Contributor: Sandra Fang, Yin Yang Japan Ambassador
I’m Chinese Canadian from Vancouver, Canada. It’s been more than seven years since I first landed in Japan fresh and naive after my university graduation.
As a yoga teacher looking back at my youth, I have so much gratitude for being able to do what I love right now.
Denmark, a Scandinavian nation of 5.7 million people, is one of the happiest countries in the world according to the U.N. World Happiness Report in the past few years. Danes has the privilege to enjoy high level of well-being and freedom to make life choices, thanks to the lack of corruption in the government and a great social support system.
When I visited Denmark, it was deep fall in mid-November. Still more than a month to go until Christmas, but in Copenhagen, the old harbour Nyhavn had already transformed into a Christmas market. Lights and decorations were all set up at Tivoli Gardens. The festive atmosphere had brightened up the chilly and long nights in this Scandinavian city. It was obvious that Danes know how to spend their private time well and to create a feeling of “hygge”, the Danish word meaning cosiness and warmth.
I came here very curious about what role yoga plays in a country with such a high level of happiness. We had an interview with Peter, the main teacher and the owner of Yoga Mudra Studio in Copenhagen. Peter told us, “The Danes pay very high taxes but receive great social security, healthcare and pension in return. Indeed, I think the Danes in general have a good work-life balance and the gap between the rich and the poor is small. But just like other cities in the world, stress level is growing. I think because people are wanting more and more now. 10 years ago, no one would want to practice yin yoga, but recently yin yoga has also increased its popularity. The concept of letting go and the need to manage stress is what many people need the most right now.”
In Copenhagen, yoga studios are everywhere, but studios are not the only place you can find yoga. When we visited a local school in Denmark, Nordfyns Højskole, (Højskole is a boarding school, mainly for young adults in Denmark.) we saw the students in a class were practicing yoga led by a certified yoga teacher. We later learned that yoga is offered as a part of the “Diet and Health” program, which helps students to find a healthier and more active lifestyle.
Peter also told us, “there are many places in Copenhagen that offer yoga. In our yoga teacher training program, we have had school teachers and medical doctors taking the training. After they’ve received the certificates, they bring this practice of yoga back to their communities, schools and hospitals.”
I was so inspired by how wide yoga has reached out to different people in Copenhagen. Coming back to Japan, I’ve always felt that Japan still has a long way to go to reach a mature level of yoga development. In my observation, yoga is mainly practiced by women between 30-60 years of age in Japan. But I always feel that so much more people who can really find benefits from this practice never had the chance to try it. As yoga teachers, it’s really our mission to continue to raise the bar, to deepen our knowledge of yoga, and to reach out to more people of all ages and from all walks of life.
This concludes all my 6 writings for Yin Yang yoga wear this year as an ambassador. I really thank Yin Yang for all the support in the past year and all the readers who sought out my column. In the coming year, I will continue as an ambassador for Yin Yang, and to serve the community through yoga.