Gopal or Gopala is the nickname of Hindu God Krishna as a child. Practicing yoga does not mean that we have to convert to Hinduism to reap the benefits of the practice. But because Hinduism and Yoga have similar influences, it helps that we open our minds to the inspiration that Hinduism provides us. Gopal was quite a naughty and mischievous child. Perhaps those qualities are not normally associated with the Divine. When we think of religion or God or what is holy and Divine, we think we must act a certain way, speak a certain way, follow this decorum and that decorum. In other words, many of us think holy qualities exist only when we are serious. And yet Gopal shows otherwise. In the stories about Gopal, he often pulls pranks. When girls who like him went to the river to bathe, he even took their clothes to tease and taunt them. He is being playful and well, he is being a child.
All of us were once children too. Back then, we played as a way to explore our bodies, our consciousness, and the world around us. Perhaps as children, some of us looked at the ceiling while spinning around to make ourselves dizzy, then we lay down and looked at the spinning world around us. Perhaps some of us realized, by accident at first, that we liked the sensation of peeling off dried glue from our hands, and then we started doing it intentionally. Perhaps we stared at clouds and saw shapes of animals and fruits and things we knew. We once did these things not because we would get rich or become popular. We did these because we were just having fun. We knew then how to stay in the present moment. We were very much like Gopal. It is that authenticity and uninhibitedness that makes us Divine.
And yet we have somehow forgotten that we still are that child, that this child can come out and play, especially during asana practice. Gopal would imitate animals, just as we do when we come to our downward facing dogs, our cats snd cows, our eagles, our locusts, our pigeons, our frogs etc. We are in essence just playing. And because our yoga asana is just play, there is no right or wrong.
If there is a very distinct memory in our childhood of us being completely happy and free, then let us reconnect to that child. Let that child do the practice and we can see what difference it makes. If in an inversion, we find ourselves falling, fall. Roll into a somersault. Be that child who is unafraid. When we were children, we were content and happy to be falling, it was our parents who told us-out of concern- not to fall. But now, let us relearn to fall. It doesn't have to be graceful. It just has to be safe- and fun!
Gopal reminds us that there is Divinity in all, yes, even in the playfulness with which we look at life. If growing up means we become serious because we "have responsibilities" and we live in the "real world" now, if it means we forget how to laugh and play and explore, why grow up at all? The child that we were who knew to take things lightly- we are still that child, that child is still within us. Reconnect to this child. Be divinely child-like!