Day 27: The Spirituality of Whimsicality

As a yoga teacher, the hardest and most terrifying class for me to teach is the first day of Beginner Yoga.  The students walk in pale, fat, worried, neurotic, clutching their little bottles of Dasani like they’re some totemic objects that will protect them from weird, patchouli smelling Hindu spirits, and me.

I don’t claim clairvoyance, or clairaudience, but I can hear their thoughts as clearly as if they’re coming through a bullhorn:“I won’t be able to do this because I can’t even touch my toes for goddsakes.  What the hell was I thinking??!!  What am I doing? I’m sitting in YOGA  for cryin out loud ! How do I get OUT of this??”

They don’t understand the activity, or me.

Yet.

At the opposite end of the yoga teacher “fright spectrum” is the day I walk into Day 27 of the April Yoga Challenge.  OMG.  Soooo easy!

What do we need today? Block? Strap?  Are you going to kill us?  Please don’t kill us?  Oh shut up! I want to be killed!  Kill us!  Kill us!  Can we do savasana for an hour??  I’m still aching from yesterday!”

Sometimes I wonder what a person eavesdropping on the other side of the door to my yoga room would think is going on in there.  It certainly doesn’t sound very spiritual, that’s for sure.

When students step into my yoga room and encounter my style, which is slightly kooky, oftentimes irreverent, and frequently playful, they might mistake this approach to yoga as “not very spiritual,” when in fact, what I am doing is setting up the yoga room to be spirit’s playground.

I think when you follow your inner promptings, your intuition, your body’s wisdom, that is the act of honoring the spirit, the soul, the non-material part of your nature.

And this is a very hard practice.  And a deep practice.  And a self-revelatory practice.

When you are allowed, and encouraged, and truly supported in the act of  giving yourself over to whimsy in your yoga practice and can  throw away the script, ignore the cue cards, and disregard all social conventions that say you should act a certain way because you are “this old” or have “this important responsible job,” you open up a Pandora’s Box of Crazy.

A whimsical approach to yoga does not mean you deliberately set out to defy all conventions or act the rebel. I’m not saying that. It just means that you are permitting something deeper inside to come out.  And in letting it out, you are honoring it.

Because this thing is dying to be expressed.  It has been repressed and smothered and tramped on and beaten and thrown water on and shoes at. Whimsy has been conditioned the hell out of you.

Outside the yoga room, whimsy is not always well-received.  Whimsy blurts.  Whimsy can be juvenile, unseemly, and downright silly.

Whimsicality in yoga postures steps away from strict adherence to form or architecture, and may look a bit chaotic from the outside, but that’s just because whimsy has different rules, rules not fully understood from the outside, but completely known and understood from the inside.

The spirituality of whimsicality is the practice of allowing spirit out of the box. It’s the antithesis of liturgy.  Liturgy is comfortable, predictable, reproducible, whereas whimsy is like letting a 3-year-old loose in a room full of balloons. Yeah, a few will break.  Yeah, there’s going to be moments of startle, and tears, and mess. But man, it’s going to be a blast!

Tragically, whimsicality is one of the first things to get kicked to the curb in the process of maturing.  And then, when we get older and realize what serious damage we’ve done, and what a huge a mistake it was, we then spend the rest of our lives trying to CPR some of it back into our lives, with variable success.

But if we can come into the yoga room and have somebody guide us into a whimsical practice, tell us to shake our tail feathers, and make horse sounds with our mouths, and jog in place and let our arms and legs go all loosey-goosey, what would happen?

If we are permitted the uninhibited freedom to snort like pigs, and breathe through alternate nostrils, and pump our stomachs like we’re trying to hork up hairballs, and go into our turtle shells, and kick away all the stuff that’s not serving us, and sigh out all our tension with a big, fat, audible ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh…..

Maybe, just maybe, the dying embers of what little whimsy is left in our bodies, hearts, and lives can be coaxed back to life.

And what if  it turns out that this whimsicality is the deepest practice of all?

11 thoughts on “Day 27: The Spirituality of Whimsicality

  1. Kath, each time I do my challenge updates, I read your inspirational comments. I don’t usually leave comments but this one really hit home. I was one of those people who wanted to try yoga for over a year before I got brave enough to show up at your Beginners Yoga Class. As you know it was only 3 classes when I had such an overwhelming feeling of ” this is what I’ve been looking for. This is where I belong.” From that day I have understood why you are our “Yogamama” It’s your wisdom, your ability to make each student feel confident,special. It’s your encouragement to laugh at yourself and find joy in everything. Things we all know but forget. You are our Yogamama, our Guru . You live what you teach. You inspire so many!
    Namaste

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  2. Oh, sweet sweet whimsy. This is beautifully, truthfully written, Kath.

    I experienced some wonderful whimsy tonight, adding in some dancing and balance ball work at the end of my 30 minutes. My greatest joys: wide-open-to-the-nearly-full-moon-happy-baby-whimsy and hip-shaking-to-the-nearly-full-moon-and-Ben Harper’s “Blessed to be a Witness”-tribal-tune and glorious-back-bend-over-balance-ball-to-nearly-full-moon-whimsy. Aaaaahhhhhhhh. The moon – and Saturn – are so beautiful tonight hanging in the easterly-toward-south-easterly sky!

