Brene Brown, in her groundbreaking book, The Gifts of Imperfection, identifies the characteristics of whole-hearted people, individuals who she studied in her research who shared certain traits of positive living. On that list? Play. Brown defines play as something we do because it’s fun and because we want to. It’s a chance to return to the energy of our inner child.
Do you bring a sense of playfulness to your asana practice or does your mind tend to focus only on what the pose will bring you (strength, flexibility, challenge, etc.)? By practicing the following poses, you’ll have the chance to open yourself up to the power of play.
When I reflected on the most playful aspects of my own practice, Crow is what appeared first. That moment when I was first able to balance in Crow was one of the most fun and joyous moments in my yoga practice. For years, I had watched others find that sweet spot, thinking that it would never be available to me. Then, with one small suggestion by a yoga teacher (to move my knees higher up on my upper arms), I flew. What’s more fun than that?
Balance poses are often the most fun because they make us feel like little kids again. As children, we used to run, jump, and play without the fear of what we looked like or what might happen next. We were just totally into the present moment and the energy of our bodies. Practicing 5-Pointed Star reminds us of that feeling.
What would it look like to bring this playful, experimental energy off the mat and into your daily life? Remember, modifications are the sign of a healthy yogi! Use the wall or keep both feet on the ground if necessary.
There are many areas of focus we can choose in Warrior III, so why not choose play as your focus today? Smile! Move from side to side in your Warrior III and imagine yourself as an airplane. Want bonus play points? Make some noise. Let’s hear that engine roar. Does your experience of that challenging feeling in your glutes shift when you focus on play? How can a sense of play help us to fly through the challenges in our lives?
To practice Scales Pose (Tolasana), find either easy seated or lotus pose (avoid lotus if there is any tension in the knees). Place your palms on the floor on either side of you and lift yourself off the floor. Woah! You’ll immediately notice major action in your pelvic floor. If you’re just starting out in this pose, you might not be able to lift yourself completely off of the floor, or perhaps you’ll only be able to do so for one second. This is a really fun way to take a typically grounded pose like easy seated or lotus and turn it into something else entirely. Play is all about being creative and trying new things!
In yoga, we often make our way from seated to standing in a very solemn and slow manner. That energy absolutely has a place in our practice. So does play. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to move from easy seated pose to standing mountain without using your hands. Did you know that the ability to make this transition is connected to long-term health outcomes? What a great opportunity to allow your playful movements to strengthen your health as well.
Yoga is often about finding silence in our often-loud world. It can also be about silliness, laughter, and play. Take time today to see where play takes you, leading you to not only explore new aspects of your practice, but also to living a more wholehearted life.