Find your inner child – coming back to a joyful sense of play is a good balance to the usual serious discipline of yoga, says Victoria Jackson
My yoga tends to get a bit serious all too quickly. I’m a book-learning kind of girl, I have letters after my name (if I’m being fancy), and the study of philosophy and Sanskrit feel as much part of my practice as exploring asanas on the mat.
I recognise that I need help in lightening up sometimes! And so I was delighted recently when my brother sent me some photos of my little three-year-old niece doing her yoga.
Her face was radiant, turned up to the camera, clearly enjoying some playful stretching. She was doing her yoga on the lounge carpet surrounded by toys and the paraphernalia of childhood. She wasn’t worrying about combining consonants in Sanskrit, notions of duality in the Bhagavad Gita, or trying to remember the names of the chakras. I’m sure she wasn’t even worrying about alignment! She was just moving in whatever way felt good.
Although, when it came to full wheel pose (urdhva dhanurasana), I was amused to see that things got more serious, even for her. Her tongue poked out from the corner of her mouth with the physical and mental effort required to turn upside-down, reminding me of my own serious yoga concentration face!
I loved seeing these pictures. It’s not quite ‘yoga’ as I practice it – and I can learn a lot from that! Coming back to a joyful sense of play is a good balance to my usual serious discipline.
And talking of learning from the little ones, it turns out my eight-year-old nephew on the other side of the family also knows a thing or two about yoga…and he’s not shy about sharing his understanding. While his family was visiting from Canada we got to talking about shoulder injuries and other fascinating dinnertime topics for us adults who like to be active but who’ve reached a certain age. And with a quick demo, elbows almost dipping into his bowl of pasta, my nephew told me the problem was that I was doing eagle arms (in garudasana) all wrong. It was an excellent bit of
‘mansplaining’ from one so young!
But I didn’t mind. The enthusiasm shown by children for yoga is really inspiring. When they encounter it at a young age it clearly feels natural and effortless (urdhva dhanurasana aside, of course!) and they practice in such a playful spirit. They don’t require the ritual candle-lighting and intention-setting that I do to help me connect with such uplifting feelings in myself.
So maybe this month my practice will be about finding my inner child. It doesn’t matter if I think of this as penetration through layers of the koshas, dissolution or ‘laya’, non-dual tantric approaches or whatever philosophical stance I fancy. In fact, this month I’ll poke my tongue out at all that and just have a bit of fun! The books and the
philosophy study will keep for another time.
Victoria Jackson lives and teaches in Oxford. She is registered with Yoga Alliance Professionals as a vinyasa yoga teacher. Read more of Victoria’s OM Lite columns.