Yoga Thoughts on Jumping for Joy
The advent of digital photography in my life has had some surprising fringe benefits. One of the best of these is my screensaver. There is a function within Windows that pulls photos at random from my hard drive and creates my own personal slide show when my computer is on but not in use. I love it! Whenever I walk by my computer I receive a gift of memory –usually topped off with a smile.
For instance, there’s the one of my kids all in a row smiling at me over their jack-o-lanterns, one of my friends and me looking quite pleased with ourselves during our “girls’ weekend” at the beach, and a great one of my niece grinning devilishly as she brandishes a water pistol.
By some quirk of its “random function,” the computer seems to have some favorites that show up more than others. Yesterday, however, one popped up that hadn’t before (at least it hadn’t when I was breezing past). It was one of me bouncing in the moon-bounce that we rented for my daughter’s birthday party several summers ago.
I look like I’m flying! I’ve got a huge smile on my face. My arms are flung out wide as I jump and my head is tipped back as I laugh. It really is a picture of child-like joy. Looking at it, I remembered how the moon-bounce felt – the bumpy surface of the fabric of that huge balloon, the surprising firmness of it. I remembered the sound of the air compressor roaring away all afternoon. But, mostly, I remembered how it felt to bounce! It was amazing! It really felt like flying. When my feet touched back down, the moon-bounce was so soft that my landings didn’t jar my body and bounding back up was almost effortless. It was FUN!
The funny thing is that I hadn’t really thought about bouncing myself. I was really busy getting ready for the party. I had food to prepare, arrange and set out. I had to straighten up the house before the guests arrived. I needed to blow the leaves and dust off the patio. I had to hang the piñata, get the party bags into a basket, and make sure the cake looked “just so.” Basically, I was a whirling dervish of nervous “doing.”
But my sister, who was visiting from Virginia, insisted that we would have a turn. There was no reason we couldn’t take a little time from party-prep to have some fun. “It will be great!” she promised, “I love these things!” We weren’t going to just sit inside the moon-bounce while our kids sprang around. Oh no! She wanted our very own, kid-free turn and she made it happen. The kids were gently guided out of the bounce and in we went – with camera!
She was right, of course. Bouncing was silly and fun. Bouncing felt great. You simply can’t bounce without laughing – and laughing itself feels great. You know what also felt great about the experience? Playing. Setting aside work to play. We don’t do that much. I guess I should say, I don’t do that much, but I think it’s true of most of us. We just don’t often set aside the time to play.
Practicing yoga can feel serious a lot of the time — we’re quiet, we’re focused, we’re breathing, we’re concentrating on our form. But yoga offers moments of play nearly every time we come to our mats. Right off the bat, in the sun salutations (surya namaskar), we are making movements of joy. We’re sweeping our arms up over our heads and tipping our heads back. We are stretching deliciously from head to toe. I almost can’t help smiling while I make these movements. They feel good. They feel happy. They feel a little child-like.
I usually get at least one chance to laugh during the balancing sequence (click here and here for examples of balancing postures)when I fall over. It’s OK to laugh when we topple in these postures. In fact it’s better to laugh than to get frustrated with ourselves. Then there’s those pesky seated balances (upavistha konasana) where our legs are up in the air and we’re hanging by two fingers off our toes. Those are usually good for a laugh in class when someone gets to “rockin’ and rollin’.” In fact, sometimes when one person goes it starts a chain reaction and, before I know it, the whole room is giggling and rolling around.
Moments like these can shine in a practice. They brighten our mood. They soften our energy. They’re even more enjoyable because they’re special, different, and just a little out of place in the midst of our practice. They are like little surprise gifts along our way. I think we carry a little after-glow of these moments with us as we move through the rest of our practice and into our rest.
That’s what the bouncing was for me in the midst of my pre-party flurry. Certainly different. Certainly just a little out of place. It brightened my mood and softened my energy. When my daughter’s friends began to arrive, not only was I ready despite having taken my “time out” to bounce, but I was still smiling from our child-like fun in the moon-bounce. I guess you could say I had a little after-glow myself that afternoon!
The next time the chance to “play” presents itself, take it! Chances are, you’ll still get all you need to do done. But after a little play, you might just be smiling a little wider while you do!
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