Enjoy a Yoga Retreat in Miyoshi’s Secluded Iya Valley with Aki from Yama Yoga -Part 3 



Based in the Iya Valley, the English speaking instructor at Yama Yoga offers a variety of fitness classes to both residents and visitors, including weekly drop-in yoga lessons, dance fitness classes for local residents, exercise workshops for kids and the elderly, and special yoga experiences for tourists in beautiful locations all around Iya. 

It was two o-clock on a Wednesday afternoon and the bass beats were thumping. We were in the small community room in the basement of the Higashi-Iya town office building. On the walls around us hung over a century’s worth of portraits of the village’s kimono-clad mayors, upstairs the diligent town office workers typed on their computers, and inside the community room a group of 70 and 80 year olds swung their hips to music that belonged in a Columbian disco. 

“They really love Latin hip-hop songs,” explained Aki. She was teaching her weekly fitness class that is geared towards the local elderly population. “I structured this class based on the students’ preferences. The first half of class is dance fitness and the second half is relaxation yoga. This type of combo is usually never offered at gyms, but it’s important to make the class fun so that they continue with exercising. And as a result, they can get a whole body workout.” 

So at the beginning of class the room was full of laughter as they swayed to the rhythms, while at the end it was clam and quiet as they took deep breaths to relax. With its highs and lows, the class was almost like a drama, and afterwards the participants chatted and exchanged vegetables from their gardens. 

Indeed, this fitness class created by Aki was approaching its 10th year and it isn’t just a form of exercise, but also a way of connecting the community. 

“The evening workout class is much harder and the age group is younger,” said Aki. “We focus on muscle training a bit more as well.” In a way, the town office community room of this remote, rural village has become a hidden gym. 

“When classes were cancelled last year because of the virus, after a month or so I started getting calls from the students asking when we could re-start,” laughed Aki. “And when the town government finally allowed classes again, they immediately wanted to know when we would begin. They knew it was possible to have class again even before I did!” 

But it’s not just her regular students that enjoy Aki’s yoga and fitness classes. Since beginning Yama Yoga in the Iya Valley almost a decade ago, Aki has led exercises to a wide variety of people in the valley, and has taken her stack of yoga mats out to the local retirement home, to small neighborhood centers, and to several of the local schools. 

“The content of the class depends in the age of the participants, so I had many things to learn in order to do it well, but I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback, so it was worth it,” said Aki. “And I really enjoy teaching yoga to young children, especially by having them pair up with their parents or teachers and do poses that are fun.” 

Aki has even arranged her Yama Yoga lessons to be available to outsiders as well. Aside from her Sunday drop-in classes at Ryugugake Cottages that are open to anyone, she also offers visitors a chance to do yoga within the spectacular scenery of the Iya Valley. And being that she also speaks several languages, it’s a way for foreign tourists to connect with Iya as well. 

“Iya is such a peaceful and natural place that is perfect for doing yoga,” explained Aki. Visitors have a variety of possibilities for such yoga lessons with Aki, which include beside historic shrines, on top of the majestic mountains, or even having her go out to where they are staying for a personalized early morning session. And afterwards, it’s also possible for these visiting participants to have Aki take them around the rest of the Iya Valley as a personal guide.

And one of the most stunning spots available is her own mountainside “Yama-Shala” farmhouse with a panoramic view that looks deep into the valley. This hideaway spot offers a tranquil, undisturbed yoga workout.

“Yoga is an honest activity,” according to Aki. “It’s healthy, it’s natural. There’s no need for special equipment and you can do it just about anywhere.” 

“Some people try to use yoga to get rich or to show off on Instagram, but that takes away from what it should be. Yoga should be a connection between your mind and your body. It’s a personal experience unique to everyone, and my only hope is to help people make this connection.”

For more info about joining or reserving one of Aki’s Yama Yoga classes, check the website: