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Women Take to Traditional Exercise with a Twist (February 13, 2004)

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Power yoga is popular with Japanese women. (Watamoto Yoga Studio)
For most people, yoga conjures up an image of sitting quietly and meditating, but a new fitness movement known as "power yoga," in which participants move through a series of poses, has become popular among Japanese women. Compared to traditional yoga, power yoga involves longer holding and continual changing of poses. Effective for dieting and body shaping as well as stress relief, power yoga has also found favor among Hollywood film stars. Offering more of a workout than traditional yoga yet less strenuous than aerobics - and with the added benefit of mental soothing - power yoga has gained a following in Japan, where classes are proliferating all over the country.

Ideal Exercise
"Extend your arms up. . . . Bend your neck back. . . . From the Cobra pose, assume the Dog pose." Following the instructor's lead, students change from one pose to the next, holding each for about 30 seconds. The flow of power yoga is quite simple, but provides just the right amount of exercise. Beginners find themselves soaked in sweat after just 15 to 30 minutes. Watamoto Power Yoga Studio, which opened in Kyobashi, Tokyo, in June 2003, is packed daily with power yoga aficionados, mostly women in their twenties, thirties, and forties.

One twenty-something woman who recently took up power yoga said, "After I entered the workplace I stopped exercising, and I felt that I'd lost my stamina. But I thought that if I just suddenly started exercising vigorously, I wouldn't continue, so I chose this school." Twisting and bending the body also provides a good stretching workout. "The workout makes me just tired enough that I sleep soundly."

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Demand for classes is great. (Watamoto Yoga Studio)

The school has been inundated with applications for trial classes, for which it charges a fee, and has even had to turn some applicants away. "There is a strong image of traditional yoga as being focused on spirituality or meditation, which makes many people reluctant to give it a try. With power yoga, it's easy for people to begin exercising," said the promoter of the studio. He added, "Another reason for its popularity is that you don't push your body as hard as with aerobics or working out with fitness machines."

The number of courses specializing in power yoga is on the increase. In autumn of 2002, Tipness, which operates 34 fitness gyms in Tokyo, Osaka, and other major cities, began offering power yoga classes at some of its clubs, but so many people wanted to enroll that now all of its gyms offer special classes, each with a different objective, such as building endurance or burning fat. These courses are especially popular among women in their thirties.

In addition to Tipness, other fitness chains like Central Sports and Sports Club Renaissance have also added power yoga classes that integrate such elements as rhythmical movement.

A Hit in Hollywood
Power yoga is a reworking of traditional Indian yoga into a fitness-oriented form of exercise and is characterized by a continual changing of poses. The poses themselves are roughly the same as those practiced in traditional yoga, but greater emphasis is placed on standing poses. While the poses are held for longer than in traditional yoga, pose changes are performed without resting, resulting in a vigorous exercise that gives the muscles a good workout. Power yoga works core muscles in the abdomen, buttocks, and thighs particularly hard. Working these muscles not only tones the body but also improves posture.

Muscle training using power yoga is quite different from traditional barbell training. Generally, exercise whereby heavy weights are lifted to put pressure on the muscles results in a thicker build, while exercise that involves maintaining a stretched body produces slender muscles. Power yoga develops slender muscles, resulting in a lean body line. The key to maximizing its effects lies in the breathing. The basic technique is to breath in and out through the nose, breathing deeply and slowly using the muscles of the lower abdomen. This relaxes the body and provides a wonderful soothing effect on the mind.

Over the past few years, the extraordinary body-shaping and deep mental relaxation effects that power yoga provides have gained particular attention in the United States, and many Hollywood actresses swear by power yoga as a fun way to stay in shape. Information on the advantages of power yoga has made its way to Japan, where the popularity of this activity continues to grow.

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Related Web Sites
Watamoto Power Yoga Studio (Japanese only)
Central Sports (Japanese only)
Sports Club Renaissance (Japanese only)

Copyright (c) 2004 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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