Parents choose all sorts of activities for their kids in hopes that they will help their children become strong, healthy and wise: Academic, sports, arts, you name it. My mom did the same for me. She also gifted me with the treat of doing yoga with her in her bedroom, led by the infamous Lilias Folan in her groundbreaking show Lilias! Yoga and You that fortunately started when I was three. These quiet yoga moments, playing Yatzhee, and grating mozzarella for mom's lasagna are some of the best childhood memories I have with my mom. Precious bonding time that also strengthened my body, developed flexibility, concentration and a happy demeanor. I loved to read and play. The only times I remember getting upset were when one of my sisters took my living room chair when I left to get a snack, or when my cousin broke the first record my grandma gave me, Candy Man.
Fortunately, schools, groups and families worldwide are revisiting this practice, and are incorporating yoga and mindfulness training in their homes, schools and community space. The nurturing and non-competitive nature of yoga practice is a refreshing break from the competitive academic, extracurricular and digital life the average child experiences.
As a teacher of 25 years in Japanese schools, I know firsthand just how important yoga can be for our youth. Whenever I include a brief breathing, movement, music or guided relaxation element to class, the students engage at a deeper and more focused level than when I don't. And, recently in my university TOEIC training course, students tell me their practice test scores have gone up because they engage in relaxation exercises before.
Top universities are coming out with studies on the benefits at all levels for children: cognitive, emotional, physical. My firsthand experience has led me to make a right turn in my lifelong drive as an educator, and my family are in the car right with me! In September, I got my license in Chicago through Rainbow Kids Yoga to teach yoga to children and families. Life-altering experience. I knew it was perfect for my career when I realized it incorporated everything I was enthusiastic about in teaching English as a foreign language: Movement, dance, collaboration, creativity, relaxation, picture books, culture, content, and fun! Time to put the two together.
Motoyasu and I decided to go for our dreams and just after Christmas purchased two beautiful, historic Japanese houses within 20 minutes of our home and both next to hot springs. Japanese laws do not currently allow us to lodge people as part of our business, but with the upcoming olympics, that should change. We plan to host yoga classes, cooking classes, events, day camps, and, eventually, retreats. Motoyasu just got his drivers license to drive busses with up to 30 passengers, so we'll be ready to schedule camps soon. Gunma is too beautiful to keep to ourselves, and I'm sure that aside from the yoga classes, exploring Gunma will be a life-altering educational experience for all the families who come.