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The Importance of Play in Yoga

The more I practice and teach yoga, the more I witness the importance of play in class. Kids learn through play; they try new things, fail and start over. And adults? Adults are just big kids! Cultivating a sense of play within an environment of trust and kindness enables us to feel comfortable with physical and emotional exploration during our practice. This environment creates space for us to push beyond our boundaries, while also expanding our capacity for empathy. The way you approach your yoga practice on the mat is often mirrored by the way you approach your life. If, during yoga, your inner monologue says, “I can’t do this,” then that is likely your inner monologue for life’s challenges. Noticing what your body can do and what your mind thinks it can do might be two conflicting messages. By focusing on the body with a curiosity, and calming the mind through breath awareness, you may dissolve those preconceived ideas and surprise yourself. Even small gestures can make a large impact. A “half smile” expression has been proven to calm both mind and body: simply relax the face and turn the sides of the mouth up; alternatively, you can think of something that makes you smile. Nurturing an ease in movement during yoga offers more space for growth and self-awareness. This has been an essential lesson for me. Without incorporating a sense of lightness and play into my practice, I am unable to fully achieve or maintain a pose; when my intention is to have fun, my yoga practice takes flight.

'A simple smile. That's the start of opening your heart and being compassionate to others'- Dalai Lama

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