Friday, 26 February 2016

Japanese Yoga Lingo

Every Saturday morning I attend a yoga class at my local gym. Naturally this is conducted in Japanese and naturally I understand only a small part of the instructions. This is not really a problem as I get along quite well combining the little I do understand with careful observation of the teacher and the other members of the class.

Even so I do use it as an opportunity to expand my Japanese vocabulary. I memorize the most frequently used words and look them up on the Internet or ask family or my Japanese teacher about them. This method has allowed me to gradually build up a vocabulary of words focused on body parts and movement. Very useful.

The meaning of one particular word or phrase remained a mystery. My yoga teacher used it 10 to 15 times in every lesson but I simply could not discover what was being said. To my cloth ears it sounded like "see nara". When I asked native Japanese speakers about it I got pretty uniform results. "Do you mean さよなら (sayonara)?". Well, no. If there is one word even people who understand no Japanese would recognize it would be "さよなら". In any case why would my teacher repeat that all through the lesson? It makes no sense.

Those with some yoga knowledge would suggest "shivasana". Anyone who has done more than one yoga class can understand that! In any case my yoga teacher does use that term often and it is clear and distinct from the mysterious "see nara".

I finally discussed the issue with my yoga teacher after a lesson but made no progress despite dragging gym regular Choki-san, who speaks excellent English, into the conversation. So I said that in my next lesson I would point out to my teacher when she used the phrase.

A week later the lesson begins and pick myself a good spot in clear site of the teacher. When the mysterious phrase makes its first appearance I point and wave at the teacher. "See nara! see nara!" I shout. She looks at me like I am crazy person wondering why I am interrupting her class. She clearly had no recollection of our conversation last week. Somewhat embarrassed I keep very quiet for the remainder of the class.

Even so I am observing when the phrase is used and come to the conclusion that it could have something to do with inhaling. I already knew the phrase she used when we exhale: 吐く息 (hakuiki). The Google Translate results for inhale did not contain anything that matched what I was looking for. On the other hand the results for exhale did not contain 吐く息 which literally means spit "吐く" (haku) breath "息" (iki). Perhaps I if I searched Google for "息 ヨガ" something interesting would turn up?

Bingo! I found the phrase 息を吸いながら (iki o suinagara) where 吸いながら (suinagara) means "while sucking". When my teacher raises her arms and says "吸いながらあげます" (suinagara agemasu) she means "inhale when raising your arms".

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