Sunday, May 14, 2017

SPECIAL BLOG FEATURE: Lindsey Sawada from Setagaya Yoga Studio

Hi, I'm Lindsey from  England. I have been living in Kyodo, Setagaya (Tokyo) for 20 years. I live with my husband, daughter, mother-in-law, and my grumpy old rescue cat.

I have been working with children for the past 27 years starting with babysitting at age 14, followed by volunteering with a youth centre for children with Downs Syndrome, several nanny positions, taught at a preschool,  junior high and high school. I also teach dance, fitness and yoga. 

I am now the owner of Setagaya Yoga Studio. The classes at the studio are for children and their mummies. The classes can be taught in English, Japanese or a combination of both depending on the student's needs. The studio looks out onto a garden where, on nice days, we can take the classes outdoors. Even on the days that the classes are indoors it's really nice to look out onto the green space. 

It's has been an amazing journey to be able to get to a point in my life where I know that what I do isn't just beneficial to me but can be beneficial to other people. The things that I can pass on can go on to be shared by others. 

I don't know of other yoga studios designated specifically for children in Tokyo yet, so the idea is pretty new here. A lot of people ask me how I manage to get young children to concentrate on yoga asanas (poses) for 40-50 minutes at a time and the answer to that is that I don't. At the studio, even though we do a lot of asana, they are disguised by walking around on all fours pretending to be wild animals, or rolling ourselves up in the mats pretending to be sushi, we dance, sing, we also touch on yogic principles through story-telling and role-play. 

Children gain confidence by leading some of the activities too. I have had some great feedback from parents about children having a more relaxed air about them when they get home, being kinder to their siblings as well as sleeping better at night. Kids' yoga has been scientifically proven to help children manage stress and build concentration. I particularly like that yoga is non-competitive so children can exercise without the pressure of winning or losing. The meaning of yoga is 'union' and we definitely see cooperation and union going on during class.

The stretch classes for mums are invaluable at realigning the body, easing aches, pains and stiffness. We use breathing techniques which help to keep us relaxed with our kids even through their occasionally challenging behaviour. I also really like to work on having a flexible and aligned spine because it leads to optimal organ health, improved circulation, digestion and mobility. These stretch classes are not difficult, most of the poses are taken sitting down. The goal is to obtain alignment in the gentlest way possible. 

Gillian Lynne the dancer/ choreographer is a huge inspiration to me. When she was a young girl at school she couldn't sit still and focus, often disrupting other children. She was sent to see a specialist who gave her the diagnosis of being a dancer instead of someone with some sort of disorder like her teachers and mother had expected. Gillian began ballet, found her passion and eventually went on to have a marvellous career in dance and even choreographed the world famous musical Cats. Gillian still works in dance at age 91! Both Gillian and I know that some of us just don't learn optimally through sitting still with books but through moving our bodies. Kids yoga undoubtedly addresses the confinement and stress that children can feel through being sat in a classroom all day.

This spring Tokyo gardeners are inspiring me a lot too. People have such tiny spaces of earth, or little balconies that are made to look exquisite. Whilst chatting to gardeners and admiring their work I have made a lot of new friends some who have come over to look at my garden and given me advice about how to make it into my ideal functional yet aesthetically pleasing space - it's a work in progress that I suspect may take me years.

In 2017 I will continue to deepen my knowledge of teaching yoga for children, continue to practice meditation and yoga. I will also try to continue to be as good and kind of a person that I can be by helping wherever I possibly can, even if it's just offering a smile to people on the street - something that I think is really lacking in big cities.

I spend my free time:
  • Driving across town to take my daughter to circus class. 
  • Hanging upside down at aerial fitness classes.
  • Doing yoga.
  • Spending time with my family by the beach or in nature.
  • Gardening.
  • Drinking deep red wines.
  • Meeting new people in my neighbourhood and discovering new places to eat.
  • I love to read too. At the moment I'm reading 'You Have 4 Minutes to Change Your Life', a book offering 4 minute meditations to help find balance. It's pretty nice for busy people and beginner meditators.

Contact and follow me here:

Tel - 090-5317-4121


The studio is open Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday

Mama Stretch classes 
9:30am -10:30am
11:00am- 12:00pm

Kids Yoga Classes
3:00pm -3:40pm (ages 3 and 4)
4:00pm - 4:45pm ( ages 5 and 6)
5:00pm - 5:50pm ( ages 7 and 8)

For other requests please enquire, I'm very open to suggestions and am happy to volunteer at events etc. I hope to see loads of you at the studio soon. 

Setagaya Yoga Studio