Do you smile when you practice yoga? Unless the teacher cracks a joke, I tend to be all business on my mat. Thanks to my daughters, though, I am working on lightening up some. Demetra and Zoe get a kick out of doing yoga. They spontaneously will yell out "YOGA PARTY" and strike a pose. Zoe, my 2-year-old, has a fantastic 3-legged downward facing dog, and Demetra, my 4-year-old, usually goes for dancers or reverse table top. But, they also like to make up poses. They put the "pretzel" in yoga by twisting and reaching parts of their little bodies in ways I never thought of. The best part ... they smile and giggle as they playfully move. "Look at this, mommy!" they will say, wanting me to cheer for them. And boy do I cheer!
It's such a gift to watch my girls express themselves in this way. It's also a gift to be reminded that it's OK for yoga to be a playful and enjoyable experience.
Our yoga practice doesn't have to be as serious as the rest of life is.
I am finding that when I remember to lighten up on my mat, my body opens in postures in new ways with ease. I can twist just a bit more or hold crow pose longer. Or, when I fall out of a pose, I get less frustrated because my attitude is one of playfulness instead of perfectionism.
The wear and tear of adult life can make it challenging to access a playful mindset. But it is not impossible. Giving ourselves permission to consciously choose to smile from time to time on our mats will bring a lighthearted energy to our practice. It will also help us to practice how to lighten up in challenging moments. Let's face it, smiling while in twisting triangle or warrior III may not feel so natural. Still, even attempting a half smile while in these hard poses can shift the energy from struggling to exploring playfully. In the same way, attempting to smile when in traffic or waiting in a long line to check out at Target can calm the rising tide of stress that's building.
I am challenging myself to smile during at least three poses each time I practice. Will you join me in this? Let me know how lightening up some benefits you on and off your mat. We can compare yoga party notes!