Yoga practice requires a balance of focus and playfulness. Many teachers (myself included) can get bogged down in the “seriousness” of yoga practice, and lose sight of the joy inherent in moving the body, expressing one’s intention to experience happiness, and simply being in a room full of other yogis.
When I find myself getting a little too serious or self-important about yoga, I break out a yoga game. I’ve only used these games with adults. Even though they may seem more appropriate for a kids’ yoga class, most adult students enjoy them – or at least, they’ve played along well enough to fool me! The overall effect on classroom energy is liberating. I’ve also taught whole classes of just yoga games – they make for an interesting yoga adventure for students used to a more formal practice.
Yoga Game 1: Name this Pose
Intention: To encourage students to playfully reflect on their experience in a pose.
Directions: Have students come into a familiar pose. Invite students to observe how they feel in the pose, and what thoughts and images come into the mind as they hold the pose. Tell students to “name” the pose, based on their experience. I invite students to shout out the name and then enter a resting/neutral pose. For example, I used this game for utkatasana, and the names students came up with ranged from “legs tired pose!” to “flame exploding pose”. After they shouted out their name, students rested in uttanasana.
Yoga Game 2: Pose this Name
Intention: To encourage students to follow their intuition in their yoga practice.
Directions: Have students close their eyes. Make up a name for a yoga pose, and invite students to practice that pose. Tell them that the pose doesn’t exist – until they create it. I tell students not to think to hard about it; follow their first instinct or response to the name of the pose. This will be their intuition telling them what their body needs at this point in the practice. In a recent class, I used these names to inspire made-up yoga poses: “spider pose”, “waterfall pose”, “happy pose”, and “take a really deep breath pose”.
Yoga Game 3: Opposites
Intention: To encourage students to follow their intuition in their yoga practice, and explore the sensations and actions of specific yoga poses.
Directions: Talk students through a pose of your choice. Then, ask them to practice the “opposite” pose. Don’t tell them what the opposite pose is – invite them to practice any pose that seems, to them, to have some quality of “opposite”. I love watching students playing this game – they intuitively respond to many qualities of a yoga pose. Some come up with a natural counterpose, some flip a pose upside down, some turn an active pose into a supported pose, or vice versa. Some focus on the emotional/energetic aspects of a pose, and some focus on the physical actions of a pose. I usually run through 5 or so poses like this.