So often our mind falls into the trap of perfectionism and control on our mats. It is too easy to focus so much attention on having correct alignment and being serious in a yoga practice. But remember, a “yoga practice” is just that - a practice! Not a “yoga perfect”. So why not have some fun in your practice? Approaching yoga with a playful mindset can really help to supercharge your practice. Here are a few prompts to think about how to bring a playful mindset into your practice.
Acknowledge your fears and dive into them.
As kids, we didn’t have as many fears. We would throw ourselves into a tree house, jump off boulders, swing as high as possible. As adults, we have lots of life experiences that will sway us away from engaging in a playful activity out of fear. We will always carry these with us. So, ACKNOWLEDGE that you have fears, accept them, and then FACE them.
How to play: If you’re like most humans and spend the majority of your day walking around on feet… practicing arm balances and inversions can flip your perspective upside down and put you out of your comfort zone.
Jump, don’t think.
As a kid, if someone said jump, you wouldn’t think about it. You would just go! Jump! How far?! But today, you might find yourself hesitating when you’re in downward facing dog, and your yoga teacher says - JUMP to the top of your mat... Do you start weighing the pros and the cons, deciding whether or not you feel like it, trying to think about how you’re going to make it happen, wondering how you will look when you do jump? Try this… don’t hesitate! Go for it! You’ll see what happens, and you might just surprise yourself.
How to play: Try jumping from one pose to the next. That could be jumping from downdog to forward fold, or it could be jumping from downdog into crow pose!
When you fall, get back up.
Giving yourself permission to play in your yoga practice also means giving yourself permission to not take yourself so seriously. When we play, we explore, try new things, and venture out of our comfort zone. And sometimes, you’ll surprise yourself and find a new movement that you really love. Other times, you might fall down. You might crash. You might end up somewhere you weren’t planning on going. And that’s OK.
How to play: If you fall out of a pose, get yourself back up and into it. Try again or try something new.
Here’s my favorite cue - [insert yourself into a difficult, challenging pose], “now, pull the corners of your mouth up towards your eyes. SMILE!!” Even faking a smile can improve your outlook and mood.
How to play: Literally laugh out loud!
“Life must be lived as play.” -Plato
Changing your mindset on the mat can also have a huge impact off the mat and into your world. Inviting play into your practice will start to open up your mind to other opportunities in your life where there is space for play, and open your imagination to new possibilities you may not have seen before.