You will often hear me referring to yoga asana (the physical practice) as grown-up recess. I mean, you get a group of barefoot adults together to play for an hour or so – you even get a mini-nap at the end! For me, this perspective of play within the practice is what has made me feel safe in taking chances and trying something new. I find that I make the most progress in challenging poses when I come at it with a playful attitude, versus when I take things too seriously. When I take things too seriously in a yoga class, I generally end up feeling frustrated, disappointed, and no less stressed than when I stepped onto the mat.
This clip breaks down Ashtavakrasana, an arm-balance that by all appearances seems to be a sort of human pretzel. The biggest challenge in this or any arm-balance is lift-off, getting your hips up off the ground. I have always been enamored by this pose in particular because the lift of the hips does not come from just from shifting your weight forward into your hands. The action of squeezing your knees in towards one another gives a great amount of lift. Because of that squeezing, it helps to engage the body beyond just the strength of your arms trying to hold you up; it employs the strength of your legs and core.
Full disclosure on this clip: This was the last class we filmed in a long day of filming in Bulgaria, and you might notice all four of us are all struggling with the urge to lay down and take a nap. That for me is when the spirit of play comes into use, because when I show up on the mat even when I am tired, or upset, or angry, or heartbroken, that is when an attitude of playfulness benefits my heart the most.