Japanese Ikigai Exercises

Japanese Ikigai Exercises

Ikigai is a Japanese word which basically means ‘reason for being’ in the sense of answering “what should I do with my life??”. One of the ways to ‘unlock’ your ikigai is with Japanese Ikigai Exercises.

It has been suggested that since the concept has its origins in the Japanese island of Okinawa – home to an unusually large population of people over 100 years old – that ikigai may hold the key to both happiness AND longevity.

There are a lot of websites talking about this right now and the things you should do to ‘unlock’ your ‘ikigai’. Of these things, however, I want to focus on only a couple – the couple I might just be able to help you with:

  • Leave urgency behind and adopt a slower pace of life
  • Get in shape through daily, gentle exercise

Gentle, Daily Exercise to Unlock your Ikigai

Gentle daily exercise is what we’re all about here at Internal Force Fitness – and one of our most popular exercise routines comes from Japan! So let’s get to making every day a day of health!

Radio Taiso Exercises

Radio Taiso is a series of standing, bodyweight-only exercises that are designed to put joints through their full range of motion. In most daily life, joint movements usually fall well short of their full range of motion, so muscles can gradually shrink. Simply put your body through a full range of motion every day and you can see how obvious it is that you will keep working better AND feeling better for longer.

The exercises can also improve agility and posture which can in turn help with simple things like getting up from a chair, or getting down onto the ground. Furthermore, gentle exercises such as these in the morning gets the blood flowing around your body, which in turn will energize you, loosen your joints and get rid of accumulated stiffness.

I can certainly see how this might help with Ikigai!

There are three programs in the Radio Taiso set: The first is the basic routine, the second is to develop more strength, and the third you can even do sitting down if you like!

Sample of Radio Taiso

You can watch a video of Radio Taiso HERE, and download the book from our shop, but here is the first exercise from the first routine:

Exercise 1: Stretch ‘n’ Grow.

Good posture starts with the spine. By starting with an exercise to immediately improve your posture you are going to align your body in such a way that you will benefit MORE from all of the other exercises and help to prevent injury.

Focus: The focus during this exercise should be on the back muscles. Pay close attention to whether you feel your arms going ‘straight’ up and down equally on both sides. Remember, the aim of all of the programs in the Internal Force Fitness catalog is to IMPROVE your fitness through short daily routines. Do only what you can every day, but make a mental note to try and improve the next day. NEVER force or try and push a particular muscle further than it wants to go.

Stretch ‘n’ Grow Radio Taiso

Position 1: Stand with heels together and feet angled out at around 45 degrees. Arms are down by your sides and your hands are in light fists. (A light fist is where the fingers of the hand are curled in and the fingertips are just barely touching the palm) The sides of your fists should be touching your upper thighs, knuckles facing forwards. Stand as straight as you can by pushing your shoulders back, pushing your neck back against an invisible collar and FEEL your chest naturally come up and OUT and your stomach go IN.

Position 2: Keeping your arms nice and straight, raise both arms up and out in front of you until they are straight overhead. Try and brush your ears with your upper arms as you do this. An excellent way to get the most out of this very simple movement is to FOCUS on the knuckles of each hand. You want to keep the knuckles as far away from you as possible during the entirety of this movement. Each hand is a ball of radioactive energy that will EXPLODE if it gets too near. At the uppermost point of this movement, make sure your body is taut and your lungs are nice and full.

*Breathing: Inhale as you raise your arms, exhale as you lower them.

Position 3: With the arms still overhead, open the hands but keep the fingers together (so the hand is nice and flat, like a paddle, palms facing away from you). Without pausing, slowly lower the arms sideways until they are back at the sides. Focus here is the energy radiating from the fingertips. You have energy beams shooting out from each fingertip, but only so long as your arms remain nice and straight.

Position 4: As position one.

Count and repetitions: The official version of the Radio Taiso routine only calls for this movement to be repeated twice. To a medium count of four you would simply go through each step twice. My personal preference is to perform this movement three to four times to a slower count:

  • Arms straight out in front of body (pause for 4 count)
  • Arms straight overhead (pause for 4 count)
  • Arms out to the side (pause for 4 count)
  • Arms down by side (pause for 4 count)

Review: This exercise has acted as a preliminary ‘preparation’ exercise for over 75 years! It serves as an adjusting exercise, because it encourages good posture, but also as a breathing and replenishing exercise because it encourages the lungs to be filled with fresh air. You will often see encouragement to perform this exercise by an open window for just this reason.

Variation: It is perfectly acceptable to start with the hands flat against the thighs and keep the hands in the ‘paddle’ position throughout the movement. Palms will be facing one another until they reach overhead, then turned out and facing down on the way down (as before). Equally, it is fine to keep the hands in light fists for the duration of the exercise.

Ready to give it a go?

Why not head over to the Radio Taiso page and take a more in-depth look at the routine (there is also a second routine that is excellent for strength building). You can also head over to Amazon if you want to kick back with your Kindle and take a look at what it’s all about.

Richie Neville | Director

Look Fit by Feeling Great!