Joanna and Esmeralda share the their top 5 ways to play and have fun on your yoga mat and why they feel it is important to take everything (including your yoga practice) less seriously.
Life can become way too serious… so why not have fun on your yoga mat?!
To totally generalise, our day to day life often ends up heavily focused on our commitments and necessities (such as work, bills, and chores…), all the ‘exciting’ things we never realised we would have to look forward to as adults.
As kids we thought it would be so much fun to be an adult… but why? Because you get to stay up as late as you like, play as long as you want, and eat loads of sweeties. Why did no one tell us adulting would take up so much time and make things so… serious?!
A knock-on effect of the society we have developed in is that we get caught up in goal-driven lives that demand and reward achievement. With graded schooling, career promotions, and even treats for good behaviour, we have been bred into believing that a ‘pursuit of progress’ is the way forwards.
This can be tiring, and not quite how we imagined ‘adulting’ would be!
The meaning of life is just to be alive!
It is so important to remind ourselves that ‘progress’ and ‘success’ are not the point of living. As Alan Watts says “The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves.”!
“The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves.”Alan Watts
It’s not about being the best, or the first to cross the finish line of life, but rather how we enjoy each and every moment along the way. It’s not all about the end results, but also the process of getting there.
- Has life’s serious-ness crept onto our yoga mats?
- Have we lost enthusiasm for our practice?
- Is it a struggle to find inspiration to come to the mat?
What does it mean to play?
We can often see this pattern of being driven by goals reflected in our yoga practices. We begin to focus on achieving a pose or progressing in a sequence, but is this really what yoga is about? For us, time on the mat is a beautiful sacred moment when we can make time to simply be rather than conforming to the social pressures of only doing for a reason.
Sometimes we need to make room for movement without a purpose other than to simply be there, have fun on your yoga mat, and experience the sensations in our bodies. This, by definition, is play. Play is to “engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose.”.
- How would life be different if we moved through life with presence and enjoyment rather than being serious or practical?!
Yoga can be a moment to practice playing!
Easier said than done right? Well for us, the yoga practice is a moment to practice playing. When we move around the yoga mat can we allow ourselves space to simply enjoy the act of doing without the pressure to achieve? How delicious to enjoy the pleasure of feeling without any goal! Can we allow ourselves to simply enjoy the process of moving our bodies and exploring without judgement? When we approach yoga in this way, we can begin to let go of the pressure to perform and embrace the joy of the present moment.
While Yoga is of course, a serious practice, we are advocates for not taking ourselves, nor our yoga practices too seriously. As so many other parts of life have become super serious, let’s make space for yoga to be a time for exploration, discovery, and play.
But HOW we hear you ask… Here are Joanna and Esmeralda’s 5 ways to have more fun on your yoga mat!
5 Ways to have more fun on your yoga mat
Play your favourite Music
This one is pretty self explanatory – add music that makes you happy while you practise. Notice how your movement and breath change with the addition of a rhythm, a melody you love, or even some lyrics. Does it feel good to flow with the beat? Do you want to sing along? Maybe you can add a little groove to your poses – a swing in your hips, or a roll of your spine…
Have a shake (with your favourite music!)
Feeling flat? Have a shake! Shaking is excellent for switching up stale or stagnant (meh) energy. You can shake your whole body from almost any position, and you can just shake a limb, or a hand. Feel into where the shake wants to happen, and notice the ways you can let go into the movement as it becomes more automatic, and let yourself be shaken.
We recommend trying this MFML class with Norman Blair ‘Wake up, Shake up’!
Make some noise
Sound is a brilliant and quick way to get out of your own head and into the present moment. It’s a way to make sure you don’t get too caught up in perfectionism, and also to make sure you’re breathing fully: you can’t do lion’s breath with empty lungs! Making sound also opens up the throat chakra, encouraging aligned self-expression off the mat. Win win. We also love butterflying your lips to really release the mouth and jaw!
Set yourself a challenge
When we shift our perspective in yoga from alignment and achievement to exploring a task, we make more room for feeling and presence. If you’re focused on your balance, you’re really in your own body, awake to the sensations. It’s also fun to explore these unorthodox movement patterns, giving the body a chance to get used to ranges of motion that more closely mirror the uneven surfaces and unexpected turns of everyday life.
Try this join isolation class with Dan Peppiatt and let us know how you get on!
Change up your practice space – get outdoors
Practising in nature is incredibly nourishing. When we get outside, and explore our yoga practice in the context of the natural world, we can remind ourselves of our own innate belonging. We can be inspired by the trees bending in the wind, by the earth rising steady beneath our feet, maybe even by a running river.
MFML is the perfect companion for this, you can download up to 10 classes on the MFML app and take them outdoors with you!
If all of this feels edgy or scary, then know you are not alone. Have a read of the first couple of paragraphs again and remind yourself this is all part of our conditioning. We have developed in a society that rewards progress and undervalues ‘activity without a purpose’ (AKA play). Go easy on yourself and try not to get into a mindset of needing to ‘achieve play’ as this defeats the point.
Why not start by setting a timer once a day as a reminder to do just one of the above tips (e.g. shake for 1 minute to a song you love, or take a breath and let out a big delicious sigh)?
Try this Playful Movement course on Movement for Modern Life – this course is included for FREE as part of the subscription. These unstructured playful yoga classes from David Kam, movement artist, dancer and yoga teacher, will help you learn to be more creative, brave and truly move out of your comfort zone. So throw aside your mat and expect the unexpected!
Homework – Have playtime!
Try it out! Once you open the playroom door (so to speak), you begin to invite play into all different areas of your life! This can bring an incredible sense of joy, relaxation, and well-being, it can open up pathways of creativity and even improve cognition!
Some of our favourite playful classes to invite more fun on your yoga mat:
- Playful Somatic Flow with Vanessa Michielon
- Pump up your Prana with Dirish Shaktidas
- Playful Movement: Core Integration with David Kam
Written by Joanna Gilbert and Esmeralda Vere. Joanna and Esmeralda qualified together as yoga teachers at Suryalila (trained under Vidya Heisel) in 2015. During the training they supported each other through the journey.
Since 2019 they have been holding workshops, running courses and hosting retreats.
Joanna and Esmeralda can also be found working behind the scenes with MFML! Joanna as the chief happiness and wordsmith Maven, and Esmeralda as the social media and communications maven!