Play Is Key to Sustain A Yoga Practice
Have you ever found yourself in a rut with your practice? Have you ever found it challenging to maintain practice in the long term? Has your yoga practice ever felt more like work to you than reward?
When we default to habit, beneficial or not, it may lead to viewing time on the mat as labor, an activity that we resort to because we “have” to. We get on the mat and don’t feel the joy, the sense of enjoyment and fulfillment, and we start approaching the why-am-I-even-doing -this-anymore danger zone. When we realize that we’re doing something for the sake of just getting it done, the likelihood that we leave that activity behind greatly increases. We may see that we have fallen into the habit of practice (which is wonderful in terms of discipline), yet there is something missing, something that we stopped remembering to bring to the mat, something that once again harnessed will keep us coming back day after day, month after month, and year after year.
The practice of yoga involves habitual action. There is no doubt many of us want to form the habit of practice. There is also no doubt that we may find this habit a challenge to maintain in the long term. Enter rediscovering your sense of play! Playfulness creates space which frees us from the monotony of habitual action, making the continuation of a habit more likely. During play/fun we lose sight of our future worries and completely let go of our grip on the past. We let strict ideas about ourselves go and more easily take on personas or characters, tapping into different archetypes and facets of ourselves, using imagination to explore the possibilities and lesser known places that reside within ourselves and others.
Sooooo that’s great info and all, but you may be asking: What about when I don’t feel fun?
If it has been a long time since you’ve fostered self-play, it may be a challenge to tap back into it. How do you make mat-time play-time? You’re in luck, because the answers to those questions are unlimited! I could give you a list of exercises to try out or things to think about on the mat, but honestly, what may help the most is a perspective shift when it comes to playfulness, and fun.
Start by asking yourself about your relationship to play. When in your life do you play, when in your life do you have the most fun? Hello journal opportunity! If journaling even sounds like something you don’t want to do, let this be your first exercise in playfulness. Try it out! See what happens. Consider when in your life you play and when in your life you could do it more. Consider that every moment is an opportunity to enjoy life a little more. Consider every moment an opportunity to invite the possibilities of what could be, what has never happened, or what you can’t even begin to imagine as possible. It is in a playful mindset that life may begin to take on a more lighthearted feel.
Ok, to be fair, a total shift in perspective happening immediately is a bit idealistic, so here’s a list of things to try to embrace play during your practice:
-Find moments to dance, shimmy, hop, or even break out in a full boogy
-Focus less on alignment
-See if you can wag your tail and roll your spine in different poses
-Select three or four of your favorite poses and come up with creative transitions between them. Try doing something different than you’ve done before.
-Exaggerate movements, take big loud inhales and exhales, make some noise
-Create interesting challenges for yourself like: for today, no hands on the mat
-Take that list of favorite poses and look up 4-5 variations of each. Spend your time on the mat learning and exploring those variations
-Play with your blocks! Blocks can be added to most poses and aside from making certain postures more accessible, will give a different perspectives of poses we think we’re really familiar with
Fostering a sense of play and shifting your view to allow yourself to experience each moment as an opportunity for the unknown to express itself through you is extremely powerful and of great importance to the longevity of a yogic practice.
I wish you everlasting play. Namaste
200 hr YTT Online Graduate, 2021