is a good way to ease your self into the apply. And naturally, on-line movies permit everybody, together with individuals who aren’t in Japan, to study Japanese whereas doing yoga. Even if you happen to’re involved in taking in-person lessons, attempting a couple of on-line movies can be a great way to get a way of what to anticipate.

a person watching yoga lesson videos online

When attempting yoga on-line, I recommend you begin with some shorter movies geared toward rookies, even if you happen to’re an skilled yogi, so you may get used to the language and circulate of a yoga class in Japanese. Additionally, instructors in newbie lessons usually take further time to elucidate poses, so if you happen to miss a phrase or do not perceive one thing, you may have time to catch up.

Instructors in newbie lessons usually take further time to elucidate poses, so if you happen to miss a phrase or do not perceive one thing, you may have time to catch up.

I additionally suggest attempting movies by a couple of completely different individuals so you’ll find somebody who is straightforward so that you can perceive. Past the vocabulary or grammar they use, every teacher could have a special cadence, quantity, and pace of speaking. It may be tough to search out an teacher or video collection that you just like and can even perceive simply, however attempt to not get discouraged. Over time, you could discover that your comprehension will get higher; one in all my favourite instructors spoke actually quick, however the extra of her lessons I went to and the extra I heard her communicate, the higher I used to be capable of perceive.

One different level to notice: in individual and on-line, instructors usually begin lessons with a brief intro, usually about what the main focus of the lesson can be, or what impact the poses can have. These can usually be probably the most troublesome elements to grasp, since there is not a lot context but and the vocabulary might be fairly technical. I recommend simply listening for what you possibly can perceive, and use the time to start out getting settled.

Particularly if you happen to’re simply beginning out, search for movies the place the instructors do not do voice-overs, however give directions whereas demonstrating the poses as your listening comprehension could improve if you happen to can see the trainer’s lips transferring. To test, leap forward previous the trainer’s introduction to the video, because the voice-over could solely begin after they start the lesson.

Additionally search for movies the place the sound high quality could be very excessive, with little background noise. You could possibly activate Japanese captions for movies on YouTube, however these could have errors as a result of they’re usually auto-generated. I discover the captions distracting slightly than useful; I have a tendency to make use of them provided that I missed a brand new phrase and actually need to return and determine what it’s!

Listed here are a couple of of my favourite Japanese-language yoga sources which might be accessible on-line.


B-life has over 500 yoga and health movies, so there are many choices to select from. The movies are hosted by Mariko, and the catalog contains simpler classes particularly marked for rookies in addition to classes that concentrate on stretching out explicit physique elements, decreasing stress, waking your physique up for the day and calming down earlier than mattress. Many classes are ten to fifteen minutes lengthy, however there are many movies which might be forty to sixty minutes lengthy as nicely.

The B-life web site additionally has part with free, curated video lists known as Calendar Program. Like a syllabus of yoga classes, the downloadable packages specify one or two YouTube movies for every day of a fourteen- to thirty-day course. There are greater than ten beginner- or intermediate-level packages to select from.

Mariko has a powerful voice with clear enunciation, and he or she speaks at a reasonably regular tempo. Nonetheless, she does use voice-over for a few of her movies, particularly these filmed exterior, so skip forward previous her introduction to double-check if you happen to’re attempting to keep away from voice-overs.

Japanese YOGA

Natsumi’s Japanese YOGA channel, Japanese YOGA has over 450 movies, so there’s all kinds to select from right here as nicely. Lots of her movies are targeted on particular points, and he or she has playlists organized by 症状しょうじょう (symptom), 部位ぶい (physique half), or 目的もくてき (goal) addressed. She additionally has a lot of 朝ヨガ and 夜ヨガ movies that aren’t essentially targeted on a selected subject. Lots of her classes are lower than fifteen minutes lengthy, however there are some longer movies as nicely.

Natsumi’s voice is just a little smooth, however very clear. I actually love the private high quality of her movies, and you’ll inform she loves what she does! She would possibly communicate just a little quick if you happen to’re simply beginning out, however particularly in newbie movies she provides a lot of directions for easy methods to do the poses accurately, so it is fairly simple to catch on.

Natsumi is the host on the overwhelming majority of her channel’s movies, although not too long ago she has been posting movies with completely different visitor instructors, too. To get a way of their talking kinds, you possibly can try the instructors’ video introductions posted on the Japanese YOGA web site.

Wellness To Go by Arisu

Wellness To Go by Arisu has over 400 movies. Like Natsumi’s Japanese YOGA channel, Arisu has curated playlists that can assist you select movies. Specifically, she has a playlist particularly for rookies, in addition to playlists categorized by the size of the video, from lower than ten minutes to greater than thirty. She additionally has a playlist of movies targeted on meditation and respiratory methods.

