Playtime isn’t just for toddlers. It’s a needed counterbalance to hard work, training, goals, progress. I talk so much about balance because it’s elusive to both hard-charging types and those who find it hard to get going. And truth be told, most of us are both of these things, just in different contexts. So where do we push when we could be gentler, and where do we need a good kick in the ass to jumpstart us?
I work hard to be good at my job because the work is important and people depend on me. People are vulnerable when they see me (as a nurse practitioner or as a teacher), and I have a duty to them. I have a good reason to take my work seriously. But my hobbies? Not so much. Why do I train rigidly in running or strength classes when I’m never going to be an elite athlete? Why do I work so hard on my yoga practice, when I’m not chasing a result? Why do I take myself so seriously when I’m doing things that aren’t, well, serious?
I’m not the only one recognizing the need for play. I’ve seen it cropping up in the fitness world: the functional fitness area at my gym is called the playground, and its filled with rings and ropes and balls and other stuff like that. There’s a Primal Play Ted Talk about unstructured movement. Adult kickball is a thing now. Even obstacle course racing and American Ninja Warrior speak to our desire for something outside of traditional organized athletics. What’s going on?
Maybe, just maybe, stepping outside of our minds and back into our bodies is beneficial. Maybe the constant mental stimulation of work, TV, phone screens, scrolling, is changing us. Maybe we need to recalibrate: Don’t think “I need to do this many reps of this movement to achieve this outcome.” Feel: my body likes this! Wheeee. Wooooah. Ahhhhh.
A dear yoga teacher of mine enacts this by hosting “playshops” instead of “workshops”. I love this so much! It’s a reminder that, while we may put our energy and focus into doing things and reap great rewards from that, it’s ultimately not so serious. Do it if it’s serving you. Laugh at yourself if it’s funny. Stop if it feels lousy. Enjoy the feeling of accomplishment if it comes, but you don’t need to chase it so hard. Let your human-ness show through.