The Importance of Yoga Play

Danny Arguetty
The Importance of Yoga Play

When I step onto my mat usually my intention is to ground, calm, and connect to my body through movement and breath. I love the intent and focus that comes along with the practice of yoga, but there are times when even my practice becomes way too serious.

Luckily I have my little nephew and my sister’s two little pups to remind me that life isn’t meant to be that structured all the time. I can even have some yoga play in my life!

When I reflect on the hours in my nephew’s day, most of them involve some sort of play. At his daycare he is building, drawing, exploring, dancing, and singing and when he gets home it’s pretend worlds, running from one room to another, and lots of fun noise making.

The two dogs also help me remember to take a chill pill. I am struck by how much time the two spend soft biting one another, chasing each other around, and barking in a playful way.

If life shows us so many examples of play, why is it that adults spend less time in this mode and more hours obsessing about the past, future, finances, and time management—to name a few?

What is 'play'?

Dr. Stuart Brown, head of a nonprofit called the National Institute for Play defines play as something that's done for its own sake. It's voluntary, pleasurable, and offers a sense of engagement into what it is that you really enjoy. It takes you out of a sense of time and the act or the experience of play itself is more important than the outcome.

This is not to say that play does not have its benefits — it helps keep up our memory and sharpen our thinking skills. It also increases wellbeing and positive moods, reduces depression, and can boost creativity and work efficiency.

Have you turned into an overly serious person who has forgotten that even as a grown up you need some time to let your hair down and play?

How to Keep the Playful You Alive

Reignite this amazing need and capability we all have on and off the mat:

  • Put on your favorite dance song and move your body
  • Invite friends to your place for a board game night
  • Go to an arcade, play video games, miniature golf, laser tag, or go carting
  • Wrestle or tickle a close friend or your beloved
  • Join an extracurricular sports team
  • Spread some large white paper on the ground with newspaper underneath, get some non-toxic washable color, paint with your hands, feet, body.
  • Get on your yoga mat and move in a non-structured way, make a bit more noise, and roll around.
  • Ask your friends for more ideas on how they like to play, make a large resource list, and use it!

Once you take some time to get less serious, observe any shifts it has on your mood, attitude, outlook, and general sense of wellbeing. I'd love to hear about your experiences, so feel free to share them below!