My Saturday mornings are usually spent with an hour of personal training followed by an hour of gentle yoga. The hour of gentle yoga is the reward I give myself for doing the strength training first.

I’m just recently getting back to exercise after an extended illness. It has been challenging! I didn’t realize how much and how fast my strength and stamina had declined. I heard recently that as we age we lose muscle mass at an accelerated rate. It takes more work to maintain strength and balance as we age.

Today our yoga class was focused on the intersection of the psychology of play and the philosophy of the Yoga Sutras. It was such a fun class and gave me a lot to think about educationally. The five big ideas of play are described by Peter Gray, Ph.D in an article from Psychology Today. It’s not a new article, but it still rings true. You can access it here.

(1) Play is self-chosen and self-directed. Yoga teaches us to study the self and notice how our choices impact our bodies and minds. So we did “Happy Baby” and wiggled our fingers and toes any way we wanted. Are children getting enough opportunities to choose and direct PLAY?

(2) Play is activity in which means are more valued than ends. Yoga teaches that we are all on a path of growth and that wherever we are is part of the process of becoming. So we played with modifying poses in creative ways, even silly ways. Do we give our students room to experience process more than product?

(3) Play has structure, or rules, which are not dictated by physical necessity but emanate from the minds of the players. The postures of yoga are only part of a practice leading to peace in the mind. So we played with doing a movement sequence while keeping a small paper plate balanced on our palms. Do students get opportunities to create the structures or rules to implement their ideas?

(4) Play is imaginative, non-literal, mentally removed in some way from “real” or “serious” life. Yoga is the time in our busy lives when we can unplug and free ourselves from the cares of work, family, and the world. So while we did tree pose, we tossed a tennis ball and then bounced a tennis ball. A few balls got away and we laughed. That reminded me of the magic of reading aloud. Read aloud. Read aloud. Read aloud.

(5) Play involves an active, alert, but non-stressed frame of mind. Yoga teaches us to be present and to enjoy the space that exists between effort and ease. Are we making our classrooms places where being active and alert learners is valued without putting pressures (like test scores) on them?

I am going to try to practice more playfulness in my life, my writing, and my work.


4 thoughts on “Thoughts on Play during Yoga

  1. This is a great reminder about the power and joy of play! I know I need to add more into my classroom and into my family life. Thanks for sharing

  2. As a semiweekly practitioner of yoga on a novice level, I would not immediately have drawn this connection between yoga and play. I admire this synthesis of yours, particularly the theme that an activity “…in which means are more valued than ends.”

  3. I enjoyed how you connected the idea of play to your personal and professional life. So many times we ditch the play. The power of play is so important to have balance in our lives. Great read and reminder.

  4. I am taking away your line “the space between effort and ease” to think about more!
    I enjoyed your piece. I didn’t know you had so much to recover from. Glad you are doing the work of it.

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