Recharge with Play

I have been spending my time lately catching imaginary
frogs, hiding from dragons, and parading around the table
playing a flute. I’m getting in touch with my inner child,
something therapists have urged adults to do for years . My
inspiration comes from spending time with my two year old
grandson Clayton. I have discovered the small distractions
he provides have become pleasurable opportunities that
allow me to relax and recharge. Clayton has reminded me of
the importance of play.

Far from a worrisome sign of immaturity or
irresponsibility, the urge to play is a vital and healthy
one, and its not just limited to children.

“That’s just how it should be,”says Lenore Terr, M.D,
clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of
California, San Francisco. She writes in her book Beyond
Love and Work: Why Adults Need to Play (Scrobner,1999)

“Whether it’s bowling or Barbie collecting, play is an
effective antidote to harried adult lives,” says Terr,
because it allows us to completely lose ourselves in the
moment. A productive distraction from worries, play offers
some very adult advantages, she adds: “people who preserve
their sense of fun are better equipped to solve problems,
think creatively and manage stress.”

Most people believe that play is unproductive, and
therefore not important. Many of us have prioritized lists
at home and at work. When we run out of time, we cut the
fun out, and do the “productive stuff.” We often feel
guilty or bad if we play hooky or a game of tennis or
chess. Perhaps this is because we equate play with
“feeling “(happy joyous feeling) that traditionally is seen
as less important than “thinking.” New research on play
contradicts this cultural dismissal of play by emphasizing
the importance of feelings and the necessity of feeling
safe and relaxed in order to think clearly and
productively.

One of my fondest childhood memories was secretly observing
my parents playing. My sister and I were awakened from a
nap by a noise outside. We stood on my bed and peaked out
the window. What we witnessed that day left quite an
impression on me, The novelty of snow in Seattle had
possessed my ordinarily sensible parents. Mommy and Daddy
were laughing and throwing snowballs as they created a
surprise snowman for us. They were unmistakably feeling
free, happy, and relaxed.

Since play is a fundamental factor in good mental and
physical health, you can justify having it on your
to-do-list. Think of play as a much needed mini-vacation
and don’t cross it off until it’s done. Reminisce about
your own childhood memories and find some mindless, fun
activity that doesn’t have a goal. Try Charades, host a
costume party, or dust off the frisbee.

Be inspired by children, notice the joy in their face as
they splash in a puddle, blow bubbles, or zoom over a bump
on their bike. It’s hard to resist the temptation, but
before long you too may find yourself in touch with your
inner child as you play with your imaginary frog.

Lori Chandler is a registered yoga teacher who teaches yoga
at CWU and throughout Kittitas County.

Dancing for Health

When was the last time you danced? Throughout history
dance has been used by many cultures to express powerful
emotions, tell stories, treat illness, celebrate important
events, and maintain communal bonds. It’s also a wonderful
way to increase your energy, improve your mood and relax
your muscles. I’m always amazed at how, after just one
dance, I am transformed from achy, depressed, and lethargic
to vibrate and full of joy.

As a meditation instructor I can’t help but notice how
dancing becomes a meditation. How easily you can be
mentally swept away. With this clearing of the mind the
benefits of meditation come forth, you’re less stressed and
your concentration and decision making abilities improve.

Physically, dancing is an aerobic activity that improves
the condition of the heart and lungs. Dancing for any
length of time also requires muscular endurance,
coordination, and balance. Other benefits include, burning
a few calories and strengthening your bones and joints.
Health experts recommend that to maintain health everyone
should take part in thirty minutes of moderately intense
physical activity five times each week. You don’t have to
be sweating and panting, but you do need to warm up and
increase your breathing and heart rate.

Why not make improving your health fun and relaxing? There
are many types of dance to choose from and a wide variety
of classes. How about freestyle dancing with live music at
the First Friday Dance Club, at the Moose Lodge? I also
enjoy the contra dance at the Lincoln gym the first
Saturday of every month. Whether you enjoy gliding through
a ballroom, twisting the night away, or moving in a country
line there is a dance suitable and beneficial for everyone.
Even babies benefit from moving rhythmicly, as it
stimulates their senses.

Whatever your age, size or condition, improved health can
be as simple as pushing play. Move to the rhythm of your
favorite music. Go on a wild frenzy! Be as creative as you
want with your body Drop any self consciousness, this is
not about how you look. Let movement come without thought
as you focus on your breath. Keep moving until you
experience the overwhelming sense of liberation and joy
that dance can bring.