A Face of the Future!
By Sarah Hodges
Yukie Iijima exemplifies a natural balance of grace and courage, valuable qualities as she helps forge our path into the future. As a young and valued teacher at Still & Moving Center, Yukie leads an important part of Still & Moving Center Global, which will eventually offer online classes, 24/7! Yukie will soon be leading our first online class completely out of Hawaii’s normal time frame. In fact, her Nia class will take place at ___ am HST, allowing students throughout Oceania, Asia, Europe, and Africa to take part in this dance, at a time convenient to their schedules. Go Yukie!
Yukie has been leading Yoga and Nia classes from Japan to students around the world since Still & Moving Center’s classes went online last year. Yukie originally came to Still & Moving from Japan to receive her Nia White Belt teacher training from trainer Winalee Zeeb in 2017. She immediately felt she had a place here in Hawaii and amongst the positive and enthusiastic Nia dancers.
Yukie discovered her love of dance when she was just 3 years old while taking a Modern Ballet class in Japan. In the years that followed, she faced deep struggles with not belonging that led her to leave school and turn to home-schooling where she could more freely explore and discover who she was. Through the most difficult times growing up, she found that dance could always bring her ‘home’, into a more true sense of herself and her belonging in the world. As she grew into an adult and found her unique way of integrating with a traditional-minded society, she faced a frightening diagnosis. Yukie gracefully harnessed the power of dance to carry herself through the challenges with grace, setting an inspiring example of “Dancing through Life”, as Nia calls it. She demonstrates how we can emotionally flow both through difficult and rewarding circumstances to find peace within.
During her time in college, she began asking herself, “Why does dance make me so happy?” She entered the program for Psychology and Dance Therapy, a perfect fit for her intellectual curiosity, reflective nature, and her love of movement. Healing from some injuries, she knew she could not dance at a professional level. After graduation, she took a job at a department store flower shop to prove to herself her ability to integrate into society while maintaining a sense of her true nature. Eventually, she was again ready to move and signed herself up for a yoga teacher training in Japan.
During her college years, Yukie discovered she had a small tumor. Her doctors monitored it, and for years it remained small, innocuous. Then, in 2018 just before her planned Nia Green Belt training at Still & Moving Center, she learned that the tumor had grown significantly and might not be benign. Despite the doctor’s recommendation to undergo immediate surgery, Yukie booked her flight to Hawaii and set off for her Nia training, thinking that it might be the last opportunity she would ever have to travel to Hawaii. She promised her doctors that as soon as she returned to Japan she would undergo the tumor removal which would allow the doctors to determine whether it was life-threatening.
Yukie arrived at her Nia training with many fears looming within her, but as she stepped through the doors of Still & Moving and encountered Winalee’s positive spirit, she realized she wanted to be totally present with the experience in Hawaii. Her fears of the diagnosis remained, but she was able to let them rest in the background as she moved with her fellow trainees, expressing the challenges through movement, and finding freedom within the dance. Yukie explains that her method is to stay calm, step back, and look at the whole picture in every situation. Then, she chooses what she needs to focus on in the present moment.
After the Nia training Yukie returned to Japan and had the tumor removed. The mass biopsy revealed that it was not a cancerous tumor, and Yukie could finally close that chapter, taking with her some valuable lessons. In 2019, she was happily able to return to Hawaii and earn her Nia Blue Belt at Still & Moving Center.
Now, at age 34 Yukie continues to share her love of Nia, yoga, and dance therapy. dance, movement, and psychology. Her mission is to help others through dance to live happier, healthier lives.
Bridging many worlds, Yukie links the English and Japanese-speaking, as well as the inner world of psychology to the outer worlds of dance and yoga. She reports that in Japan, people tend to have trouble expressing themselves outwardly since their culture does not nurture individual self-expression. Students generally prefer to follow the teacher, mirroring the movements. Coming from a more western tradition, Nia helped Yukie to live the person who she truly is. She has come to feel less isolated, having met more people like her in the world, looking for the kind of expressive dance that Nia offers. Nia supports the whole person: heart, body, mind, and Spirit.
Yukie especially wants to reach people like her in Japan who might need and appreciate this approach. The students who come to her class have many struggles, worries, concerns, and they are able to find a needed release with her classes. They love it. And now, through Still & Moving Center she is reaching students from around the globe, opening the way for others to release themselves through dance and move with Joy!
She’s a face of our future!
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This post is also available in: 日本語 (Japanese)