Feeling low? Canter!

“You’re only given a little spark of madness,” a wise soul once said. “You mustn’t lose it”. That wise soul may have been Robin Williams, though I can’t be sure. My guess is Robin Williams knows how to canter.

What’s cantering, you ask? It’s like skipping, but with more forward momentum and less emphasis on an up-and-down motion. Also, one leg ‘leads’, with the rear foot coming to meet the front foot, but not actually passing it or switching positions.

You mean there’s no horse involved?  No, no horse.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re kidding, right? Adults don’t canter. And, aren’t you a lawyer? Yes, I am, and if I didn’t canter once in a while, I would a seriously grumpy lawyer.

I am a deep believer in the occasional moment of lighthearted “madness”, meaning silliness, joie de vivre, or just dumping our adult seriousness for a blessed few minutes once in a while. I know that I am not alone, not least of all because I’ve attended a few yoga-dance sessions at the Kripalu Centre.  Just this week, I watched Polar bear artist, Kal Barteski, speaking at TED-X Manitoba and in her presentation, she made a great case for play, including a devastating little slide that read: “When you grow up, your heart dies”. When I read that I was dumb-struck for a moment, and I made a vow: I am absolutely not going to grow up, at least not completely.

My daughters would probably say, “uh, no danger of that, mom.”

As a kid, I was lucky enough to have a family that embraced occasional bouts of silliness. My older brother is blessed with both a talent for mimicry and great comic timing. In high school, he and bunch of friends founded the Elk Club, a comic rip-off of the Loyal Order of Moose, complete with hilarious secret hand signals and antlered t-shirts. I have a pair of uncles with a flair for slapstick, too, especially in family reunion photos, where one would hold shoes up like rabbit ears behind an unsuspecting niece’s head. (My cousin, Andrea, daughter of one of said uncles, shares the family talent for wit at her blog:  The Life and Times of a Left-handed Colon-less Girl from Kemptville.)

Lately, I’ve discovered that a 30-second canter down the back hall from the kitchen to the laundry room is a great way to embrace my spark of madness (not to mention my inner Horsewoman). If I’m feeling  low, canter therapy can lift my spirits; if I’m feeling pretty happy to begin with, then a quick gallop with a lead change thrown in can elevate my mood to outright joy. Throw in a head toss and a good snort, and you’ll feel like a kid in no time.  And yes, cantering on Ginger the Four-Footed Guru is also an excellent mood-booster, but I’m talking about on-the-spot tools here.

One day last week while I was engaging my canter practice, running madly down the hall and switching my gait from left to right and back again, my husband suddenly appeared at the back door. He looked at me bemused. I just whinnied at him, turned on my heel and cantered back the way I came in, throwing in a big lead change for good measure. I don’t find this difficult, but then I have had a flair for the silly since I was a kid. I’m sure as heck not going to let marriage squash it out of me.

Try it. It’s like dancing. You’ll feel lighter, believe me.  And for more advanced practitioners: stand on the back of a grocery cart and scooter down the aisle (don’t take out any shoppers, though).

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