What can yoga do for actors? I understand Yoga for actors as a tool for personal and professional growth.
Probably you’ve heard me talk about yoga… a lot. And how yoga is not just a form of physical exercise. And probably you’ve heard me, or other people, talk about the mental benefits of consistent practice. So perhaps you are starting to get a glimpse of the possibilities.
Don’t get me wrong, just because I talk a lot about the mental and emotional benefits, doesn’t mean I deny the clear physical advantages of a yoga practice. But social medial already showers us with images of ‘yogis’ doing seemingly impossible postures. It’s also quite possible that you’ve had yoga as a warm-up in drama school for one or two terms, or in a theatre production.
Harnessing the strength, flexibility and control that comes from the physical practice of yoga will make the performer’s body more versatile but I’m particularly interested in exploring how the more nuanced practices of yoga, the meditative side, as well as the breathing techniques and philosophical side, can help create mental and emotional balance and growth.
Yoga is an integrated system of 4 process tools: ethics, postures, breathing practices, and meditation. All these seemingly different tools of yoga work to bring balance to the mind and the whole system in order to move to a deeper understanding of one’s true nature.
It’s a deeply spiritual practise and way of life that involves self-knowledge. Isn’t acting a way of life, as well as a deep practice that also involves self-awareness?
Of course, we could simply use yoga-like movements as a fitness tool, or a warm-up exercise. It will help you develop flexibility and stamina. But, why not go deeper and use yoga mindfully to ‘innercise’ instead of ‘exercise’?
I am not talking about some woo-woo hippy stuff (nothing against) but scientifically backed up evidence.
It used to be believed, not so long ago, that the brain was fixed, once a person stopped growing, more or less after adolescence, the brain would stop growing too. Actually, the brain would even start losing matter! Therefore learning was difficult, if not impossible, in later years.
The opposite is true, now it’s widely accepted that the brain is ‘plastic’, therefore the term ‘neuroplasticity’, and that can keep changing, growing and making new connections all your life. Yes, growing and even making changes in our brain structure… which in turn will affect our thinking and even habits. Isn’t that cool?
Recent studies point toward the idea that we feel good after yoga, not just because we’ve spent some time relaxing, but because of the changes and improvements in the brain structure that we’ve created.
So, back to the beginning, how can a more integrated yoga practice be of use to an actor? What are the actual benefits?
A performer’s training doesn’t end with drama school, they usually find workshops, courses, and other specific techniques that will keep them learning and sharpen their tools, be that singing, improvising, clowning or Shakespeare.
I also believe that being able to develop a personal practice that can be done individually, at home, or when needed the most, and that works on the physical body as well as the mind and the nervous system, is equally important if not more. That practice will develop an anchor for your day or week, provide a sense of structure in a profession that most of the time lacks structure.
By now, I hope I’ve convinced you that a good yoga practise goes well beyond mastery of poses. Here’s are a few more general benefits:
- body awareness
- increased stamina
- physical flexibility and gain strength
- mental flexibility
- emotional balance
- stress reduction
- mind awareness
- proprioceptive sensitivity
- deeper focus
- calm the nervous system
- increase creativity
- ongoing practice of self-improvement
- endurance and resilience (physical and mental)
- overall wellbeing
How about benefits specific for a performer?
These are a few I’d like to highlight:
- I believe that yoga can promote values and traits similar to those theatre promotes, like: enthusiasm and joy, collaboration, persistence, resilience and of course creativity.
- It’s for any type of body. The actor’s body does’t have to fit any particular form, and unlike a dancer or model, it can be of any shape and age. Yoga should be adapted to the body not the other way around. The actors learns what works for them… whilst challenging and pushing their comfort zone at the same time.
- Ethic principles of yoga, and yoga philosophy can really resonate with a performer, especially with a performer in training!! Developing a good practice, with solid principles.
“Remember, it doesn’t matter how deep into a posture you go, what does matter is who you are when you get there”
– Max Strom
That quote always reminds me how after every theatre production, we come out the other side as changed people.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Can yoga be a useful tool for actors? Please leave a comment below or contact me directly if you’d like to know more.
Are you an actor who is interested or curious about yoga? Are you looking for a community where you can share and learn, improve yourself and therefore your craft? I’ve created just that: A private Facebook group of support focusing on yoga for performers, I’ll be sharing with you yoga tools to help you on your journey. Join the community for free here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/yoga4actors
Montse has been working for the last 30 years, among other things, mentoring young artists in the world of theatre and performance. Trained as an actress in her native Spain, she has worked professionally all over the world and deeply understands the needs of a performer. As a theatre director, she is very dedicated to her actors and is used to work with drama students helping them get the best out of each production. Her passion for sharing and her desire to help others realise their true potential has lead her onto the path of yoga teaching. A practitioner since 1998, she never saw herself as a yoga teacher, but finally took the leap and couldn’t be happier! Montse first trained in the UK and later on added another 500hr in Rishikesh with Krisha and Sangeeta Shikhwal, working with them on traditional hatha with elements of Iyengar style alignment and restorative yoga.
Her classes are relaxed, friendly and with elements of yin, yang and humour where everyone feels welcome, regardless of their skill. Montse’s motto is ‘be your own template’, both in life and in yoga… Your shape is unique and so is your life so don’t follow the ‘should be like this’ crowd and don’t try to fit into anyone else’s path, find your own… on and off the mat.