This weekend I had the opportunity to take a children’s yoga teacher training with an incredible teacher named Gurudass Kaur. Along with learning various methods of teaching kids yoga, we also got to act like kids. We threw balloons at each other, played circle games, danced and made funny noises. Intermixed with the hard work of listening, paying attention and learning was not only the spirit of play, but also the actual experience of it, and in so doing I realized that I haven’t played in a very long time.
Most of the folks at this workshop had some intention of using these skills to teach actual children. But I was sold on the course by one line in the workshop description that had nothing to do with teaching the wee ones: that it could “wake up your inner child.” I had a feeling that my inner child had been taking a very long nap, and I was right.
When you have little kids your chances of getting to play are available on a daily basis, though I do suspect that many parents are so concerned with being the grownup and acting the part that they resist letting out all the stops even when they’re playing with their kids. There are always those nagging grownup thoughts that are hard to ignore when you’re playing with your own offspring (i.e. “I have to put that second load of laundry in!” or “I’d better cut this off or he won’t get to bed on time!” etc.). It’s easy, as adults, to get caught up in “acting our age.” And true enough, we’d be in a fine fix if we all went around behaving like two year olds or even like teenagers. I could imagine the chaos if all the grownups suddenly decided to drop everything except playing Candyland or video games.
In any case, once my inner child was awakened this weekend I laughed so hard I literally couldn’t stop. I can’t remember the last time I actually hooted and howled with the bliss of pure fun.
Of course, being a kid also brought back some of the same insecurities I felt as a child. There were memory games (ouch!) and coordination activities, and moments when I had to “share” thoughts or feelings with the group. So along with the fun, I was reminded of what it used to be like to be uncomfortably shy or to not be “good” at a sport or activity.
What was our yoga teacher’s advice for us to use when a child doesn’t want to do something or join in? Perhaps the best advice I’ve ever heard: Let that child be her or himself. He doesn’t have to do anything he doesn’t want to. So what if he doesn’t want to balance on an imaginary balancing beam? So what if he doesn’t want to join in circle time? So what if she doesn’t want to play ball?
Playing was amazing, invigorating and inspiring. But the best lesson of all was the reminder that we are who we are. And if I’m not just like you (and you're not like me) so what? We don’t have to be.