Natural Healing through Movement: Asahi

Natural Health Magazine (Luontaisterveys) 1/2023, article by Soili Kaivosoja, translated with permission. Two Head Trainers answer, "What Is Asahi?"


Luontaisterveys (Natural Health) magazine 1/2023, written by Soili Kaivosoja, tr. Margaret Vainio

"A Simple And Healthy Idea" is an acronym for ASAHI, the health exercise explained in this article. Asahi is a health exercise developed in Finland and its power lies in simplicity. Asahi series are done standing the whole time. Anyone of any age or gender can do them.

Asahi Nordic head trainers, from the left: Risto Lehto, Maarit Lintukorpi, Margaret Vainio, Asahi developer Dr. Yrjö Mähönen, Ilpo Jalamo

All amazing ideas have an amazing story behind them, and so let's start with Asahi's story:

Karate masters Ilpo Jalamo and Keijo Mikkonen were really worn out after teaching an extremely tough karate camp. They went out to eat and over dinner they started discussing that maybe there should be a practice less brutal than karate, because they were sore all over.

Jalamo told Mikkonen that he had been planning in his retirement years to set up a gym named “Asahi” (which means "sunrise" in Japanese) where people would practice only healthy exercise methods.

Mikkonen asked, “Why wait until retirement? Why not start immediately and make “Asahi” the name of a health exercise practice?”

The two decided that they better get a doctor involved to make sure they get everything right, so they invited Internist and Geriatric Specialist Yrjö Mähönen, who also practiced karate. Philosopher Timo Klemola, who had a background in researching Eastern and Western exercise forms including karate, was also asked to join the development team.

Asahi ’s First Stages of Conquering the World

In 2004, on a weekend cruise to Stockholm and back the men developed the first series. Little by little they drew up a second and third series.

In Dr. Yrjö Mähönen’s words, “We wanted all three series to have the same form: first a section on relaxation, then one for the neck and shoulders, then for the back, and last, for the legs and balance - these four elements in all the series.

The next year Mähönen and Mikkonen started the first Asahi test groups at the Lautasaari Sports Center in Helsinki, and a year later Asahi teacher training started.

“Now there are more than 1000 Asahi teachers all around Finland. Asahi is known in Greece, Estonia, Denmark, and Sweden, and now we are taking America by storm.”

Direct and Simple

From the very beginning the Asahi developers took a social medical approach by making sure it would be simple enough for any Finn to do, even if they had never done any kind of physical exercise before.

“We made it a priority that Asahi’s health benefits could be proven and that the exercise series took the whole person into account, starting with something as basic as breathing.

Asahi is also an awareness, or mindfulness practice. We Asahi developers are concerned about the the fast pace of modern day life, which depresses and stresses not only working adults, but school children, as well.

When everything else in life is stressful, there’s no need to get stressed out about exercising. Instead, exercise should be a balancing and restorative way to counteract the pressure at work.” Mähönen points out.

“It’s a good idea to follow the Physical Activity Guidelines promoted by the Finnish UKK Institute (which are based on those drawn up by World Health Organization and comparable those of the US Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.) These recommendations are not so tough: 2 1/2 hours of walking and two physical training sessions per week. I strongly recommend Nordic Walking, which was also developed in Finland. These two Finnish exercise forms, Nordic Walking and Asahi, make a brilliant combination when you want to get healthy by exercising. They are unbeatable!” Says Mähönen.

How to Quiet Brain Chatter

Dr. Mähönen recommends that training exercises be done at a slow tempo in time with the breathing.

It becomes an awareness exercise when we observe our body sensations while exercising. That way you get a double dose of relief from stress and anxiety.

“By exercising in the rhythm of our own breathing we are able to slow down the incessant brain chatter, that circulates in our heads non-stop.

In addition to relieving stress, we benefit from Asahi because it boosts our immunity. When our stress hormone cortisol levels drop, a type of white blood cells, or T-lymphosites increase noticeably. These cells protect us from viruses, bacteria, and cancer cells. In other words, Asahi is a natural method to care for your health, just like eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep and avoiding alcohol and tobacco.

The Importance of Balance

In addition to its physical benefits, Asahi Nordic head trainer Maarit Lintukorpi likes to talk about the joy it brings to those who practice it.

“In Asahi, your whole body is in motion: joints, circulatory system, the nervous system and especially the brain. That’s why it is brain exercise and physical exercise.You don’t need to work up a sweat, unless you want to by practicing with hand weights, for example.

Asahi Nordic cooperates with the Finnish Heart Association, the Lung Association, as well as the Musculoskeletal Association and the Parkinson Association at the local level.

“It is so great to see how someone with Parkinson’s, for example, can get so much benefit from practicing Asahi, especially in developing balance.” Lintukorpi says.

She emphasizes that Asahi strengthens mental fortitude, which is so important these days when faced with continuous news reports on negative subjects like war and pandemics.

“Asahi isn’t just a physical exercise, but also a mental exercise. A researcher from the UKK Institute, Annika Taulaniemi lists Asahi as one of the mind-body exercises that improves our well being.”

Another one of Asahi’s strong points is that it is practiced without background music.

“That way we can concentrate more on the movement, breathing and body sensations.

Asahi is great for those who have always thought that they hate exercising. Many people are glad that Asahi is done standing up.

Our mission is to get inactive people moving.” says Lintukorpi.


  • Develops muscle strength and flexibility
  • Rehabilitates the joints and lubricates them more effectively
  • Improves balance
  • Strengthens the bones
  • Increases lung capacity and promotes more efficient blood circulation
  • Improves mood, sleep quality, cognitive skills, such as memory, decision making and learning
  • Raises your ability to handle stress
  • Teaches relaxation
  • Boosts the immune system by lowering stress and increasing the power of the defence cells
  • Improves the general well being of people with chronic conditions, even though the ailment remains

Asahi is a Finnish form of health exercise that combines the best parts of Eastern and Western health practices. It was developed to help relieve the most common health issues that afflict Finns, such as neck and shoulder problems and back pain.


The former secretary of Finland’s Green Party, Panu Laturi, age 51, lost his ability to walk after being assaulted and robbed in Brussels in 2019. He can’t remember much about the incident, because he was in the hospital in a coma for several weeks afterward.

As a result of the attack, he was unable to move. The ongoing recovery process has been extremely slow and he is due for yet another hip operation in March. “After that, we’ll see if I will be able to get around without this arm crutch,” Panu said. “One of the greatest things about Asahi is that even someone like me with serious physical restrictions can benefit from practicing it. The Asahi movements have clearly increased the mobility in my legs.”

Panu also reports that Asahi has not just helped him physically, but also mentally, which has been very important in this long and excruciating recovery process: “Asahi leaves me feeling calm and optimistic!”

(A big Thank You to the Natural Health Magazine for letting us reprint this article in English on how Asahi can be a natural healing method!)

Categories: Interview