Gruninger: It’s Summer – Get Outside And PLAY

Jacci Gruninger takes her own advice and has some fun! Courtesy photo

Los Alamos

Plato, the Greek philosopher said, “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.”

Freidrich Froebel, father of modern kindergarten said, “Play is the purist, the most spiritual, product of man at this stage, and it is at once the prefiguration and imitation of the total human life–of the inner, secret, natural life in man and in all things. It produces, therefore, joy, freedom, satisfaction, repose within and without, peace with the world. The springs of all good rest within it and go out from it.”

These days most of us don’t even consider play as part of our daily life. Even our yoga can often become work. As individuals, we race around from place to place for appointments, projects or recreation, usually our minds, bodies and spirits are consistently on the go when what we really need is a little play, a little reflection and a little time off.

I remember when I was trying to decide which school of yoga to attend to learn to be a yoga teacher. At the advice of my teacher at the time, I was trying all different styles of yoga. The individual I was drawn to as a teacher would laugh, make jokes and really seemed to play yoga. She could also be very serious and philosophical. Like anything, yoga is a play of opposites. We contract and expand, we reach in two different directions, we inhale, and we exhale. Yoga shouldn’t always be serious. Yoga is about BEING IN LIFE. Yoga is about peeling back the layers of ourselves to discover who we are. If we peel back enough of the layers, we might just be re-introduced to the child we were.

Try this right now – HORSE BREATH – take a big breath in through your nose, blow out through your mouth with your lips closed (also called a raspberry). This breath is not only fun, it has a purpose – it is good for releasing tight hips, especially when you practice it in child’s pose. Was it fun?
To me, this is a form of yoga play. Who doesn’t giggle the first and maybe every time you do horse breath or LIONS BREATH. (Sit comfortably with your palms/paws on your thighs. Inhale, arch your back, look up, open your eyes wide. Exhale and hinge forward with eyes wide, open your mouth wide, stick out your tongue and roar like a lion). This is great for releasing tension in the face.

I definitely chose the right yoga path for me. I can be very serious in my practice and teaching but also know the value of allowing for silliness, re-discovering our inner child and just plain having fun while practicing.

As long as what you choose doesn’t cause harm, go for it. Stick your tongue out, make a funny face, purposefully fall over in Tree pose. Bring your playfulness to your practice.

Play is a part of who we are. Play opens channels and processes that help us think and see more clearly. Why else would places like Google and Microsoft create play spaces in their workplaces? As human adults, we don’t typically have a lot of room for play in our lives. Does this sound like your day: wake up, leave for work, meetings, phone call, emails, go,go,go, return home, dinner, family time/entertainment, sleep, do it all over again?

We tend to play at working out or running errands on the weekend or attending some event. Most of our play is structured. When was the last time you picked up and used a hula hoop, blew bubbles for fun, tossed a football or a frisbee just because? When did you last go to a park? Yoga is about your life and your well-BEING. Start interjecting more play into your life and watch it ooze into your practice.

Here are a few suggestions for directly putting play into your practice:

  • Experiment with your poses or the way you breathe doing your poses. For example, instead of exhaling when you round your spine in cat pose, inhale. See what happens;
  • Consider the animal you are imitating in your pose. Make the sound of the animal while you do the pose. Fall out of a pose on purpose;
  • Notice your resistance to playing while practicing — breathe into the resistance and see if you can imagine what could be with a little creativity; and
  • Explore the unknown — that is what play is all about. Practice helps us explore our habits and patterns and we get to choose to break out of those habits and patterns.

This month I invite you to get out and PLAY! Be silly, have fun, open to possibility and look inward at what playing feels like in your body. Play out in the world and on your yoga mat.

Jacci Gruninger is a Certified Yoga Therapist, Thai Yoga Massage Therapist and Focusing Coach. She has been teaching for over two decades and spent 12 of those years training yoga teachers for the Pranakriya School of Yoga Healing Arts. She regularly helps clients manage the ups and downs of life with yoga, meditation, breathwork and bodywork. Her Yoga Therapy Center is at 190 Central Park Square #212. For her in person and online teaching schedule and information on her other services, visit her website at to find out more.

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