Ashtanga Yoga with Ken Harakuma, Wellness

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Ashtanga Yoga with Ken Harakuma

Phuket has the good fortune to welcome Ken Harayama the Director of Ashtanga Yoga Japan and co-founder of the International Yoga Centre Japan. From January 12th to February 20th Ken will hold special classes for Ashtanga Yoga and Pranayama Practice at Sukko Cultural Spa and Wellness Resort.

Ashtanga Yoga with Ken Harakuma grasped this once in a blue moon opportunity to have an interview with him, the first Japanese certified to teach Ashtanga by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (a Grand Master from India). Here is what we learned.

Please tell us what Ashtanga Yoga is exactly?

“Actually all kinds of Yoga are based on Ashtanga. It comes from an ancient text called ‘Yoga Sutras’ by Yogi Patanjali, the second chapter of which is about how you practice Yoga. It says Yoga is Ashtanga; ‘ashta’ meaning ‘eight’ and ‘anga’ meaning ‘limb’ in Urdu. In other words, there are ‘eight limbs’, or disciplines, to follow.”

The Ashtanga or eight limbs are described by Patanjali as:
1. Yama (abstinence)
2. Niyama (observance)
3. Asanas (posture)
4. Pranayama (breath control)
5. Pratyahara (sense withdrawal)
6. Dharana (concentration)
7. Dhyana (meditation)
8. Samadhi (contemplation)

Ashtanga Yoga with Ken Harakuma

What is the heart of Ashtanga Yoga?

“Ashtanga is not only the practice of postures or positions. It's all about a way of life including morning exercise, working, the way you eat, and the way you think. All of these are related to it, so try to understand the eight limbs and you will understand Ashtanga. Then practice it in daily life.”

Describe the Ashtanga postures practice?

“I learned the Pattabi Jois Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga system from Pattabi himself. It is mainly focused on dynamic connecting postures. Doing the posture (Asanas) combined with the breathing (Pranayama) is the way to practice.”

Ashtanga Yoga with Ken Harakuma

How does Ashtanga Yoga help?

“I think all kinds of Yoga can help a person in the same way. When you do the postures, your body is getting stronger, more flexible and better balanced. The breathing helps to create energy and stimulate the nervous system, and as a consequence the mind is more conscious and awake.

“Sometimes, before starting to practice Yoga, people feel lethargic and run down. But then they find that Yoga helps them to have more energy, feel up to the challenge, and encourages them not to give up. However, they must not push it too hard, and must know their physical limitations.

“Remember, doing the postures is not just to exercise your body. The main idea is to clarify your way of thinking which is more important than just body strength.”

Ashtanga Yoga with Ken Harakuma

Ashtanga Yoga helps working?

“If you learn Ashtanga properly, not only the postures but its deeper meaning, you will feel the difference between before and after practicing. Previously, you may have used a lot of energy in doing something and consequently feel tired, but after you understand Ashtanga, doing the same task, but with a different way of thinking, you will not be so tired because you mind is relaxed.”

Can anyone practice Ashtanga Yoga?

“Everyone can practice Ashtanga but you have to learn how. Your teacher will help you with this; just come and join then learn. You do not need to have practiced yoga before, beginners are always welcome.

Can one do it alone?

“Yes you can. I practiced alone for two years before going to India where I stayed with a teacher for one month then went back to Japan and spent another ten months practicing myself. I then repeated the process, this time staying in India for two months before flying back home for another ten months of solitary practice. If you learn the basics from the teacher, you can practice yourself. It's possible, but you should always go back to your teacher to learn a little more, bit by bit”

I have heard that we should not practice Ashtanga Yoga on moon days, why?

“It's one of the rules. The position of the sun and the moon affects our lives and we believe that on moon days (both full moon and new moon) the energy level changes too much. With a new moon, our energy will drop considerably while a full moon gives a surplus of energy, but not well grounded. So avoid practicing Ashtanga on these two days to avoid injury. Instead, you can spend this time praying to show your appreciation of the sun and the moon.”

How did you become interested in Yoga?

“I used to be a trading company owner. I worked very hard and suffered far too much stress. Then I discovered Yoga and practiced Iyengar Yoga for three years before switching to Ashtanga which I practiced for two years before opening my studio fifteen years ago. Even now I'm still learning.”
Now you know how good Ahstanga Yoga is, and how literally anyone can do it, don’t you want to get started?

Get to Know Ken Harakuma

Ken is the Director of Ashtanga Yoga Japan and co-founder of the International Yoga Center Japan. A surfer since high school, he has a black belt in Shorinji Kempo martial arts. He has journeyed to the North Pole and climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. His destiny led him to health-related training: practicing Tai chi, Thai Massage, Therapy & Chiropractic Sports Massage, and Reiki Master Certification.

He has been practicing yoga for many years and continuously studying with Sri K. Pattabhi Jois and R Sharath at the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute in Mysore, India.

Ken is the first Japanese teacher authorized by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois to teach the Ashtanga Vinyasa method. He is presently practicing the Advanced Series under their guidance.

He supervised the translation (into Japanese) of Sriya Namaskar and Yoga Mala by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois and wrote "The Spirit of Ashtanga Yoga" (in Japanese). He also invited R Sharat to Japan in 2005 & 2007 for his workshop in Tokyo.

Sukko Cultural Spa & Wellness
5/10 Moo 3, Vichit, Muang Phuket 83000
Tel +66 7626 3222 Fax +66 7626 4533


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