Kye Hawkins explains how yoga provides her with a rare opportunity to play like a 7-year-old.
Blog by Kye [Yoga junkie, former gymnast, education nonprofit rockstar]
During a recent Vinyasa Flow class, our instructor suggested that we attempt hand stands in the middle of the room. "I love practicing hand stands,” she said. “You know that every time you're going to fall. Every. Single. Time. But you just keep kicking up and trying again."
This represents an important aspect of yoga that keeps me coming back to my mat several times a week: the opportunity to playfully challenge myself without judgment or consequence.
I was a gymnast for most of my adolescence, and while the sport taught me many things, one of the most important skills gymnastics taught me is the ability to challenge myself while considering it "play." To try something I've never tried before. To attempt a new skill that might be a little scary. To fall. To disregard that fall. And to get up and give it another go.
Yoga has reunited me with the opportunity to play -- and fall -- often.
In yoga, you don't give up on something just because you can't get it exactly right. As my instructor often says: "Yoga doesn't care if you fall." For the record, yoga also doesn't care if you're flexible. It doesn't care if you want to sit in child's pose the entire class, and it certainly doesn't care if you can do a headstand.
This practice provides the very rare opportunity for adults to play - something we probably don't get to do often enough in our grown-up lives. When else are you given space - both mentally and physically - to take your body, turn it upside-down, test your balance on your hands, head, or forearms, and to fall down, without anyone judging you or even thinking twice?
For this reason, when I walk into a yoga studio, I'm giddy with anticipation for the new balances I might attempt, the chances I'll have to go upside-down, the inversions I might hold for a few more seconds than last time, and the opportunities to twist my body in ways I previously thought impossible. There's something extremely special about a tiny room that gives you the courage to play like a seven-year-old amongst a group of adult strangers.
So to anyone who is hesitant to try the "scary" things in yoga (or to try yoga in the first place), stop worrying and play! And completely lose your balance, come right back to your mat and try again. Because that, to me, is what yoga is all about.
Hawkins manages programs, communications and member engagement for the Cities for Education Entrepreneurship Trust, a network of city-based organizations promoting innovation and reform in K-12 education.