Why Work when You can Play?

PlayWhen I started teaching Nia in 2003 there were some who would take class (or part of class) and leave. Every now and then they would tell me why: they “felt stupid”.

At first I responded to this comment with deep discomfort. I’m pretty sure there was quite a bit of blushing involved. Once I got past that (a moment of two) I began to notice how the message was delivered. Once or twice it was thrown over a shoulder as someone was leaving. It would be spoken with eyes down and head down and maybe an uncomfortable laugh as the messenger was moving in the opposite direction as me. The most interesting was when the message was delivered in a head-on confrontational way. When a student would look me in the eye, square off and spit the words. For whatever reason it was that delivery that was the easiest for me to manage. I always wanted to ask them why, but after asking once I discovered that my concern is not appreciated one bit!

 I think about what “appropriate behavior” means.

I observed my kids, who were 13 and 9, as I went through the process of learning to teach Nia and then teaching regular Nia classes. There was quite a bit of snickering. That passed. I can only guess that they figured out that Nia was going to be around for awhile and that I was very happy teaching Nia. At 22 my son tells me that while he appreciates the work I’m doing he just doesn’t gravitate toward moving that way. My daughter at 18 prefers the structure of a ballet class, though now and then will take a walk on the wild side and come to class or a Nia event. Free dance is not a favorite.

I often consider the demographics for my classes, labs and workshops. Who are the people I will or want to be teaching/sharing/guiding?

Then I think about if what I’m doing is group appropriate. Is it hard enough? Is it accessible? Is it interesting? Will it connect with them so that they can get the full benefit? How about the music? Am I keeping it fresh? Is it fun?

Carlos AyaRosas (who co-created Nia with Debbie Rosas Stewart) referred to play quite a bit. The routines he designed and much of the music he chose had some element of play or playfulness.

Are we playing?

Are we too dignified to play?

What will happen if someone sees us? Sees us doing something outside of our carefully prescribed “adult” play?

Like actually playing… with no children present… doing something that isn’t painful or competitive…

Is play supposed to be painful? Do kids look like they’re in pain when they’re playing?

If organized sports comes to mind, often it is us, parents or the adults that insist they “suck it up”, “man up”, and tell them “no pain no gain”. Children don’t choose to invite and endure pain in play. (Yes, I’ve said this before and I’ll keep saying it until it changes.) Somewhere along the way, “winning” and “success” got wound up in all sorts of pain.  Even our attempts at fitness, health and wellness are resulting in chronically painful, damaged and even broken bodies.

Hopping off the soapbox (for now)

Play is Play. It’s a place where we don’t mark time. A place in which we don’t need a reason for being there in the first place. And we do it because it genuinely feels good. When we’re finished, we feel energized. We’re not over-wound, nor are we so exhausted that we need to go right to bed. Our spirits are high and light and we can hardly wait to play again.

So…

why work out when you can play?!

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