Return to Play, for Better Health

Return to Play, for Better Health

By Allison Suran

Be Quiet! Sit Still! Don’t play with that! That’s too risky! You’ll get hurt! Calm down! Sit up straight! Don’t make faces! Young ladies keep their knees together! Color within the lines! Oh, that could never happen!

How many of us have heard these phrases used during our childhood. We may even find ourselves regurgitating these same words to our own children. But GUESS WHAT? Your body was made for moving, playing, exploring and creating unique experiences. Your back is NOT straight. Your hips were not designed to hold your knees together. Your voice was designed for using in all tones. Coloring within the lines can be boring and inappropriate at different developmental stages. Our minds are designed for creativity, imagination, and learning through exploration and manipulation – not rote memorization and learning through diligent boredom. And anything is Possible! (Almost!)

By the time most of us became young adults, the unique creative learning capacities available to humans have been largely stripped from us. We learned what was necessary to get a job, to provide a home and food, to propagate our species, and run ourselves diligently ragged until our bodies begin screaming out for attention.

Often the attention our bodies so badly crave comes in the form of further diligence in exercise routines. Our bodies perform such exercises with the limited movement capacities that we have imposed upon ourselves – or learned to impose from the messages we were given in our youth, or the injuries we have accumulated. By exercising our bodies in the limited movement patterns available to us, we can develop more aches, pains and discomforts.

Exploration, curiosity, and playfulness are essential elements that are often missing in our experiences as adults. We have mastered will-power to force ourselves to perform and complete a number of tasks, skills, or accomplishments, yet at what cost? Playfulness and exploration come from a less tense state of curiosity, a willingness to be spontaneous – even silly, and a desire to feel ourselves fully present in our bodily experiences as opposed to our endless mind-driven thoughts.

Children do this naturally. After a Spring rain last May, I observed a young child who was wearing water-sandals. He walked into a puddle with the intense interest and delight that only comes from the ability to be fully present to this experience. To sense and enjoy the cool water squishing through his toes. To watch the amazing circles of waves that make it to the edge of the puddle and cover the rocks that are still dry. To watch the light and shadows shimmer and reflect his image back at him. While he was doing this I overheard his mother remark, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could all enjoy such simple pleasures.” YES, wouldn’t it!

Take every opportunity to reconnect with your basic life giving instincts: Play with your children, have a silly moment, wiggle your body, lose yourself in the beauty of the colors bursting forth in the Fall, feel the breeze on your face, and think creatively – out of the box. We are a culture that has learned to “think” about everything, living our lives in our heads. Try getting back to basics, and don’t let life pass you by without allowing yourself to FEEL your experiences fully.