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Is your yoga mat a playground or correction centre?

Is your yoga mat a playground or correction centre?
By Yoga United 29 May 2018 No comments

Next time you’re on your yoga mat, let your inner child come out to play. Treat your yoga mat like your playground and even be bold enough to step out of the box or rectangle and be free to create a new game.

children, yoga, beach, freedom

Children as inspirational teachers

I do not spend a lot of time around small children in my daily life. It’s not something I have consciously chosen for myself and something I notice that is missing when I DO spend time with children. When I am in India with my family who have small children or on the beach watching large families, I take the opportunity to play and be silly with the little ones, to copy them in play and let them be my teachers. What an inspiration they can be in self-expression and play.

Remembering how to be free

I find myself spontaneously creating games, using my imagination, jumping in the waves, dancing to some tunes, whooping and screaming with delight and wondering where this freedom comes from…and why I don’t do this more often – it feels so healthy, healing, joyful and liberating. In fact, when I write the words ‘healthy, healing, joyful and liberating’, the nearest thing I get to this on a daily basis in my adult world, is my yoga practice. It hasn’t always been like this…

Is your yoga mat a playground or correction centre?

child, beach, drawing, line, freedom,

In recent years, I have begun to drop the seriousness of using yoga for physical correction, to strive for perfection, to advance my asana, to re-align and fix the things that are ‘wrong’ with me and my body, to strive for perfection. This way of practicing does not fill me with joy and freedom but makes me feel inadequate, lacking in ability, feeling my age and my weight gain and causing a lot of negative self-talk…a bit like reading a women’s magazine and comparing myself to the images in it, and ultimately feeling that I’m just not good enough - YUCK. I’m 100% sure that is not the desired outcomes of practicing, studying and living yoga!

I have started to make my ‘practice’ more playful and I have noticed a lot of other teachers doing the same as experience grows – sometimes movement, often physically still, sometimes with direction and then suspending my life in embodied mindfulness, moving into yoga shapes and going off-piste into formless exploration to express my mood or shift a crappy mood… Menopause can be a great teacher in adapting a yoga practice to suit this rollercoaster of physical and emotional transition into a new kind of woman! I wonder at what point children ‘learn’ to stop playing and transition into ‘grown up’ behaviour. What an interesting cycle of growing up from innocent child to responsible adult and then remembering and re-learning how to be child-like again.

Familiar form and yoga practice

Oh, and it’s also worth mentioning that sometimes, I love to come back to a familiar yoga asana practice resolutely on my mat – a practice that is time-less and age-less and I have loved for 20 years - I flow through my sun salutations, standing postures, forward bends, backbends, rotations and inversions, followed by some formal pranayama practices, meditation and relaxation. This familiar practice can re-connect me and re-mind me of how I fell in love with yoga in the first place, how it found me and my journey from then until now…

You are enough

Playing WITH children is a reminder to play LIKE children and I vow to bring more of this into my yoga practice and my teaching. The world can be our mat and we can choose to have a practice that highlights our imbalances, lack of perfection, and not-enoughness


we can follow creative and spontaneous play any way we like and spring about, go fast and slow, roll around, dance about, sing and make sounds, be silly and simply and unapologetically be yourself. We all have a choice!

Next time you’re on your yoga mat, tune into noticing mode, an embodied mindful way and let your inner child come out to play. Treat your yoga mat like your playground and even be bold enough to step out of the box or rectangle and be free to create a new game.

I would love to hear about your experience – no right or wrong, just curious!

Judy Hirsh Sampath’s yoga journey brought her to train yoga therapists and co-create courses and trainings to inspire and liberate yogis and yoga teachers to become the peace activists of the future.

Connect with Judy at Yoga United Education