In Kansai, the gym is still king when it comes to fitness. Just glance up to the fifth floor of any building near a train station. And when you do, if the sight of those wannabe hamsters padding on treadmills makes you want to head for the nearest couch with a tub of Ben and Jerry’s, then you might want to consider an alternative way of staying in shape. You might consider yoga.
Kansai has a decent collection of yoga schools, a fine example of which is Spirit Yoga in Osaka’s Tenjinbashi. Opened in 2007 by Osaka resident and yoga extraordinair Haidar Ali, Spirit Yoga offers an average of 24 classes per week, taught by a mixture of Japanese and international instructors from throughout Asia and North America as well as through frequent cameos from renowned names in the yoga universe.
“Yoga has long been my passion and the idea behind Spirit Yoga has always been to create an international community where people from all over can come to be taught by the best instructors and have their individual needs taken care of,” says Ali.
Sessions are held in the tantalisingly aromatic studios that, as is quite novel in Japan, have huge windows to let in natural light. As well as catering to those wanting to practice yoga at session level, Spirit Yoga also focuses on developing yoga teachers through the adjoining yoga school that Ali opened in 2010 and since then has become the only Yoga Alliance certified RYS-200/RYS-500 school in Western Japan.
Despite the range, passion and prestige present at Spirit Yoga, prices are reasonable; with three initial trial lessons just ¥3,500 and the Gold Member offer, whereby one can attend as many sessions as one desires for just ¥9,991 a month. That’s a lot of yoga considering Spirit offers around 20 classes including Yin, Hatha, Vinyasa Flow, Ayurveda, Power Yoga, even pre-natal and kids classes. With all this on offer, your path to yogic nirvana is only a short train ride away!
Spirit Yoga Studio
• Address: Tenjinbashi Matsumura Bld. 5/6F, 3-10-17, Tenjinbashi, Kita-Ku, Osaka, 530-0041
• Tel: 06-6881-3317
• Website: spirityogastudio.com
• Email: [email protected]
Haidar Ali gives us the skinny on some varieties of yoga offered by his school and how they work differently to benefit your body.
Ashtanga Mysore is a style derived from the teachings of the influential Yogacharaya Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. It’s unusual because unlike many other styles, where the class is “led” by a teacher, Ashtanga is taught oneon- one within a group setting. This means that all levels practice together and individuals can develop at their own pace to master sequences of therapeutic postures or asanas.
Yoga Nidra is sanskrit for “sleep” and as the name suggests, involves deep meditation and asanas held for extended periods to relieve stress and leave tired yogis feeling invigorated and energised. Recommended for worn-out souls.
Sivanada comes from the teachings of Swami Sivanada and focuses more on breathing and detailed explanations of asanas. It also utilises positive thinking (vedenta) and meditation (dhyana) to promote physical and mental wellbeing. Very stress-relieving, this style allows individuals to find their own rhythm. With 90 minutes said to have the benefits of 3 hours’ sleep, Restorative yoga is low-intensity and uses props like cushions and bolsters to support the body. This style focuses on deep breathing and asanas intended to gently stretch, relax and heal. It’s great for those with injuries or a strained body or mind.