Home  >  Magazine  >  Issue 30 : Sep/Oct 2009  > Columns  >  Outdoor Yoga  >  Stretching Your Limits


Outdoor Yoga

By Kazuko Ikeda

Stretching Your Limits


Healing Journeys for Body and Mind
Retreat, Rejuvenate, Rejoice

We all know the word “retreat,” and those of us into yoga are definitely familiar with “yoga retreats,” getting away from the daily grind to make time for introspection. Some even join full-on yoga tours to remote areas or overseas destinations to immerse themselves in the experience.

During a spring trip through Arizona and Utah, I spent five relaxing days in Sedona. I hit the Grand Canyon, of course, and was amazed by the dynamic beauty of its landscape. It was a far cry from the urban sprawl in Tokyo I called home.

Native Americans consider Sedona a holy land, and recently some Japanese have begun to recognize it as a spiritual place. The red sand mountains were impressive, and traces still existed of Native American tribes residing there. I was particularly intrigued by the rows of stores selling “power stones.”

Sedona has become popular with New Age spiritualists who believe there are “vortex,” or places with great natural power, in the area. There are event maps showing where these vortex are located. They believe the earth’s energy springs from these places, and you can feel the energy when you get near them.

Apparently, your body and soul feel lighter, and you feel as if you enveloped in a sense of peace. Some people have been moved to tears for no recognizable reason. There are, in fact, “power places” around the globe such as Mt. Haleakula on Maui and the ruins at Machu Pichu in Peru.

Upon arriving at one of the Sedona vortex, I was reminded of the similarly powerful places in Japan. The Xxxx Shrine in Nagano comes to mind, with its delicious soba. I visited the shrine when I was a child for various ceremonies. The cedar-lined path to the inner shrine is frighteningly holy and spiritually cleansing.

In examining the history of xxxx shrine, I noted during the Kamakura Era it was one of the three most revered spirit dwellings, along with Mt. Takano in Wakayama and Mt. Xxxx in Shiga. Recently, though, it has been displaced by Mt. Osore in Aomori.

Human beings draw power from the earth’s energy and, whether we build a shrine or call it a “vortex,” we take the time to apply great meaning to the place.

During my hikes through these hills, I stopped to rest and do Pilates, quietly meditating and working through the normal routines while ingesting the natural power. It was great being outside the studio, let alone at an actual vortex, meditating without distractions or trivial desires, letting pure thought bubble up from the unconscious.

When you plan your next vacation, think about finding a “power place” where you can feel the earth’s natural power seep into you while you enjoy your own retreat. 

Yamuna Retreat