I highly respect and revere the practice.
It’s saved me many times.
It dug me out of heartbreak, grief, stress, and other difficult feelings.
It provided me with an interesting life path full of inspiring teachers, friends, and mentors.
I’ve learned so much about myself and others, just by taking the time to weave my mind, body, and breath together.
I deem it all to be sacred; however, what I’ve noticed both in myself and students, is oftentimes the idea of ‘sacred’ gets tied up in the austere. Dogmatic ideas of alignment, philosophical application, goodness, and polarities like good/bad and right/wrong can creep into our sacred space of meditation, asana, and life. Before we know it, we’re striving just to strive, practicing just because we think we “should,” and struggling with value judgments that take us out of the moment.
Perhaps this has happened in your own practice—feeling unmotivated or disconnected from the “why” of it all, or overthinking or judging yourself because the practice has shifted, changed, or is not fitting the mold as you have come to know it. A sense that there’s no fun or playfulness in the practice anymore.
It is said in yoga philosophy that the true self is simply Satchitananda, or existence, consciousness, and bliss. That is it!
Sounds pretty wonderful right? It is.
As humans, we also have an ego that creates labels and stories and identifies a layer on top of the true self. The world places roles and labels on us, too.
This isn’t always a bad thing. As we move through life, it’s important to know what we are offering to society, family, and friendships via our roles. The danger is the over-identification with those things that can lead us to losing touch with that true essence of existence, consciousness, and bliss.
Life can interfere with that connection, too. Whether we are stressed about work or find ourselves brokenhearted, the struggles and wounds of life can easily distract us from remembering the spark of light that lies deep in the soul.
Used mindfully, yoga can be a great way to bring us back to that spark. On a clear day, maybe we feel that we DANCE in that existence. On a more challenging day, maybe we just get glimpses of it. Regardless, when we experience that innate joy within, we remind ourselves that there is so much more beyond the confines of yoga lineages, alignment principles, or being a “good yogi.”
As we move into the season of fall—a time of tidying up, harvesting, and organizing—it is prudent to also remember the season that came before, our dear friend summer. This reflection can help us establish a more-refined understanding and mediation of the polarity of fun+sacred.
Summer energy brings playfulness, social activities, the joyful sense of being out and about, and stoking the fire of the heart. Fall is the harvest, where we keep what serves us and let go of what does not. It is a time to grid things out, organize schedules with a bit more structure, and get clear on the goals we have.
In this transition time, it behooves us to be playful and give ourselves an occasional break from the structure that fall brings. So as days get shorter and darker, do not forget to keep a little bit of summer energy alive. Practice vigorously here and there, keep some sort of a social calendar (though it may be less active than in the summer), and be gentle with yourself if things sometimes fall apart or projects don’t finish on time.
Play. Have some fun. Don’t take things too seriously.
Below are some tips I find helpful in keeping the practice both sacred and fun.
1. Flow freely.
Guided practice with a teacher is a great way to get your yoga on. Thorough cues and adjustments can help keep you safe, and the communal aspect of group classes is a huge fountain of joy for most practitioners. The structure of following a sequence can be soothing for most, too.
While I find led-classes keep me consistent and accountable, sometimes that consistency can get me a little ‘stuck’ in one way of doing things. It might even lead me to a place of performing and striving.
To prevent that, I free flow on my mat every week or so. I roll it out, step on that magic island, and see what happens. No goal. No sequence. No time limit. Just playtime!
It is amazing what can be birthed in that type of flow. Intuitive, creative movement that is new for the body delights the spirit. At the same time, a sense of expansion occurs when you give yourself permission to just play without expectation.
You can then take your insights and apply them to your other practices. This helps make the practice more personal and more sustainable.
2. Make your space inviting.
When I contribute to yoga teacher training programs, one of the advice I give aspiring teachers is: imagine your classroom is an immersive theater experience.
How is the lighting? What music do you use? Any scents, like incense and oils? How can you support your students by thoughtful touches that make practicing even more inviting?
I think the same applies to your own personal practice. Can you set up conditions for yourself so it feels like a sweet invitation to jump on the mat? Maybe you set up a little corner in your home or apartment with a nice plant, crystals, diffuser, and soothing lighting. Don’t forget a speaker if music is your jam!
For me, this makes the practice sacred, as it has a designated container. Adding a personal and intentional layer is all about coaxing you to practice by pleasing the senses. And what could be more fun than that?
3. Find interesting workshops or events to attend.
This is a GREAT way to keep things playful. Trying out workshops and events can allow us to move past the normal routine and shake things up.
Maybe you take an arm balance workshop where you play with flying. Maybe it’s a Sunday Yoga + Brunch event on the weekend. It could be a retreat somewhere magical. Perhaps it is goat yoga!
The biggest takeaway here is when you have a chance to break the mold and step out of your comfort zone, the time spent can be especially fun and growth-conducive. Plus, the aspect of community that comes from workshops and events is an easy way to keep the summer energy alive and well.
4. Never forget that yoga means union!
The sanskrit word Yoga can be translated to “union” or “to yoke, join together.”
Leaning into this translation, for me, is a game changer. It allows everything to be yoga. Or, perhaps more aptly said, it allows us to come to know that yoga is more of a state than a specific activity.
Yoga becomes the state of pure presence that happens when we are truly with ‘what is’ in any given moment. That moment is where magic, possibilities, and miracles thrive.
Yoga can be walking your dog and getting joy out of the connection with your pup. Yoga can be sharing a meal with a dear friend, truly enjoying one another’s company. It can be going for a run and taking in the view as you stay mindful of your breath. Yoga can be going out dancing until the wee hours of the morning.
Understanding yoga as a state removes the parameters of traditional practices such as asana, meditation, pranayama, and allows you to treat every moment as sacred. It allows you to be more playful, curious, and open.
So if the fall energy brings in a sense of over-organizing and the need to achieve, pick something you LOVE to do that is fun and lighthearted and do it with all of your attention.
That is yoga too.
Holding both the fun and the sacred takes awareness and a gentle, adaptable way of looking at things.
So much can be asked of us, especially as fall comes around.
Carve out time for YOU.
Remember: if something fills your cup, brings you joy and a sense of play, then it is sacred—whether it’s a yoga practice, a community event, or a night out on the town.
Then, as fall turns to winter (the most introspective and quiet season), leaning into this idea will be increasingly important. A little summer heat brought forth by consciously choosing moments of energetic movement, social events, and sunshine-y fun times can be the antidote to the cold winter blues.
I hope these ideas inspire you to have a little more fun and expand on the idea of what yoga is and can be. I hope to see you in some live classes this fall, too—I promise to keep things playful!
Guest post by studio BE Facilitator Willis Johnston.
Willis shares yoga, breathwork, and meditation on studio BE and at his studio, Flying Heart Yoga, in Puerta Vallarta, Mexico. He is a 500+ hour trained teacher with a passion for offering his students accessible, practical, and magical tools + techniques that they can use to find their center and a greater sense of agency in whatever situation they find themselves. His teaching is informed mostly by Katonah and Vinyasa yoga, as well as his formal dance training. You can practice live with Willis on Sundays at 9 AM - 9:45 AM ET.