If you’re like most people, it’s easy to drift away from your fitness ambitions at some point during the year...
Even simple fitness goals like gaining some muscle or just feeling better day-to-day can get pushed aside by the hassle, boredom and repetitiveness of most exercise programs.
When the novelty of your new fitness plan wears off, it's easy to let your adulting get in the way of what your body needs to thrive.
If your exercise endeavors keep turning in to repelling chores you’d rather avoid, maybe it’s time to rethink your long-term fitness strategy.
It may seem silly to you, but the secret to curing your inner resistance to exercise is just to let yourself be a kid again.
Kids are active balls of rambunctious energy by nature.
They don’t need to go to the gym or a spin class to keep themselves physically active every day. In fact, if you’ve ever taken care of little kids before, you know all they want to do is run around and play!
Free play is how humans evolved to grow both physically and cognitively. It’s how we learn to collaborate and co-create with other people. Play is also how we bring spontaneity, novelty and fun into our daily lives...and it's not just for kids!
Ask yourself if a 30 minute session on the treadmill can ever produce the ear-to-ear grin jumping around in a bounce castle universally does.
I didn't think so.
If you think about fitness from the more natural perspective of play and spontaneous movement, it's no wonder why our willpower drys up so quickly when we force ourselves to keep doing the same exercise routines week in and week out.
Although you should always set aside a few hours a week to lift heavy things, try shifting your physical fitness strategy to include more playful activities.
By its very nature, play is random, fun and interesting.
By comparison, exercise programs tend to be highly structured, repetitive and increasingly mundane after each session.
So what makes an activity play instead of exercise?
The thing to look for when identifying play is randomness, a lack of structure and a sense co-creation when you’re interacting with one or more people.
Playful activities are often outdoors because natural environments offer so much variety in terms of weather conditions, landscapes and vegetation.
For example, surfing is quite playful because the ocean provides an environment of varied waves and unpredictable swells. Surfers must constantly adapt to the changing conditions in terms of where they surf and how they reposition themselves in the water to catch breaking waves.
Snowboarding and skiing are also playful because no two slopes are ever the same. On top of that, changing weather conditions tend to transform each run into something different after each ride up the lift.
Alternatively, even an urban movement practice like Parkour requires free runners to overcome all sorts of man-made obstacles erected around cities.
Because free runners have limitless choice in randomizing what path they take from A to B, their training is playful because it artificially mimics the complex navigation skills required to traverse truly wild landscapes. A sidewalk, by comparison, will never challenge the body or mind to adapt in any complex way.
If you start to label these activities as adult forms of play, it becomes no surprise that so many people become addicted to these spontaneous-style sports. They continue to engage your body and mind year-after-year since they never lose their novelty.
The playful examples I mentioned above are awesome because they require the body to continually adapt to a range of changing conditions and random terrains.
However, those activities aren’t very accessible to most people around the world. And even if you can do them, they're usually seasonal activities.
Play should be for everyone and available every day of the year. Thus, it’s good to have a movement practice that's evergreen and scalable.
It turns out that there is such a movement practice and it's called AcroYoga.
If you’ve never heard of Acroyoga before, it’s basically comprised of 3 parts:
Usually, AcroYoga involves two or more partners. At a minimum, there is a BASE (usually laying on the ground with their arms and legs held up in the air) and a FLYER (performing a variety of aerial movements supported by the base’s hands and feet).
The two play by co-creating different acrobatic and therapeutic poses to have fun, improve their skills, build partnerships and care for the body.
You can watch an excellent demonstration of AcroYoga’s core elements in this awesome TEDx talk:
One of the amazing things about AcroYoga is how naturally it builds whole body strength due to the complex movements it requires.
And people have so much fun twisting, inverting and skillfully maneuvering their body that they lose complete track of how hard they're actually working.
New Acro-Yogis are always surprised to find out how many previously unengaged muscles are instantly sore the day after their first class or jam session!
When work feels like play, it's no work at all!
In a matter of months, unfit AcroYoga beginners can transform their bodies from limited acrobatic capacity to impressive shows of fitness. The co-creative movements you learn stimulate your body to undergo complex adaptations.
Whether you’re a veteran Yogi or an out-of-shape, cubicle-dweller, AcroYoga can bring a much needed dose of play and movement complexity in to your daily life!
A typical AcroYoga jam session. People play with each other in different Base, Flyer and Spotter groups to have fun and grow.
Most major cities around the world now have Yoga studios that offer beginner to advanced AcroYoga classes.
Local Facebook groups organize free meetups in parks and public spaces called “jams” that focus on building lasting AcroYoga communities, partnerships and spaces for people to just have fun playing together.
Don’t let yourself be intimidated by the gymnastic-like nature of AcroYoga. Everyone starts out by learning the foundational poses and grows from there.
Just go up and ask any experienced Acro-Yogi to throw you up on their feet to have your “first flight”.
AcroYoga communities pride themselves on being some of the most welcoming and inclusive people on the planet, so expect to be greeted by hugs instead of handshakes!
Whether you’re already a seasoned Yogi looking for something new and playful to spice up your Yoga practice or a complete novice to all forms of exercise, AcroYoga is waiting for you.
If you’re a seasoned yogi, AcroYoga will continue to build and expand your physical capabilities while helping to improve your communication skills with training partners.
If you’re a complete beginner, AcroYoga is one of the best ways to start a strong yet playful movement practice you’ll be eager to continue. You'll be amazed how fast your body transforms once you get addicted to the practice!
The best part is that you won’t even realize how hard you were training. You were having so much fun playing in all these acrobatic poses that you didn't even notice the new muscle groups you used until they feel sore the next day! ;P
What's more, the constant encouragement and support you’ll receive from all your new Acro friends will also drive you to grow faster than you ever could on your own.
Me flying Bow Pose on top of my friend Igor L-Basing in Lisbon, Portugal.
The poses and transitions in these videos will prepare you to work with partners at AcroYoga jams, classes and workshops.
Finding your nearest AcroYoga community is simple. Just search Facebook for (Your City) + AcroYoga to become part of this fun, connected and playful group of Acro Monkeys.
I’m actually a certified AcroYoga teacher so feel free to ask me any questions about the practice in the comments below!
P.S. Safety is a crucial part of AcroYoga. If you’re interested to learn how Acro-Yogis keep each other safe while training, watch my video on The Fundamentals of AcroYoga Spotting below!
Matt's a geologist turned online marketer and digital minimalist. He's a Modern Manimal on a mission to cultivate a high-tech, hunter-gatherer lifestyle within our exceedingly domesticated world. When away from his tech, you can find him studying complex human movement through random play or practices like Aikido, AcroYoga and Barefoot Running.
Please log in again. The login page will open in a new tab. After logging in you can close it and return to this page.