Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Yoga and Hot Springs in Japan: Part One

Two yoga teachers living in Oita, Japan, are integrating hot springs with yoga practice and classes. The teachers, shown below, have discovered that Japanese hot spring environments add numerous physical and mental benefits to the yoga experience.
Yoga in a Japanese Hot Spring = Health and Well-being
Marie, on the right of the photograph, explains that a hot spring bath facilitates the transition from normal life into the yoga mode. Many of her yoga students go to her class straight after a long day of work or taking care of family. Some have to fight traffic on the way. Others, though, have had a fairly easy day. Each student walks into the classroom with a different level of stress, excitement, or energy. Taking a bath before class brings everyone closer together at the same level, and the heat of the water loosens tight muscles.

Her full-moon yoga sessions started several years ago when she spoke with the owner of a remote hot spring in the hills of Oita about using unused tatami rooms for yoga purposes. The owners of 
Yunomoritakesen (ゆの杜竹泉) agreed, and full-moon onsen events were born.  

Students, friends, and fellow yoga aficionados bathed, enjoyed yoga, and listened to poetry under the full moon. Everyone, included myself, enjoyed the evening, carrying away wonderful memories on our supple and invigorated bodies. The hot spring is surrounded by rice farms, bamboo, and cedar forests. If you go on clear evenings, the constellations glimmer above you. If you are quiet and still, you may see the reflection of the stars or the moon in the spring water while listening to wind rustle in a nearby bamboo thicket.

As a special gift to her students and friends, Marie started organizing yearly yoga bonenkai parties at hot springs.
A bonenkai ( 忘年会) is a traditional year-end party in which Japanese usually eat and drink excessively to forget the negative events of the past year (often with a hangover). Marie's bonenkai parties at hot springs, though, have transformed the Japanese bacchanalian parties into events that heal the body and the planet. She believes that hot water from the center of the earth grounds us, and that "we need to be back with the rhythm of the planet. If we feel the rhythm, we will do less bad. Yoga and hot springs bring us back to the rhythm of the planet." Words that I agree with! 

I highly recommend the hot spring mentioned above because of its tranquil location, cleanliness, and soothing views from a variety of baths. It has shared public baths and private baths for intimacy. One of the baths is partially in a cave! The private baths cost1,500 yen for two people per hour. Admission to the public baths is 500 yen per hour for adults, but usually no one counts the time that people stay in a public bath. Enjoy!

Please come back next week for  Part II of Yoga and Hot Springs.