Recently, I was listening to a podcast by the wonderful Liz Gilbert where she asked us “Why are we all more afraid of doing what brings us joy than doing what bring us drudgery?” Now that really got me thinking. So much of our adult lives are spent doing serious thinks like studying, working and generally just being responsible. Things that can leave us feeling a little heavy. What if we could find lightness and joy not by dropping everything we don’t like, but in changing the way we do it?
“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf ” Jon Kabat-Zinn
Some years ago I had a realisation about this that has let more lightness and joy seep into the more serious corners of my existence. This insight happened on my yoga mat, during my first yoga teacher training back in 2011 in Bali. I came into this intensive program without being able to do a single inversion or arm balance. Whenever I had tried these yoga poses, by forcing myself towards some perfect ideal of what it should look like, I had failed and become frustrated. So after some time repeating that experience, I just started to sit out these parts of a yoga class, waiting until I could move on to something I didn’t fear.
During my training, one of my wonderful teachers managed to get me into a handstand before I even realised what was happening. In fact, I was having so much fun playing with the process, I took my serious adult mind off the end goal and ended up stumbling onto it. Now here was the trick – she made every moment a fun game where the only requirement was to play and find the joy in that!
I started to apply this to all these poses I was struggling with. Forgetting about the end goal, making a game of it and enjoying each moment. And guess what? I came to love arm balances and inversions, even when the end result wasn’t perfect. My mat became a playground rather than a rigid classroom and my practice became more lighthearted and fun.
This made me reflect on the possibility of applying this approach to the rest of my life. Slowly but surely, I began taking this attitude off my mat and into the world. What helped me to do this was to connect to the new attitude I had experienced in yoga: a joyful curiosity and the ability to make a game out of anything. Whenever you need a reminder of what this looks like, just take a moment to look at kids in a playground – the playful spirit, light energy and wonder in the exploration will remind you what we often lack in our grown up lives.
Sure, all of this is damn hard to put into practice. But we can start to slowly infuse it into our experience, moment by moment, until it becomes more frequent. If you want to explore this idea more and start with applying it on your yoga mat, I would love to see you at our workshop in Zurich at Yogaholics United on 21st October 2017 at 15h. My lovely friend and Barcelona based yoga teacher Irene Alda and I will take you through a playful two-hour class filled with fun, some new insights into your yoga practice and, just maybe, your life!
More info on the workshop and how to sign up can be found here
See you on the mat!