The Power of Play
Dina charya is the Sanskrit word for daily routine. It’s an Ayurvedic concept based on the idea that when we align our daily cycles with the cycles of the sun and the moon, we create the conditions for balance and thriving health to naturally arise.
The daily routine includes everything from daily exercise, proper nourishment, evening wind down practices to cultivating an easeful relationship to life and doing something every day just for fun. Yep, Ayurveda prescribes play as fundamental to promoting health.
Why is it so essential that we build in activities that spark joy into our everyday lives? Well, because all work and no play makes us dull humans.
Play is something done for no other reason than it’s innate pleasure. Play has no purpose, except for the fun of it.
I once taught a workshop on handstands and I had a student approach me and ask me why we do handstands. It took me by surprise because my first thought was - why NOT do handstands?!?
She probably wanted to hear how they build overall strength, improve balance and the intricacies and benefits of inverting and reversing blood flow. Funny isn’t it, how adults need everything to have a logical reason.
My answer was simply, “because it’s fun”. It might not have been what she wanted to hear, but it was true.
Stewart Brown in his TEDTalk “Play is more than just fun”, talks about body play, which is a spontaneous desire to get ourselves out of gravity. Handstands are a perfect example of this.
Greg McKeown, the author of Essentialism (a really good book that I highly recommend) said that: "Very successful people see play as essential for creativity.” Brown echoed it when he said: “Play leads to brain plasticity, adaptability, and creativity… Nothing fires up the brain like play.”
He also said: “Those who play rarely become brittle in the face of stress or lose the healing capacity for humor.”
Play can unleash possibilities we barely dare to dream of. It can crack open creativity that otherwise laid dormant. At the same time, it offers lightness and liberation we often forget to seek in our grown-up lives.
We're never too old to play. In fact, George Bernard Shaw said: "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing".
Even the Tantric Yoga tradition teaches that life has no other purpose other than for the play of it. This is expressed in the Lila Tandava - the playful dance of life. Life is an unfolding of creativity, of consciousness expressing itself in everything and every moment.
The Lila Tandava is an invitation into participating fully in our lives. It’s playing the game of life with curiosity, openness and acceptance for whatever is being presented in the moment. It’s an affirmation of life’s innate goodness, even amidst pain and difficulty.
It’s not taking ourselves too seriously, but having the willingness to try new things, experiment with new ideas and try on new perspectives. It’s gamifying our challenges to play our edges and expand our capabilities.
Play is a way of life. It’s an attitude and an approach to living that’s cultivated by creating a childlike wonder and curiosity towards everything. It’s choosing to be amazed and live with awe.
Like Mary Oliver says in her poem My Work is Living the World:
“Let me keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.”