Arisa has a transparent voice and a very dynamic method of talking. Despite the fact that she will be able to communicate just a little quick at occasions, her enunciation is fairly punchy. Lots of her movies are filmed exterior, but it surely appears she solely makes use of voice-over sometimes. Her canine generally makes an look, which is all the time a bonus!

Cute Birds

Cute Birds solely has about sixty-five movies to this point, however Yukari solely started posting this yr, and there is nonetheless an excellent selection. She has movies particularly for rookies, and plenty of targeted on releasing stress in several elements of the physique. Nearly all of the movies are ten to fifteen minutes lengthy.

Yukari has a transparent, regular voice, and appears to talk just a little louder and slower on common. In case you are a newbie in yoga or Japanese, I might recommend attempting her movies first. Virtually all of her movies are filmed exterior in Okinawa — usually on the seashore! — however this does not have an effect on the sound high quality, and if she makes use of voice-over, she does it very not often.

Like I discussed earlier, I do recommend you do some on-line yoga first to get conversant in Japanese yoga lessons, however in case you have the chance sooner or later, I undoubtedly suggest attempting in-person lessons as nicely! Despite the fact that you possibly can’t pause and repeat what instructors say in group classes like you possibly can with on-line movies, many occasions after I was in an teacher’s class for the primary time, they might come over earlier than class began and test with me to guarantee that I used to be going to have the ability to perceive Japanese. You may also ask the trainer earlier than class begins to talk barely extra slowly and clearly if you happen to assume that may assist. Particularly in newbie lessons, even native audio system of Japanese may need hassle determining easy methods to do a pose, so it may be useful to others as nicely.

Selecting the Excellent Yoga Lesson

Now to search out the right video so you possibly can truly get began doing yoga in Japanese! Even if you happen to simply take a look at movies listed on the channels I advisable above, you may discover an awesome variety of choices, so on this part I’ve included vocabulary that you should use that can assist you discover movies which might be best for you. Some movies embrace English translations together with the Japanese, however figuring out a few of the phrases generally utilized in video titles and descriptions will make it simpler to look and navigate on-line, and also will assist when taking a look at what lessons are supplied at yoga studios.

thumbnails of Japanese yoga videos

Titles for on-line classes could embrace a degree and sort of yoga, and infrequently embrace details about the main focus of the lesson. Use the checklist beneath for reference so you’ll find a yoga class that is acceptable to your capacity and curiosity (and so you do not by accident take an after-childbirth yoga class if you have not simply given beginning!). Please be aware that Japanese names of physique elements and poses are lined in Japanese Vocabulary for Yoga: Physique Components, so please cross-reference as vital.

Ranges and Frequent Forms of Yoga

This checklist contains key phrases that describe ranges and names of frequent yoga varieties or kinds. Chances are you’ll discover these in yoga studios’ schedules extra usually than in on-line yoga movies.

初級しょきゅうnewbie degree
中級ちゅうきゅうintermediate degree
上級じょうきゅうsuperior degree
パワーヨガぱわーよがenergy yoga
陰ヨガ いんよがyin yoga
ハタヨガ はたよが hatha yoga
ヴィンヤサゔぃんやさ vinyasa yoga 

One other method on-line movies could point out beginner-level classes is with the Japanese image for newbie: 🔰. Identified colloquially because the 初心者マーク (newbie’s mark), new drivers in Japan should show this sticker on their vehicles for the primary yr they’ve their license, however the image has been broadly adopted to imply beginner-level in a lot of different contexts, too.

Talents and Qualities to Enhance

These are phrases for skills and qualities that many yogis hope to enhance. They usually get paired up with phrases like 改善かいぜん (enchancment), アップ (actually “up,” which means “enhance up”) and たかめる (to extend, improve).


Physique Components, Methods, and Positions

Listed here are some key phrases associated to physique elements, methods, or positions that you’re going to usually see in titles of yoga classes. These usually get paired up with phrases like ほぐす (to melt), 強化きょうか (strengthening), リラックス (loosen up), ストレッチ (stretch), and 改善 (enchancment). 促進そくしん (promotion) can also be used with リンパ (lymph) or 血流けつりゅう (blood circulate) to imply “selling blood/lymph circulation” on this context.

全身ぜんしんfull physique
上半身じょうはんしんhigher physique
下半身かはんしんdecrease physique
心身しんしんthoughts and physique
血行 / 血流けっこう / けつりゅうblood circulate
開脚かいきゃくthe splits

Dropping Weight

Desirous to shed extra pounds or get slim is among the commonest motivations for Japanese yogis. Of all key phrases associated to weight reduction, ダイエット might be used mostly. It is a katakana phrase that is based mostly on the English phrase “food plan,” however be aware that in contrast to in English, ダイエット refers to all types of actions associated to weight reduction and physique firming, together with train, not only one’s literal “food plan.” So you may probably spot the phrase in yoga lesson titles (and different health/exercise lessons), but it surely would not essentially imply it is about meals and vitamin!

