Yoga used to intimidate the hell out of me. There were so many serious faces, dressed in all white, speaking to each other in that “yoga voice” that always made me feel uncomfortable (and loud). When I first got into yoga, I thought I had to take it really seriously too, but the more I got into teaching, the more I realized that it’s more enjoyable to practice playful yoga, full of joy and laughter.
Let’s be real – we already spend enough time being serious. This whole adulting thing… it has everyone taking themselves too seriously, me included.
Your yoga practice doesn’t have to be another place where you get serious or fall into a standardized label of what it looks like to practice yoga “correctly.” Getting on your mat should feel like a way of expressing yourself through movement and exploring more about who you are.
Sometimes, I feel like being a little kid and using imagination on the mat to become a fierce goddess of archery. Other times, I wanna turn on some heavy rock and sway out my hips and shake out my booty in my downward dog.
When I gave myself permission to add playfulness to my yoga routines, joy exploded through each movement and I found myself laughing throughout class. Better yet – I found my students experiencing new levels of joy AND confidence in their goofiness.
Ready to add some playfulness to yoga? Check out this quick video I added to IGTV and grab the descriptions down below.
Sway Around for Playful Yoga
Adding in different ways of moving will always add a bit of playfulness to your yoga practice. Often, yoga instructors will encourage you to sway side to side in a forward fold, but I say – sway more!
I love big, dramatic sways. In easy one to do this from is a seated side body stretch, where you have your right hand reaching overhead to the left side. From there, you can sway to the other side by swinging your arm forward and to the right, as the left hand reaches overhead. Keep it going, side to side.
In the IGTV video, I do a similar movement from a twisted camel pose. Get creative. It’s even better if you can let you hair down and sway the long hair around – so fun!
Roll It Out for Playful Yoga
Yoga can be a bit masculine; actually, really masculine. You may not realize this because it feels like a female-dominated space. That may be true in the west, but the yoga we know today was actually designed by men for men. Women weren’t allowed to practice; which is a bit obvious when you slow down and pay attention to the moment. It’s very linear and stiff.
We usually move from one posture to the next, holding each pose like a yoga statue. But after years of teaching women all over the world, I’ve found that most of us crave a lot more movement. We crave fluidity and dance-like flow.
This is why I encourage a playful yoga movement by rolling things out. We can roll through our hips in warrior poses, downward facing dog, or chair pose. It feels delicious to roll out the shoulders in a low lunge or cobra pose. Or even full body rolls in mountain pose.
Get sassy! Turn on some tunes and rock those hips!
Create a Story with Your Moves
I’ll be honest – I learned this from teaching pre-schoolers how to do playful yoga… but it still works with adults when I want them to be more goofy and stop taking their practice so seriously. We can create stories in our head that accompany movements or poses.
I’ll give some examples:
- My Katniss Move: You know the Hunger Games, right? In Warrior II, I do a move that I’ve dubbed “Katniss” that you can see me doing in the attached video. On in inhale, we swing the back arm forward to grab our bowstring and exhaling, we pull back our bow and look fierce.
- Let’s surf: Again, I do this with kiddos, but why not enjoy some imagination as a boring grownup? Belly on the floor, we “swim” our way out, lifting into cobra to check the waves, and press ourselves off the mat (board) into a solid warrior II. But oh no! You lose your balance and end up on one leg (warrior III) and fall back into the water. Repeat on the other side.
- Balloon Breath: From standing, breath in and make yourself as big and tall as you can, reaching arms over head. Pop! On the exhale, you deflate back to the floor. Extra points awarded for drama and noises!
Stop being such an adult and embrace some imagination.
Hug Yourself Regularly
Who doesn’t like to be held? And why not hold ourselves?
I encourage giving yourself a hug as needed throughout the practice. Sure, it feels nice on the shoulders, but it’s also a little reminder that we are on our mats because we love ourselves (not out of punishment). Squeeze yourself as tight as you can.
Breath of Joy is a fun way I add hugging in my classes and it helps with anxiety and stress. Here’s another IGTV video with the breakdown:
When in Doubt, Shake it Out
Our body stores way too many emotions and pent up feelings that need to be let out. One of my favorite ways to do this is through shaking and dancing things out – even during my playful yoga practice.
I highly encourage many dance breaks when you come to standing or after a solid balancing pose. Allow the movement to be goofy and playful – what feels good on your body? The more awkward, the better, in my humble opinion.
I’m also a fan of shaking, everything. But also, the booty! I love a nice booty shake in downward facing down or in a wide-legged forward fold or laying flat on my belly. It feels like magic and will leave you feeling a sense of release through your movement.
You can also just spend time shaking out every single part of your body while standing. This doesn’t just take place on the mat, but it’s part of my 3-step method for calming anxiety. When in doubt, shake it out baby!
Let your yoga practice be fun! It is an act of sacred self love and self care, not a chore or something you get to cross off your health checklist with a gold star.
Yoga is a way for you to explore who you are and many of us are already walking around with our spines too tight and full of serious energy – me too. Allow the time on the mat to be an opportunity to express yourself, and all of yourself, which should include some child-like, playful energy.
I’d love to hear from you in the comments – In what ways do you add light-heartedness and fun to your playful yoga practice?
Have fun with your playful yoga!