National

In parks and stadiums, Japan's urbanites try reducing stress with night yoga

Kyodo

On a Friday evening at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, about 1,000 people took part in a session of night yoga, an event held a few times each month.

“Control your breathing — release the tension in your mind and body,” 24-year-old instructor Arisa Takada said through a microphone during the session at the home field of the Yakult Swallows baseball team. Guided by Takada, with therapeutic music in the background, the yogis in the outfield moved like waves in the stadium lights.

Doing yoga in parks, stadiums and other outdoor facilities has become a popular way to release stress in Tokyo and other major cities. The free events are organized by companies and require no reservation or experience. Some participants were in yoga gear but others were in T-shirts and shorts.

At one point in the session, the lights and music were cut as participants lay flat on their backs in a pose called Shavasana, looking up at the night sky.

“It was great. I felt like I was connected to the universe,” a woman in her 30s said after the session.

The atmosphere of the stadium creates a “hideaway from the city because the stands seal you from the outside,” instructor Takada said. “You have a feeling of unity with others.”

The Jingu Stadium event, which started up last year, is organized by a sporting event management company as part of its efforts to promote the local area.

Some local businesspeople have worried about a stagnant feeling in the neighborhood since the National Stadium, the main venue for the 1964 Olympics, was demolished in 2015 to build a new facility for the 2020 Olympics.

The organizers plan to hold 10 yoga sessions between May and September, inviting well-known instructors including Ken Harakuma.

The events were popular from the start, with the number of participants at a single session peaking at some 1,300.

The participants are mostly women in their 30s to 50s who join after work, but there are also men and those from older generations.

A separate session offering participants help with uploading photos from the event to social media is also popular, organizers said.

There are a number of other outdoor yoga events held in places such as Shinjuku Gyoen park in Tokyo, Yamashita Park in Yokohama, Nakanoshima Park in Osaka and Ohori Park in Fukuoka.