ダイエットだいえっとfood plan, reducing weight
くびれ slender waist
美脚びきゃくstunning legs, toned legs
美尻びじりstunning butt, toned butt
脂肪燃焼しぼうねんしょうburning fats 
減量げんりょうweight reduction

Illnesses and Points

Sure bodily issues are frequent key phrases utilized in titles for yoga classes. These are sometimes used with phrases like 回復かいふく (restoration), 解消かいしょう (elimination), or なくす (to take away).

肩こりかたこりstiff shoulders
腰痛ようつうagain ache
疲れ / 疲労 つかれ / ひろうexhausion
冷えひえchilliness, coldness (due to dangerous blood circulation, and many others.)
浮腫むくみswelling, getting puffy
歪みゆがみdistortion, being warped

Psychological Well being

Yoga shouldn’t be solely about bodily well being, but in addition psychological well being! Listed here are a couple of key phrases which might be associated to psychological well being.

自律神経じりつしんけいautonomic nervous system 

Morning and Evening

Many yoga movies are focused that can assist you get up or go to sleep. Listed here are some vocabulary phrases associated to doing yoga within the morning and night time.

目覚めめざめwaking up
よるnight time
寝落ちねおちfalling asleep (whereas doing one thing)
安眠あんみんgood sleep
ぐっすり (sleep) soundly


Here’s a miscellaneous checklist of vocabulary that did not match into different classes, however are nonetheless helpful! Be aware that there are a couple of phrases that finish with 〜 かつ, which is an abbreviation of 〜 活動かつどう (actions for …). Individuals have not too long ago began utilizing this abbreviation as a option to discuss completely different actions for self-improvement. So mixed with ちょう (gut/abdomen) as in 腸活, it means “actions for higher intestine well being.” With the kanji おん (heat) as in 温活, it means “actions for warming up the physique.”

腸活ちょうかつactions for higher intestine well being
温活おんかつactions for warming up physique
産後さんごpostpartum / after childbirth

One Step at a Time: Methods for Studying

My purpose on this article and collection is to not provide you with required phrase lists, however to offer a information to doing yoga in Japanese. Use this collection such as you would use a journey guidebook — earlier than you embark in your journey, you’d examine what to anticipate, take note of sections you assume may be helpful later, and possibly make notes about a couple of belongings you need to try to bear in mind earlier than you begin. Similar to utilizing a guidebook to resolve what to do on a visit, use the vocab on this first article that can assist you choose which on-line movies or lessons to attempt first.

I liked that I used to be studying Japanese not by learning Japanese, however by doing one thing utterly completely different in Japanese.

If you resolve which lesson to start out with, you possibly can simply dive proper in and see what it is like! Or, if you happen to’re feeling just a little nervous, you possibly can overview your notes earlier than you get began. Both method, it will in all probability be just a little troublesome, however just like the tradition shock you get once you go to a brand new nation, you may begin to study new phrases and get used to the circulate of issues as you attempt extra classes. The vocabulary lists within the second and third articles can be right here to make use of as references and can provide help to discover your footing extra rapidly.

In the event you really feel comfy with a backpacker-style method — utilizing context, selecting up phrases organically, and looking out up phrases solely when vital — go for it! Let your instinct information you; use the vocab lists if you happen to’re in a pinch.

In case your motto is “all the time be ready” and you like an itemized itinerary-style method — studying some vocab forward of time, noting new phrases once you encounter them, reviewing in between classes — then this information would be the excellent pal! Throughout classes, maintain an ear out for brand new phrases, however don’t be concerned if you cannot bear in mind them precisely once you’re completed. Use the vocab lists to jog your reminiscence and add these phrases to your research checklist. If you cannot bear in mind any, merely select new phrases you assume can be useful and maintain practising.

I initially began taking yoga lessons in Japan as a result of I assumed it could assist me loosen up and never really feel so pressured. And whereas my Japanese yoga journey began off just a little bumpier than I anticipated, as soon as I picked up a few of the vocabulary and acquired a dangle of the circulate of lessons, it was a very fabulous expertise. I liked that I used to be studying Japanese not by learning Japanese, however by doing one thing utterly completely different in Japanese. And after some time, I used to be not solely much less pressured, however gained extra confidence in my Japanese expertise.

I hope that now you feel able to get began by yourself Japanese yoga journey! Good luck, and I hope you are wanting ahead to the subsequent two coming articles within the collection. がんばってね!




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