Mottainai Yoga Honors Body, Mind, Spirit, and Community

Mottainai Yoga at JANM. Photo by Ben Furuta.
Mottainai Yoga at JANM. Photo by Ben Furuta.


Since January 2016, JANM has been pleased to offer Mottainai Yoga, a recurring series of yoga classes taught by traci ishigo. Ishigo works as Program Coordinator for the Japanese American Citizens League Pacific Southwest District, where her projects include Bridging Communities: A Solidarity Arts Fellowship with the Council on American Islamic Relations LA; the #VigilantLove Coalition against Islamophobia and Violence; Camp Musubi for 5th–8th grade Nikkei youth; the Los Angeles Day of Remembrance; and Okaeri: A Nikkei LGBTQ Gathering, which will take place at JANM October 14–15, 2016.

We conversed with ishigo via email to learn more about about her yoga practice and how she came to teach at JANM.

JANM: What led you to start offering a yoga class at JANM?

ti: It’s almost a dream to share yoga in Little Tokyo at the Japanese American National Museum. As a younger person invested in the longevity of this community, I feel fortunate that JANM approached me to share a practice that supports both individual and collective wellness. It’s a great chance for me to connect with people of multiple generations and backgrounds in a very different way within this historic JA community.

traci ishigo. Photo by Ben Furuta.
traci ishigo. Photo by Ben Furuta.


JANM: Describe your style of yoga, and your goals for the class.

ti: My main intention is to lead a practice that is gentle and supportive enough for anyone to participate in. From my training in trauma-informed yoga, I try to offer students safety, relaxation, and the empowerment to connect with their own practice. Sometimes it’s the hardest thing to try and slow down life, explore a new way of being in our bodies, and make the special time to develop a mindful breathing practice. During class, I might share cues to notice our breath, or invite each yogi to listen to what feels best in their body and then move accordingly by stretching, strengthening, and/or balancing.

The class is called Mottainai Yoga because I thought we could apply the meaning of mottainai (no waste) to the practice of yoga, which honors our bodies, minds, spirit, and energy. Mottainai Yoga class on Saturdays helps to remind me of how much we should have deep respect for all things, including ourselves.

traci ishigo assists a yogi with a pose. Photo by Ben Furuta.
traci ishigo assists a yogi with a pose. Photo by Ben Furuta.


JANM: From a quick Google of your name, I see that you have a longstanding commitment to social justice. Can you tell us how your yoga practice fits into that framework?

ti: To me, there are natural connections between yoga, meditation, and my community and social justice work. This kind of work can be overwhelming, and yoga and meditation help to anchor me. Oftentimes, people may believe that yoga is not for them based on common stereotypes, or uncomfortable experiences in corporate yoga studios. Understanding those barriers personally informs my motivation to share an inclusive, trauma-informed yoga practice that supports community members in accessing this resource in their own life. And more than anything, yoga has become a way for me to connect with many special people, which is at the heart of why social justice work is so meaningful.

The next series of Mottainai Yoga classes begins July 16. To reserve your single-session or series tickets, click here.

Happy Halloween from JANM!

Happy Halloween!

Here’s a 1955 photograph from the Museum’s archives! It’s a publicity photo promoting the Hollywood JACL’s Halloween dance that was taken by the Toyo Miyatake Studio for The Rafu Shimpo. The women pictured are president Miwa Yamamoto and Hatsie Matoba.

Holllywood JACL Halloween dance, publicity photo, October 24, 1955 (96.267.302). Photograph by Toyo Miyatake Studio, Gift of the Alan Miyatake Family.


The photo is one of over 9,500 negatives and photographs that are part of the Toyo Miyatake Studio/Rafu Shimpo Collection at the Museum. A selection of 1,131 photos are available online.