This month I’ve been thinking mostly about play (for my Happiness Project) and yoga (because it’s less than two weeks until my teacher-training exam!). So it seemed natural to put the two together. I try to incorporate play a lot in my yoga practice anyway, so I thought I’d tell you a little about that and invite you to create a playful yoga practice yourself.
Yoga is play
For many people when they think of yoga they think of specific poses you have to do in a certain way to be doing it right. Whilst there are schools of yoga like Ashtanga that do very strictly follow set sequences and ways of doing things, there are other ways to practice yoga. A way to find “freedom in the form” as one of my teachers Adriene Mishler of Yoga With Adriene says. As long as you’re not doing something that’s going to cause injury there’s really no wrong way to do a posture. You want to wave your arms in the air in tree pose whilst everyone else has hands at heart centre? Go for it.
The poses are the paint
With painting there are specific ways to do things; certain colour combinations that look good, different techniques to using different materials (oil vs watercolours for example) but outside that there’s really no limit to what you can do. I like to think of it as being the same with yoga – the asanas (postures) and breath are your materials, but you, your spirit and your body bring the playfulness and individuality.
An invitation to create a playful yoga practice
If you have a yoga mat, roll it out. If not try to practice on a soft surface, maybe grab a blanket or towel for extra padding. I find it can be helpful to let go and play if I have music on. Find a comfortable starting position – really whatever comes naturally. You could lie on your back, sit cross-legged or come to a version of child’s pose.
Take a moment to close your eyes or soften your gaze and tune into your breath and how you’re feeling. Let go of any plan of what you’re going to do and let your breath and body be your guide. You will know when you want to move, and how you want to do it if you just listen. It’s okay not to move at all too – sometimes I’ve come to the mat and just stayed in child’s pose for 15 minutes. This is the playfulness; just as when you paint you’re creating an expression of your inner state, this is what you’re doing with your playful yoga self-practice.
When you give yourself freedom to practice in this way, tuning into your body becomes easier. I’ve found I can connect to what my body needs in public class better for having done this kind of practice. I can be playful within the form of the public class which, I think, just makes yoga practice that much better.
Have a go at a playful yoga practice and let me know how it goes!