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 Christmas Re-Treat

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It’s December and 2018 is coming to a close.

How does December make you feel? I love this time of the year, as it is always a time of enforced rest for most people, and I use this time to re-treat, to hibernate, and to give my body, mind and spirit breathing space.  Whether you run your own business or not, I feel that most of us, these days, are moving at full speed; and whilst it great and needed if you are moving towards a goal, we can also do so with less speed and also take time out every so often to re-charge.

Most of us tend to be naturally forward facing. We are future-oriented, always moving on to the next task, event, or responsibility. Seldom do we take enough time to think about why we succeeded at something, never mind celebrate. We also struggle to evaluate our mistakes and failures because it is hard. It forces us to take a look at ourselves and face things that we might not like. We need to realise that both sides are equal parts challenging, frustrating, motivating and rewarding but are vital to goal setting.

So, as the year draws to a close,

  • Look back through the calendar for the year
  • Look back through your social media accounts
  • Scroll through your emails for any projects that you have been working on
  • List any major life events that happened over the year, any notable challenges or mistakes, and any notable successes
  • Evaluate why each of these was relevant to you and what, if anything, you learned from them

Without looking back and reflecting on what has been, it is easy to make the same mistakes. Reflection is an important part of self-awareness, which is at the heart of self-improvement.

Take some time to reflect on the last year so you can set goals for the new year ahead.

Accepting Yourself

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In a world that thrives on telling you that you are not enough, do you have the strength to embrace self-acceptance?

Self-acceptance is the first step towards self-improvement.  In yoga, we recognise that if we cannot accept ourselves first, then we cannot hope to accept others. Similarly, if we cannot love ourselves, how can we expect anyone else to love us?

The practice of yoga has allowed me to grow, to change, to transform.  On the mat I learned to love myself, and that overflows off the mat in to my life.  So, here are some tips to help you on your way:

  1. Let go of your need to be perfect.  We have so many expectations of ourselves, particularly women.  “Perfection is the absolute lowest standard you can have for yourself because it’s impossible to attain,” Tony Robbins. Every blossom is perfect.  In fact, it’s their imperfections that make them unique and beautiful in their own right.
  2. Find yoga that works for you.  In fact, I am of the belief that the yoga should always fit the individual, rather than the other way around.  So, if that is not your experience, I encourage you to look for a teacher that works for you. The same in life.  Why struggle to get a square to fit a round hole?
  3. Approach your yoga practice as a conversation.  So often movement, including yoga, gets wrapped around the axle of competition and achievement. As you may have experienced yourself, that is usually a path to discouragement and burn-out. I encourage you instead to approach yoga, or any movement practice, as a conversation. Ask yourself what do you need in this moment in time, and how can you meet that need?
  4. Listen. Actively listen to your body and your self.  With your own body, after asking yourself a question, show yourself you’re listening by responding to the need you identified, or at least telling yourself why you’re not or finding a different way.

The key, I believe to self-acceptance, is learning to truly listen to that quiet voice in your heart.  Instead of living in your head and trying to figure out what your foot was doing in a pose, learn to have a conversation with your body and yourself because that conversation is the root of acceptance.

From there, make self-acceptance part of your actual life and it becomes something lasting and sustainable that can adapt and grow with you over time. It’s here that we move towards creating the lives we want.