    I also did 20 minutes this morning, facing East, in our kitchen-dining space. Greatest joy: being joined by my cat, who lazed across the mat and gave me a “purr treatment” while I was in child’s pose cozily over top of him. Purrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

    OH! And guess what Aria said when I told her we would stop by the Studio on Friday for the end-of-Yoga-Challenge celebration?! She said, “We’re going to Massachusetts????!!!!” All along, she has thought you & your studio were in Massachusetts. I asked her how she arrived at this thought and we have determined that she mixed up Mansfield and Massachusetts … and she may have tossed in a little Kripalu confusion too. 😉

    Whimsically Yours,
    Cindy Lou Who

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    1. Cindy Lou Who,
      I really dig your references to the stars and planets (and your knowledge of them!!). Can’t wait to see you Friday and to meet the wonderous Aria! Maybe we can all meet at Kripalu one day for a yoga adventure?
      Love, K

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  3. I remember my first yoga class. I remember how the mats were smelly and new. I remember how the room looked completely different than it does now. I remember how the sun came through the windows after my very first sun salutation. I did so many after class that day–I didn’t want to forget it. But I don’t really remember thinking. Maybe that’s a good thing about a morning class, you just do it. No testing the water, no thinking of excuses to not go. Maybe it was because I was only fourteen, when high school is more foreboding than doing a couple stretches at 6:30 am. Maybe it was just because I was going to support a friend. Regardless, I had no idea what I was getting into, but everyday I’m thankful I did. I still remember your first lesson: “Look at my finger.” you told us as you moved it in front of your face. “You didn’t breathe, did you?” Then you taught us how to breathe, opening us up to yoga, to life, to whimsy. Thank you.

    Today, after thinking about my very first yoga experience, I replicated that practice. I sat and did the three part breath, sun salutations, and savasana. Ah, yoga.

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    1. Ah Brynne, I totally forgot that you were only 14 when you started! OMG girl, you are (and were) spectacular. I cannot WAIT to see how your life unfolds! Every chapter is even more compelling than the one before. Rock on! I love you.
      K.

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  4. Kathleen:

    You are getting better with each post. Amazing.

    What are you smoking? Gimme some: I wanna be brilliant like you.

    I can imagine your students probably love you. Why? Because your philosophy of teaching is in alignment with the practice of yoga, that’s why.

    “I never let schooling interfere with my education,” wrote one of my favorite writers, Mark Twain. In other words, we are meant to practice yoga in a spirit of play: you are right on the money.

    Schooling implies giving free reign to your curiosity and having fun while you are at it. By contrast, education is about scoring points over deadbeat Joe six-pack, who happens to be the guy sleeping during the lecture hour.

    If you beat Joe, so what? You scored a better grade, but you are still enveloped in misery.

    Thus, we must approach yoga (and everything else in life) with the child-like innocence of a three year old in a room full of balloons. How nice of you to bring that to our attention. Cheerio!

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  5. Such wonderful comments. I love you guys! (*sniff*) I wish I could add to the whimsy of the whimsicality. Alas, I woke up this morning somewhat abruptly when Luke, my 5-year old (who had crawled into bed with us sometime in the night) kicked the covers off of both of us. The little bit of light coming through the window (and the cold room to which I was now exposed) said somewhat loudly, “GET UP AND YOGA NOW!” I got up, but I was feeling no whimsy! In fact, I was pissed! But I got up.

    Until I did the sun salutations, about 15 minutes into things, I felt as if my body was scattered around the living room, with my spirit hovering above, wondering, how am I going to put this racket back together again? After the sun salutations, I no longer felt like Humpty Dumpty and continued with a solid Warrior sequence (to keep me grounded the rest of the day) and then a quick meditation. (Didn’t want it to be quick, but lunches had to be made for school.) In a bit I’ll do my pigeon for the day, but it didn’t feel right to try it this morning.

    I do remember my first class — it was the first week of August 2004, and I had just birthed Luke 4 weeks earlier. Went to the Saturday morning “all suns” class. By the end of the suns I was a jiggly mess, but then talking to Kath after the practice, I knew that I had finally, after 6 years in Mansfield, found my smart key to the town, my tribe. The yoga studio eventually became(really) the (only) place in town where I could go and simply be myself — goofball (oh yes, we definitely discovered whimsy over the years!!); intuitive healer; stressed out mama; and ultimately, open spirit. And you actually loved me for it. 🙂 Mwah back!

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    1. Jennifer,
      What a light you are! And there was a deeply-felt darkness when you moved to CA. And there still is! I remember you saying after class that you had to go home and “soak your lentils.” I thought, “What? She soaks lentils? She doesn’t just buy a *can* of lentils??” And from there I discovered your complete remarkability, your super-woman-in-real-life-ness. I still stand in awe of you. You are a total inspiration. Even from afar…
      Love you!
      K.

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      1. Nadia: Mom, why are you crying? You’re not cutting onions.

        Me: Because I’m loved. Waaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh!!!

        Thanks, K. I’m trying to figure out how to scrape together plane fare or miles for a solo summer visit. Gotta keep visualizing…

        P.S. How funny that you would write about the lentils. I’m soaking them as we speak for tonight’s soup!

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