Northern Michigan University is the first institution in the United States offering courses in Asahi, a Finnish mind-body practice. Asahi is gaining traction within and around the campus community, thanks to the NMU alumna who brought it here from Finland.
The one-credit course offered reached its capacity and there are potential plans to expand and include more offerings in the summer and fall semesters. There is also a drop-in recreational course for PEIF members.
Margaret Vainio, a 1976 NMU graduate and the first woman licensed to teach Asahi to students and instructors alike, brought Asahi to America from Finland in the midst of the pandemic. This was intended as a way to help those of all skill levels fight the side effects of a sedentary lifestyle and provide solutions to the health challenges of these times.
“Asahi was developed in 2004 by four martial arts and physical education experts, one of which was a geriartric specialist and internist, “ said Vainio. “Their goal was to make an exercise form with all the mental and physical benefits of tai chi, qigong or yoga, but to make it so simple and accessible that everyone can do it the first time they try without risk of injury.
“Asahi tones the muscles, improves balance, relaxes the mind, lowers blood pressure and stimulates the metabolism, boosting the immune system. Asahi movements teach ergonomic ways to do daily chores and prevent back and neck strain. Done in a group it provides social contact, which is important for mental health.”
Last year, Vainio certified Asahi teachers in Marquette, Big Bay, Negaunee and Ironwood. These instructors have become advanced level teachers, and more have been trained in Bessemer, Ironwood, and five towns in Wisconsin. The last teacher training was held Feb. 8-10 in Marquette before Vainio was scheduled to return to Finland.
Read a previous Northern Today feature story on Vainio's effort to bring Asahi to her alma mater here.