For exclusive access to all our stories, including sequences, teacher tips, video classes, and more, join Outside+ today.
Find the benefits of approaching yoga practice, and your life, with a sense of play.
The great philosopher Plato said, “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” Playing is a powerful way to gain insight into yourself, too. Play brings you into contact with your natural state—anando hum (literally, “I am bliss”). It’s a state of harmonious connection with yourself, with your playmates, and with the greater whole. Its spirit is contagious and multiplies itself without effort, raising the vibration of everyone it touches.
Much like the state of deep meditation, true play is a mode of becoming fully present and available to the mystery and wonder of each unfolding moment. In that moment of complete immersion, you release the crystallized assumptions of your past experiences and enter a world of innocence and possibility.
Children can exist in this state for hours because they are not afraid to dream big, to pretend, to bring their fantasies to life; they believe that anything is possible. Falling, laughing, and getting back up to try again come naturally to them. But as we get older, patterns of self-doubt, fear, and mistrust of ourselves or others can interfere with our ability to play with happy abandon, to dare to take risks with an open heart.
Play is my life’s work. When I teach AcroYoga, I’m helping adults to feel like children again,to trust themselves and each other,and to rediscover that belief in infinite possibility. Most adults need a fine balance of structure and freedom in order to feel safe enough to play and take risks. When we fly in AcroYoga (imagine parent and child playing “airplane”), defined roles and rules help ensure everyone’s safety. The magic word is “down,” which means “time out—let’s come back down to earth.” The roles and rules satisfy the intellectual mind, creating space for the flier to experience the pure joy of being held in the air, probably for the first time since childhood. I often see initial fear and doubt turn into elation and empowerment, as people build the trust and confidence they need to spread their wings!
The ancient rishis and seers who gave birth to the practice we call yoga began from this place of freedom and benevolent curiosity, asking questions that would guide the evolution of human consciousness. All of our great systems of knowledge, from medicine to philosophy to the great spiritual traditions, originated from this inherent sense of wonder and openness. Throughout the ages,wisdom has come to those willing to experiment and discover the next leading edge. When you surrender to the spiritual practice of play, you are celebrating the existence of life itself. Are you willing to leave the known behind and ask what is possible now?
Make An AcroYoga Play Date
Four ideas to bring wonder into your life:
- Instead of thinking about negative “what ifs,” play the positive “What If” game. Ask yourself, “What if I get my dream job?” “What if I open deeply to love?” Let your dreams become reality by asking, “How could this get any better?” And live the answer!
- Try a different style of yoga or a new physical practice, like dance or the martial arts, and become a beginner again. Forgive yourself if you fumble and enjoy the process of learning.
- Spend time with a child or an animal. Watch them play and discover the world again through their eyes.
- Give yourself permission to make a new mistake. Do Tree Pose with your eyes closed and see how long you last. Laugh if you fall down.
See also Yoga as Medicine
Jenny Sauer-Klein is the co-founder of AcroYoga.