This weekend I introduced a room of yoga trainees to the concepts of “Advanced” yoga postures and play for the aerial practice. For some, “advanced” instantly assumes twisting and folding the body into tighter pretzel shapes or balancing upside down on the smallest pinky finger. If you Google advanced yoga postures, this is exactly what you’ll find. But to me, “advanced” speaks to something very different… for me advanced is actually, maybe a bit of a regression… advanced is a return to our child nature… to play!
When did play become limited to children? When did play become synonymous with childish? Did I unknowingly sign an agreement when I accepted voter registration or driver’s license? Did I agree that my years of play were over and now my option was work and “adulting”. No, I’m certain I did NOT! The Encyclopedia of Children’s Health defines “play as the work of children”.
This definition concerns me on many levels, not the least of which is many children who have no play in their lives!
Let’s nip this myth straight away. Play is not the opposite of work. Nor is play exclusive to children. In fact, work and play are not mutually exclusive for anyone. Remember the adage, if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. That sounds a bit like play to me!
Stuart Brown explains, “The opposite of play is not work — it is depression.”
What do we know about play? It’s fun! It’s energizing, uplifting, rejuvenating, creative, oh yeah, did I mention, it’s fun? “The genius of play,” according to Stuart Brown, MD, “is that, in playing, we create imaginative new cognitive combinations. And in creating those novel combinations, we find what works.” Brown is a medical doctor, psychiatrist and clinical researcher and the founder of The National Institute for Play. I’d like to have a play date with Mr. Brown!
With depression on the rise despite increased awareness and public challenge to its historical shaming culture, we need more play. And we need more community connection. Marian Diamond, a neuroscientist from UC-Berkeley and leader in the research on the value of play since 1960s, concluded that play enhances brain development when shared with friends. Simply put, the brain works better when we engage in play, but we need friends to optimize the experience. Connection matters.
I also hear the excuse, “No time to play, too much work to be done.” Or even better, if you have time to play, you have time to work.” Myth #2: play doesn’t have to be the only thing we do! When incorporated into our daily lives, play can actually enhance everything we do.
In other words, FOR VITALITY, WE NEED CO-PLAY!
Play can be described as a series of experiences… from anticipation to surprise to pleasure to understanding which results in strength and poise, grace, contentment, composure and a sense of balance in life. Maybe not all these experiences are felt with every play episode, but the cycle continues. Play inspires us to ride again!
I’m reclaiming PLAY! I’m adding it to my daily regiment and routine! Actually, its already there, but I want to give it more attention and celebrate it with GRATITUDE! So I’m on the look out for playmates… and things that look and feel like play. Here are some properties of play:
Seemingly purposeless (done for its own sake)
- Inherent attraction
- Freedom/escape from time
- Diminished consciousness of self
- Improvisational potential
- Desire for continuation
When we play, we want to do it again! And again!
Do you remember what it was like to wander through your neighborhood to knock on the door and ask your friend’s mom/dad/older sibling, “Can FRIEND come out to play?”
It was such an honor to be sought out and invited… maybe because I was always the new kid in town since my family moved a lot. Either way, the invite matters. So here’s yours: won’t you play today? If you need a playmate, I’m available!
Whatever is on your agenda today, whatever changes are in store in your world, I hope you can make the space to breathe, move and rest. I hope you can find a way to say “YES” to your own self-care practice. I hope you can give yourself permission to begin again. We are here to help!
May you breathe deeply, move freely, labor lovingly and live vibrantly.