‘Whole hearted adults play’ - Brene Brown
As adults we can forget to play. Life can become serious. So can our yoga practice. We can become overly focused on building strength and steadiness and forget that we can find much joy in our practice too.
When we think about play we often think about children and their innate ability to be spontaneous, creative and find fun and silliness in the real and imagined world. Children can teach us to experiment with each posture, each breath, each moment with a beginner's mind. The beginner's mind is not the automatic mind that fills in the gaps through past experience but brings fascination to what is present now. Within this playful exploration we can move with a fresh perspective. So rather than being
with what we think it will be, we bring curiosity to what
we are experiencing.
Play is important because so much growth and learning happens with the combination of discipline, ease, and play. As adults we forget what it means to learn, too focused on the outcome and not the fun we can find in the process. Within the process we can experiment, explore the unknowns and be open to what we can discover. Playfulness invites us to practice with lightness and non-judgment, because when we judge what we find and maybe arrive at a conclusion that it should not be this way we create an inner conflict within us. Play also invites humour, to soften the lens we see the world though.
In my work in education I see the importance of play. I work with young people who find school and the world a challenging place to be a lot of the time. So often the most effective way to support these young people is to encourage some lightness, fun and silliness. As young people they are more inclined to play, I will often be found playing a game of extreme catch with a beanbag, pretending the floor is lava, having a sword fight with a made up sword… I feel lucky that my work enables me to play and actually needs me to have a playful mindset.
There are many benefits to playing: It opens us up to creativity and keeps the brain flexible. It also strengthens our frontal cortex, a structure that tends to go offline when we are in survival mode and so supports learning and helps us to cope better with stress. Play brings us back into our bodies and enables us to move from a heartfelt place.
Playing is just as much about your mindset as it is about the activity you are doing. This month in our yoga classes we will be setting the intention to play:
Can you loosen your habitual patterns - intentionally moving in a way that feels different to how you usually move?
What is it like to do some silly movements? At first you may feel a bit self conscious shaking your whole body, or wiggling your hips but soon we are collectively laughing together and find connection.
What would it be like to not take the asanas so seriously and instead be open to experimenting and learning?