The Lost Art of Play

Over morning coffee on the patio of our vacation retreat on the Big Island, Hawaii, I noticed some cows grazing in the field of the neighboring ranch. All of a sudden out of the bushes ran a rambunctious calf, hopping, running, zigging and zagging all over the pasture. The older cows continued grazing or snoozing in the long grass despite this little guy pouncing all around them. He was definitely playing like no one was watching.

As I watched this go on for quite some time with no reaction from the older cows, it made me wonder, at what point in life do animals, humans, maybe all living things stop playing with reckless abandon?

The tasks of daily life take over quickly it seems. Once we start school, study becomes a priority, then comes work, bills, family, and on and on it goes. This doesn’t apply to animals of course, but the necessities of life still become the main focus – food, comfort, sleep.

Joseph Pilates understood the importance of play, and wrote in his manifesto Return to Life through Contrology, “all forms of play tend materially to renew our vitality with accompanying moral uplift.”

As I contemplated Joseph’s words and what seems the inevitable change in play behaviors, I was thinking of activities that allow us to truly play, not in a structured and organized way, but just for fun without consideration for winning, having a particular skill or trying to achieve something.

The next day while lounging on the beach, I noticed that regardless of age, this place seems to be a sanctuary for all types of play. Sand castles, volleyball, splashing in the water, everyone was having fun without a care in the world.I wondered why the water becomes a “safe place” for people to play without concern of judgment. These are my thoughts…

  1. In the water, we are somewhat hidden. You can play without concern of feeling exposed.
  2. We are weightless, and the water allows us to move freely with ease, support, and less pain.
  3. The water moves us naturally. It’s impossible to be in the water and not be moved by it. We bob in the surf, we are pushed by the waves, our limbs float and move to adjust or maintain our body position.

Wouldn’t it be nice to recapture that time in life when we would play endlessly from dawn to dusk, without concern of what else needed to be done, how we looked or how we were behaving. We used our imaginations, created mystical places and anything was possible. Most certainly at that age any form of movement was possible.

So is that it? Do we stop playing because we can no longer move as freely as we used to? George Bernard Shaw once said “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”

Here are some ways to play…

  • Living room dance party – just turn on the music and let the rhythm move you
  • Game night – have a rousing game of twister, charades, even Pictionary
  • Get to the beach or pool ASAP
  • Play outside with your kids or grandkids – tag in the playground, play catch, kick a ball, make a fort

As we grow up, many of us shy away from play with others, but play doesn’t have to be a group activity. Just give yourself permission to rekindle that care-free feeling of your youth.

I encourage you to find ways to incorporate play back into your life. Act like a kid again!

Written by

Holly Wallis, Certified Movement & Rehabilitation Specialist, PMA®-CPT
Director of US Operations, Body Harmonics Pilates & Movement Institute
Studio Director, ReActive Movement, 6200 LaSalle Ave, Oakland, CA 94611
510-338-0962
holly@movementmonthly.com
www.reactivemovement.com
www.bodyharmonicsUS.com

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