Karma yoga thrives in Japan

Karma yoga thrives in Japan 2017-06-08T17:26:41+00:00

john-ogilvie-ana-davis-japan.jpgWritten by Ana Davis

You know you’re in Japan when you experience service that takes the concept of ‘the customer is always right’ to unprecedented extremes. John Ogilvie and Ana Davis recently toured Japan to introduce keen yogis there to the Byron Yoga Centre Purna style of yoga.

Ana and John were welcomed warmly and gratified to see that the Japanese are ready to embrace all eight limbs of yoga, expressing interest in the more esoteric aspects of yoga such as pranayama, chanting and chakra-meditation.

“It was my fourth trip to Japan, so I am familiar with the characteristic Japanese politeness. However, it was only this time around that I was struck by how the waitress’ sincere apologies for ‘keeping me waiting’ when she delivers my food, or the shop-keeper’s repeated ‘thank-you’ as I exit her store, are living embodiments of the practice of karma yoga,” says Ana.

“The teachers I met at the different studios were very welcoming and always joined in the class as students, showing a deep humility,” says John. “There seemed to be an almost familial affection between teachers and their students.”


Byron Yoga Centre pre- and post-natal yoga teacher Ana Davis (centre) with one of her prenatal yoga and women's health workshop groups

The concept of awareness of the other is embedded in the Japanese language; a very sensitive consideration of our effect on others. This makes you feel deeply respected wherever you go, with almost everyone with whom you interact.

There is a standard polite phrase in Japanese that can be translated as, “I’ve kept you waiting, and for this I am sincerely sorry”. “During my three-day prenatal training in Kyoto, we 20 women had to line up for the single toilet that was available at the yoga studio,” says Ana. “When it was my turn, the woman before me, without fail, used this phrase, displaying her awareness that someone else has been waiting for her. Would the same thing happen in Australia?”

“I was blown away with just how friendly everyone was that I met,” says John. “I felt a real genuineness about the warmth and hospitality I received – warm, friendly, courteous and welcoming.”

“Props were quite a new experience for many of the students and they were also not so familiar with physical adjustment, but seem to embrace it and really enjoy it,” says John. “They loved the challenge of taking the asanas to the edge of their physical limitations and nearly all students thanked me for the physical adjustments.”


John Ogilvie and the Osaka group. John taught Purna yoga, the Byron Yoga Centre style which blends all eight limbs of yoga, the way it was originally taught

“Many Japanese take their working role very seriously and display an indefatigable commitment to service to the customer,” says Ana.

“There is a humility and sensitivity to the customer evidenced by both their verbal and body language, even when they are sometimes barely acknowledged!

"To me this is nothing if not yoga: practicing something without any concern for the outcome, practicing something simply because this is our role, this is who we are.”

John and Ana are already planning a repeat visit.

“I was delighted by the reception we received. Students were laughing and smiling through the whole class, full of enthusiasm,” says John. “They really connected with the joy of the yoga and displayed amazing enthusiasm for philosophy, pranayama and meditation, even though most of them had never done it before.”

“There was a lot of interest in the chakras so our next workshop tour will include special adjustments and correction workshops and in-depth chakra workshops due to popular demand.”

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