One is understandably easily fooled by the seemingly innocent and sweet nature that the monkeys in and around the Londolozi camps portray themselves to carry.
While they add a definite passive presence to the deck space for guests, sit attentively listening to the day plan at a morning meeting, and keep a watchful eye on the children from the branches above the village creche playground, they bring with themselves a sense of mischief that adds a touch of play, easily forgotten in our adult years.
While they regularly grace the surrounding trees or the beautiful zen yoga deck during the daily yoga classes, it was following a particularly challenging class where they zoomed through multiple times grabbing hold of sunglasses and snacks lying next to the guests mats’ that I realised how the nature of the animals has lots to teach us. Once we’ve accepted the loss of our post-yoga banana to a furry friend that is.
From bouncing playfully over the jungle gyms, to gliding over the breakfast table to snatch a lemon quarter, to swaying through branches that bend generously from the transient weight, they truly use their bodies, limbs, range of movement and fearlessness to bounce and spring through all parts of their day. Their bodies are their jungle gyms, and the camp is their playground.
While the reactions from the staff and guests to the behaviour of the monkeys spurred momentary frustrations, surprises, giggles and various other emotions, a question of significance began to brew in my mind.
As a yoga teacher, how does one incorporate the play element into an ancient unifying practice that has been around for as long as humans have been humans?
When any formality is formed through the use of structure, a drop (or more) of seriousness is often added to a space. This produces a feeling of pressure to perform, or be able to do something that may not be attainable on that particular day. (We aren’t all able to fold into pretzels!)
In this case, if the fingertips aren’t able to touch the floor, or the shoulders won’t rotate in a certain direction, one becomes disheartened and feels inadequate to be there. Then doubt sets in.
“ I really shouldn’t have had that extra slice of milk tart. Why haven’t I put more effort into exercise? Goodness this was a bad idea, I can’t do any of this properly. I’ll never get this right.”
The answer is simple… In each of us there exists an innocent childlike element, stuck in the adult form, waiting to be revived. It’s waiting in anticipation to dance, move, groove, laugh and play. Just like the monkeys. However, we are less connected to this than they are.
By purposefully incorporating imagery into movements, adding story elements and sparking imagination (one of the most intelligent and necessary creative forces within us) the ignition of this flame starts to show in the faces, body language and entire energy of the guests, young and older, in the classes.
“Rock and roll” through a serious of egg in hot water movements, shedding the cobwebs and the chains of concern. Squeeze the knees into the chest with kittenish enthusiasm, lighten the face through a beaming up-turn of the mouth during a challenging balance, relax the shoulders from the ears and breathe into the tight areas to remind the body that everything is absolutely and wholly… okay!
And by playfully moving and adding some of the cheeky fun to the classes, we come to realise how necessary it is to find the time to play, just as the monkeys do. We are different but much the same, after all!
Watching this childlike element come to life on the mats helps the guests to lose the sense of needing to be in control all the time, as well as the fear of being different.
And so-the moral of the story…
We can thank our surrounding world for the constant daily lessons it provides us, and gentle, or not-so gentle reminders too. For this childlike element is not an abstract principle but an essential prerequisite to move through life with.
Allow the subtle, simple things to be absolutely glorious. Unite spontaneity of youth (dormant yet legitimate in the adult who never fully ceases to be a child) with reflectiveness of maturity, mixing them together to form a beautiful reminder to meet each interaction and fleeting experience with a wild, slightly naughty heart, and eyes full of wonder.
Oh, and don’t leave your snacks unattended.
See you on the mat.