This year I have been reconnecting with the intuitive, wild and free spirit in me, allowing my body-mind-spirit to be taken to new territories through playful exploration in dance, yoga, art, sex, cooking, and what not. Bringing the element of play with its spontaneity into different aspects of life shifts the focus from the outcome to the process itself in the way that most of us are familiar with and allows us to transcend the self-imposed limitations and ideas of what we could and could not do, judgements and fear of making mistakes. We know and accept that play involves taking risks, playing on the edge and with the edge itself, embracing the unknown and therefore treat surprise not as something threatening but as part of the game. Mistakes are viewed as experience. As the performance pressure dissipates, we become one with the activity. We are in the flow.
Introducing the element of play into my yoga practice spiced it up and gave me permission to explore (apparently, I needed a permission 🙂 ). It is not always an easy thing to get oneself on the mat after a long day at work when the only asana the body seems to be ready to practice is Shavasana (Dead Man’s pose). Now I start with some yoga trance dance inspired by Shiva Rea’s creative approach to yoga that allows me to tune into the body and hear what it longs for right now. I love music and drum beat and combining dance and yoga to the beat of drum feels quite natural once I release this idea that yoga has to be practiced on a mat and look a certain way.
After a while, already warmed up, I then move into the rest of the yoga practice seamlessly and take breaks for open practicee when I improvise and let the asanas that feel right in the moment come through the body. More play made my practice more alive and brought more joy into it. I started remembering that movement was fun in itself, that although I could have an idea of a specific asana, it could never look and feel the same for me and now it was more of a hello-what-have-we-here curious approach of rather than a physical and mental routine. So – more play in life!
Stuart Brown, founder and president of the National Institute for Play near Monterey, California, talked about play and the role it has on the quality of our lives in his interview on Speaking of Faith with Krista Tippett. A few lines from the transcript on how we could integrate play in our adult lives:
Dr. Brown: I think recovering it depends a little on how much of it you had as a kid and you can bring back in adult form into your current contemporary life. You know, I take a lot of reviews of play of varieties of people. And when I come across somebody who really has had an abusive childhood and they say, ‘Well, I never really played. I never felt free to play.’ It’s not that they’ve lost it. They feel they’ve never had it.
Ms. Tippett: Yeah.
Dr. Brown: Well, then you start with things like rhythm and movement and those things that intrinsically produce some sense of pleasure and joyfulness. Well, as Bob Fagen says, “Movement fills an empty heart.”
Ms. Tippett: You mean like movement dancing or sports or anything.
Dr. Brown: Dancing, yeah. Dancing, but things that are conflict-free but that you can kind of do that produce a sense of some of the things I’ve talked about — a sense of pleasure, of taking you out of that urgency of time — that work for you, whether it’s reading or dancing or hiking or conversation in a pub or what. You know, there are lots of different ways. But I think it’s important to find those things that work for you and to then, as Campbell said, then “follow your bliss.”
Ms. Tippett: Mm-hmm.
Dr. Brown: Find your bliss and follow it. But the bliss is usually retrievable. It’s kind of like you have to reach for it and pull it out, you know, from within your memory. But reach into visual images and emotional images that are — that produce a sense of pleasure for you, and then build on them. And that usually helps in the recovery. And it’s not something that happens overnight. It’s a slow but enjoyable process.
Ms. Tippett: I think it might be frightening at 60 to say this is an absolutely essential part of being human that I’ve paid no attention to and I’m not very good at, and I don’t know how to begin.
Dr. Brown: But you know, it’s different than trying to learn a new language, learning Chinese at 60 because Chinese isn’t imbedded in you but play is.
Ms. Tippett: Right.
Dr. Brown: You got a leg up on play just by being human.
So we do know it, we just need to reconnect with it or discover what triggers the inner child in us.
“Look into your heart for a catalyst. Look for the part of you that wants to shake things up, the part of you that takes risks and makes changes. Look for the wild child everyone told to sit down and shut up; the part of you that cannot be hemmed in, that knows lies are dangerous, nice is death, and pretending is just bad acting”.
from “Sweat your prayers” by Gabrielle Roth