Play. It is not the opposite of work. It is exploring, discovering… playing! Trying new things and seeing what happens. Play is something that we often think of as being for kids, but in reality, it can benefit all of us, especially adults. It gives you a chance to pause from all the duties and needs you must attend to and simply let loose and enjoy the moment. Play is one of the easiest ways to break away from the past and future and just see what exists in the here and now.
When we play, there is a certain level of non-attachment to the outcome. We’re encouraged to try ridiculous things and fail without worries. We can explore without (too many) limitations and see what results might arise, being pleasantly surprised by what happens and laughing at what doesn’t. You start to operate from a place of curiosity and enjoyment, not slogging through something you hate or attending to the duty of having to do something. You look at how you are doing what you are doing and how it can be adapted, challenged, changed, turned on its head to bring about a lighter sense in your heart. Creativity leaps forth, filters fall away.
Bringing play into our practice means letting the rules slide to the wayside and letting our bodies and our inner wisdom guide us through the practice. We tap into more organic movement, instead of being guided by a sequence. Instead of a prescription for a number of sun salutations and a number of minutes for a warm up, we simply listen to what is inside. Not trying to get to a certain place, but seeing where you do arrive at, and what you can do there.
In the yoga practice, you can add play through movement. Moving slow, finding tinier and tinier adjustments, Noticing what new sensations exist as you refine the practice. Or you can move with the flow, exploring different entry points and new exit points from familiar postures. Shifting your practice with each breath, being open to the new cues your body provides as you listen to the awareness of what is happening within. Or you can bring in props, changing the practice by exploring what it is like when the earth isn’t there, when what you are grounding into moves with you, when you have more support than you normally do. It’s why you’ll often see me in a yoga hammock, on a yoga wheel, or with blocks, bolsters, SUP boards – they change the practice in such radical ways that I can’t help but laugh when I fail and I cannot help but be ecstatic when I succeed. Not grasping and striving, but exploring what are the possibilities today or 10 years from now.
I oftentimes hear adults say, “I’m not creative,” and it is a sentence that saddens me. We can all create, but that word, create, brings about the idea of an outcome, and there’s a meltdown: “What will I do? I don’t know if it is right. Is this how it should be?” If you get on the mat and play, there’s no expectation of where you are going. Maybe you make something beautiful; maybe you make a mud pie of a sequence. You might even get somewhere you don’t anticipate. If you get on the mat to create, it’s possible you fall into the mind trap of what is right and wrong, what is the suggested way of doing things versus what feels right within you. To try to create from a rigid rulebook, to feel attached to do things the “right” way is a good way to set yourself up for failure, and not of the kind you laugh at, but the kind you become frustrated with. There’s a lot of room for creativity in our practice if we just let go of the expectation that we are going to do something. If you come to the mat and listen to, “Hey, this is what I need today,” and listen to that inner om fairy, before you know it you’ll have likely discovered many new things, or at least a few things that feel amazing and that you feel excited to share.
Play is the place that helps me come back to non-attachment. You are simply seeing what is born out of the moment. The moment you are enjoying, you are doing not because you have to but because you want to, because it’s bringing you some happiness. What better could there be than being in perpetual playtime? Approaching life and yoga as if it is perpetual playtime and just seeing what happens. Taking that playtime and bringing it all the way through the practice and seeing what happens. Not taking things so seriously. Tapping into the creativity and knowledge that you hold inside that will help you on to the place you need to be, as opposed to the place you think you should be.
“Through play, find your way. In play, find freedom, revelation, illumination.”
– Lorin Roche, The Radiance Sutras