Saturday, October 1, 2011

Physical Playfulness, Practice, and Life

Outside the coffeeshop where I am right now, writing this post on a perfectly idyllic upper-midwestern fall day, is a bike rack. It looks something like this

[Image taken from here]

but without any bicycles on it.

A few minutes ago, I went outside to get some fresh air, and was standing next to the bike rack. At the same time, one of the baristas at the coffeeshop, who had just finished her shift, walked out with her friend, who is also a barista at this establishment. The three of us started chatting. We didn't talk about anything really important, just small talk. And then, suddenly, in the middle of the conversation, I felt this strong urge to do some pseudo-gymnastics on the bike rack. So, right in the middle of the conversation, I off-handedly grabbed one bike rack with each of my hands, lifted myself off the ground, extended my legs in front of me, and did my best approximation of this: 

  This is NOT me, and my legs weren't quite parallel to the ground, but you get the idea...
[Image taken from here]

I'm not entirely sure why I did this. Perhaps I was trying to show off whatever modest gymnastic ability I had acquired from Ashtanga practice. Or perhaps I just experienced a sudden burst of playfulness; I like to think this is really what was going on :-). In any case, the two baristas looked a little surprised for a moment; I'm not sure if they were surprised that I would do something like this out of the blue, or if they were surprised that I actually have a body that can do this. Either way, they looked surprised for a moment, and then the look changed to one of mild amusement ("Who does he think he is, clowning around...?"). I don't know why, but I somehow felt the need to justify my action at that moment. "Uh, well, just playing around", I muttered sheepishly. "Yeah", they replied, that mildly amused look still on their faces. We chatted for a couple more minutes, and then they went off on their way. End of story.

This little story leads me to think of a couple of things. I have observed that it becomes less socially acceptable or appropriate to be physically playful, the older one gets. Perhaps being physically playful is seen as something that is out of line with having gotten to a certain age and/or having a certain station in life. Some time ago, a fellow Ashtangi told me that one of the things that drew her to Ashtanga was the fact that in Ashtanga, jumping around was regarded as acceptable and beautiful, whereas in many other areas of adult life, such physical behavior would be regarded with anything ranging from mild amusement to disdain. My friend believed that her love for Ashtanga partly stems from the fact that the Ashtanga practice allows her to be childlike everyday, at least for a couple of hours.

Do you think there is a relation between the Ashtanga practice and physical playfulness? If you have anything to share, I'll love to hear from you.  

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