To Play or Not to Play
A student asked me recently, “why do you say ‘play yoga’?” At the end of every class, I end by saying, “thank yourself for showing up, for playing yoga, and for giving yourself this gift of time on your mat.” Why play? Why not say do yoga? Why saying anything? For me, play is very important. Playfulness and lightheartedness are qualities that resonate strongly with me, that are sacred to me, and are qualities that I see severely lacking. I think there is a lot of emphasis on being serious, taking things seriously basically from the age of 8 onwards. A lot of stress, anxiety, pressure revolves around seriousness. And I think it’s true that a lot of adults forget that sense of play and could benefit greatly from more playfulness and a lightness in their lives. In this day and age, in this political climate, with all we see and hear in the news, it takes strength to find the playful and to find the lightness and it’s even more necessary. As one of my role models, Princess Poppy, says in the movie Trolls, “I know it's not all cupcakes and rainbows but I'd rather go through life thinking that it is.” It’s not from a place of having my head in the sand, it’s from a place of rising above the darkness, wanting to shift the world into a place of beauty, appreciation, smiles, silliness, childlike wonder. When things get tough, when life feels very heavy and daunting, can you still find a lightness? Can you find the play? Can you find ease?
In the yoga world, as anywhere else, there can be this mega seriousness. It is a practice with deep ancient roots and I mean absolutely no disrespect when I say that personally I think people are taking things way too seriously and need more chances to let go, to be silly, to play! Even if yoga is a serious practice, which for some it is and I don’t mean to take that away from them, can there also be a lightness and playfulness? I don’t see that these have to be at odds with each other. I don’t see play taking away from the practice, I see it enhancing it. That’s my belief and it doesn’t have to be for everyone. In a world that has a lot of practice in being serious, being critical, analytical, intense, I find a necessity to find the space for the practice of lightheartedness and laughter. That personally is what I think many of us need a lot more time practicing.
This is what feels authentically me. Part of what I loved about my Kripalu teacher training was the permission for each teacher to bring their own flavor to their teaching. There was a freedom I felt when introduced to Kripalu yoga to make the practice my own, make the practice work for the person I was on the mat in that moment rather than make myself fit the mold of the practice and poses, a freedom to teach and share this practice in a way that’s uniquely my own. I talk about playing yoga with deep reverence and respect because I do find the element of play sacred and precious. Play yoga for the sake of lighting up the world! And there are always consequences to being the person you are. There are consequences to me being myself. My personality, my approach is not going to be for everyone. One of my favorite definitions of yoga is credited to the former CEO of Kripalu, Dinabandhu Patton Sarley. He defines yoga as a practice of tolerating the consequences of being ourselves. Not every flavor is for every body and there are consequences to being ourselves. On and off the mat, being playful, wearing flower crowns and glitter, sledding in my mid-30s (and beyond hopefully!), being sarcastic, cursing, thinking pink patent leather Doc Martens are appropriate footwear 99% of the time, sending emails in purple, isn’t for everyone. We each have our own approach to life, our own flavor and that’s the good news. That’s what brings wonderful diversity to this life because there are different flavors for different people! Embrace that! Disney movies and Harry Potter are not be for everyone and that’s a-ok!
But ask yourself, get curious, what does light you up? What is your relationship with play? Where are you playful and where might you be missing it? Do you remember the last time you felt lighthearted? Felt joy? What were you doing when you felt that? And do more of that. The world needs more joy, more passion, more play, more light!