Yoga purists bent out of shape over trendy twisted poses

Yoga is undergoing something of a boom in Japan at the moment, but contorted business practices by some of the more twisted elements of society are making the ancient art a painful practice, according to Shukan Bunshun (9/22).

New yoga studios are popping up all over the capital and it’s no longer rare to see women carrying their mats as they scamper around the streets of trendier Tokyo districts like Shibuya, Aoyama and Daikanyama.

Never slow to pick up on the latest fads, Japanese now into yoga have created such incredible demand that there’re not enough teachers to sate their needs. Some people are already claiming to be fully qualified yoga instructors less than a year after taking their first lesson.

“What’s become so hot in Japan is not yoga, it’s just some sort of pseudo-exercise that involves striking poses,” Ken Harakuma, operator of the IYC yoga studio in the Tokyo suburb of Ogikubo, tells Shukan Bunshun. “Many instructors out there want nothing more than their students to be able to strike up a few poses. Theses instructors get their students twisting their bodies in all sorts of directions, so rather than being a healthy pursuit, it could end up causing major physical damage. And it’s not just the students, either. The teachers are putting themselves at risk, too.”

Harakuma, who claims to be the first yoga teacher to operate in Japan, says that the only thing the current yoga boom is good for is chiropractors’ businesses.

Apparently, yoga is more about spirituality than it is physical contortion. The exercise being called yoga that is currently so popular in Japan found its way into the country via the United States, so it’s as much about fashion as anything else.

“What is supposed to happen is that when you take up a particular position, it teaches you how to create energy and how that energy can be used. Something that doesn’t teach you about energy challenging has no right to call itself yoga,” Harakuma says. “Students are creating energy but don’t know how to use it, so the energy ends up being used the wrong way. This can lead to physical and mental harm, as well as to a hell of a lot of complaints about how yoga is being taught. But it’s not real yoga. It’s only pretend yoga.”


Most westerners are naive to the religious origin and nature of yoga. Many practitioners who do, merely presume that the exercises are harmless if they are not practiced with a spiritual intent.

Yoga is a series of exercises and postures (asanas) which are advertised as a way to tone up, reduce stress and experience tranquility.

Yoga though is an intrinsic part of Hinduism. Swami Vishnudevananda, well known authority of Yoga, in his book The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga explains the purpose of Yoga, “It is the duty of each developed man to train his body to the highest degree of perfection so that it may be used to pursue spiritual purposes… the aim of all yoga practice is to achieve truth wherein the individual soul identifies itself with the supreme soul of God.”
– Source: Yoga, a Profile by Watchman Fellowship

Yoga classrooms are easy to set up and require little more than space. Many yakuza gangs are also using yoga classrooms as legitimate fronts for shady businesses, making it even more difficult for the average people who are injured there to complain about any shoddy treatment they receive.

“Japan’s yoga history has only just started,” swami Harakuma tells Shukan Bunshun. “Eventually, the cheap and nasty places will disappear and the real yoga instructors will rise to the top.” (By Ryann Connell)

WaiWai stories are transcriptions of articles that originally appeared in Japanese language publications. The Mainichi Daily News cannot be held responsible for the contents of the original articles, nor does it guarantee their accuracy. Views expressed in the WaiWai column are not necessarily those held by the Mainichi Daily News or Mainichi Newspapers Co.


(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
Mainichi Daily News, Japan
Sep, 20, 2005

Religion News Blog posted this on Friday September 23, 2005.
Last updated if a date shows here:


More About This Subject


Our website includes affiliate links, which means we get a small commission -- at no additional cost to you -- for each qualifying purpose. For instance, as an Amazon Associate, Religion News Blog earns from qualifying purchases. That is one reason why we can provide this research service free of charge.

Speaking of which: One way in which you can support us — at no additional cost to you — is by shopping at