Be Playful

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Why did we ever stop playing?

Isn’t it fascinating that as children, we have no qualms about being ourselves and playing. The joy of play is infectious as we watch carefree children and even animals freely playing; by themselves or with others. I’m sure I’m not the only one that wishes I was as carefree as they are, and not worry about what people would think.

Could we extrapolate the concept of play and mental health? Psychiatrist and play expert Stuart Brown, MD, said, “Those who play rarely become brittle in the face of stress or lose the healing capacity for humour.”  Research also finds that frequent experiences of playfulness can facilitate resilience.

Play is fun and can trigger the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. The social interaction of playing with family and friends can also help ward off stress and depression. Sharing laughter and fun can foster empathy, compassion, trust, and intimacy with others. Developing a playful nature can help you loosen up in stressful situations, break the ice with strangers, make new friends, and form new business relationships.

In the words of George Bernard Shaw, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” Play can boost your energy and vitality and even improve your resistance to disease, helping you function at your best.

We do need to distinguish between the general sense of playfulness and the classic, pure sense of play that we experience as children. As adults, it’s important to take on a playful attitude as we wash the dishes, fold the laundry, and attend work meetings. With a little creativity, we can find a way of carrying out our responsibilities in ways that we enjoy. Then there are those activities that are completely separate from the grind of life, e.g. hiking, kayaking, or biking, which are more similar to children’s play and serve as opportunities to transport us away from our world. The activity of play may be very physical, engaging the body for some people, and yet for others, play may be more of a meditative experience.

We can enjoy some of the same benefits that children get from play, like enjoyment, release from stress, or enhancement of memory and imagination. We should all let ourselves play more – or at least be more playful.

So, how do we “play” in life?

  • In order for play to successfully take us out of our head, we have to add a little bit of challenge to it; some learning needs to be involved. Through this, we essentially re-wire our brain.
  • We can adopt a light-hearted approach to life and situations that we find ourselves in.
  • Be curious and explore.

Do the same on your yoga mat.

If you find yourself limiting your playfulness, it’s possible that you’re self-conscious and concerned about how you’ll look and sound to others when attempting to be lighthearted. Fearing rejection, embarrassment or ridicule when trying to be playful is understandable. Adults often worry that being playful will get them labeled as childish. But what is so wrong with that? Children are incredibly creative, inventive and are constantly learning. Wouldn’t you want to be childish if that is the definition?

Be light in your heart, be open in your mind and be playful.

 

Yoga and Being Open

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I believe we are here to be powerful agents for positive change.

The power of the heart is an essential part of creating a better world.  The heart’s capacity to love, to be kind and to have compassion for everyone is key. Without love and compassion, we are a heartless mass bent on survival, even if it means destroying everything in the way including the future. The heart’s capacity for caring is a neutraliser to the mind’s ability to rationalise the old failed ways.

Here are some tips on how to live from the heart:

  1. Let go of the past – We need to forgive the past, let go of any old unfinished business and move on. Forgiveness of self and others greatly help. Today is what matters.
  2. Express your emotions – Emotions too often get stuffed because they can seem overwhelming. If we simply acknowledge how we are feeling, those feelings soon change into other feelings. Emotions can be expressed in healthy ways that keep the heart open and giving. Two exampled of healthy emotional expression include talking and journaling.
  3. Move towards acceptance – From childhood, most of us are trained to judge everything as “good or bad.” Commit to moving towards accepting what is, accepting differences, and appreciating uniqueness of all beings.
  4. Notice what is happening to your body – The body gives us constant messages because it is either opening or closing in all its interactions with the world. Explore what keeps  your  heart and mind open, and notice when it closes.
  5. Examine your beliefs regularly – Old beliefs can drain you. Most beliefs are not true and many seriously hold us back. Be aware of what beliefs are shaping your experiences and examine them with kindness. If they represent truth keep them. If not, let them go.
  6. Be mindful of your thoughts – Your experience of life is created by what you think. Watch your thoughts, be hopeful and positive and do what you can to be present to what is. If we are mindful of our thinking we can keep our minds open. An open mind keeps expanding.

With these tips, you can bring more openness in mind and heart into your way of being in the world. With open minds and hearts we can spread compassion, consciousness, peace and joy out into the world.

Live out loud, with your arms and heart wide open.

Yoga and Resilience

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Happy 2019!

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

- Maya Angelou

Resilience how well a person can adapt to the events in their life. A person with good resilience has the ability to bounce back more quickly and with less stress than someone whose resilience is less developed.

We all have resilience. It’s just a question of how much and how well you put it to good use in your life. We still feel the intensity of the event or problem. But instead of letting it get the better of us, it just means that find a good way of dealing with it more quickly than someone who has lower resilience.

2019 will no doubt bring with it its trials and tribulations, so it can only help us to develop our resilience muscle.  Like any human skill, we just need to have the willingness to do so.

So, here are some tips on what we can do …

  1. Cultivate good, positive relationships that will provide us with reassurance and encouragement when times get tough
  2. Develop a positive view of ourselves and confidence in our strengths and abilities
  3. Make realistic plans, and then carry out our plans
  4. Learn to effectively manage our feelings and impulses
  5. Actively work to improving our communication skills
  6. Actively work to improving our problem solving skills
  7. Practice conscious movement, because when we rush through the practice we skip important details, lose connection to breath and perpetuate this “go, go, go!” pace that already plagues our lives
  8. Meditate on an image, or a phrase that will help us through any challenging time
  9. Breathe!

Building better resilience takes time, effort, commitment, and focus. Use your yoga practice to take time: time to breathe, time to move with the breath, time to feel the pose, time to acknowledge where we are and who we are. The pauses in between the Poses are important here, as they allow us the opportunity to reflect, and then decide on a path and means to move forwards to the next Pose or Sequence.

Know also that these times will pass and we will rise, stronger in spirit and in heart. Adversity is alchemy. When we surrender to the fires of adversity, we start to sense a deeper purpose behind our troubles. When we live our lives from the inside out, we will realise a force within ourselves that will transform our sense of self.