The Power of Yoga in Acting
I’ve always been aware of the general benefits of yoga: it’s great for reducing high stress levels and can work out some of those niggling aches and pains. But as I am starting to explore this world of acting a little bit more, I’ve often heard that it is an activity lots of acting teachers recommend - it’s in drama school programmes, summer courses and even The Actors Temple runs a weekly Yoga class (that’s free for students - bonus!). With so many people recommending this activity, I decided to explore how Yoga can benefit acting.
There are lots of different types of Yoga - Vinyasa, Hatha - and after trying the different classes, I honestly can’t tell you a favourite. Each of them can bring something different to you that day and it’s a case of listening to your body and being aware of what it needs. For example, if I am stressed and just want to relax and retune then Hatha is great. However, if I was to work on movement and practise a more physically strong yoga sequence then Dynamic Vinyasa Flow is perfect. Try out a couple of classes and you will start to see the different benefits of each.
Yoga is a time to allow the mind to be still and quieten all the thoughts in your head. I know this might sound counterproductive when talking about creativity but this stillness then allows for space to have creative and unrestrained thoughts drop in. Yoga itself is also a creative artform; it explore fluid movements and changing of sequences. One of the great things about Isabelle’s Dynamic Vinyasa Flow class is that she encourages freedom and play, elements that are hugely important as an actor. We are constantly being told in the rehearsal space to explore, to have fun, and I will be the first to admit that sometimes I find this a little tricky to just jump into. That’s why yoga has been a great stepping stone for me in this sense and has made me feel more comfortable just exploring what the body can do!
Know Your Body
An actor’s body is their tool, their instrument - it is what helps them physically present a ‘character’ onstage. For that reason, yoga can help actors understand how to manipulate and use their bodies, particularly when it comes to movement. When you are practising yoga, the focus is on connecting the mind with the body. There’s a lot of talk around ‘listening’ and adapting moves or sequences to what your body is telling you and having this awareness is essential when you’re onstage. Being able to know what you can and can’t do during one performance can actually save you from seriously injuring yourself!
A huge part of yoga is this focus on breathing and how it can calm the high levels of stress in the body. There are elements of yoga which are just focused on breathing and recognising this journey of breath throughout the body. While this is clearly useful for everyday life, this is particularly helpful for an actor about to perform. Many professionals practise just before they go onstage so that they can control their nerves. I know that I need to do it not just on show nights but everyday life. We are always so busy and rushing around that we forget to take a moment to calm that stress because as soon as you do, you become a lot more productive because you can think clearly!
Yoga is a great way to increase your flexibility and physical strength - two very essential qualities for an actor. When you are exploring a variety of roles, you never know what lengths you are going to have to push your body to and what physical adjustments you will need to make. That’s why having yoga as a consistent activity can also make you very appealing for roles because it equips you with these other skills of flexibility and fluidity that other actors in your casting bracket might not have.
While this may sound similar to meditation, yoga can be a great way to release other tensions in the body alongside your everyday mental ‘stresses’. It has an ability to stretch out aches and pains, to release the tension in your body and reset. We hold a lot of tension physically and everyone tenses up in different parts of the body. However, yoga is a full body practise and one that allows for adjustments and levels. This means that any two people can practise the same sequence yet you can adapt it to suit your body and what it needs. I often get told that I hold a lot of tension in my neck and shoulders and that my knees lock all the time. It can be really frustrating because when I’m in a scene I don’t want to be focusing on releasing this tension as I’m then not present in what’s going on around me. Slowly but surely yoga has helped me to loosen up this tension so that I don’t have to think about it all the time when I’m performing which makes my life a lot easier!
The best part about yoga is that you can do it at home too or at the theatre or even practise your breathing flow on public transport ! I challenge you to try a yoga class and see what changes it starts to make. You may want to research the different classes or you could try a Class Pass for Isabelle’s Dynamic Vinyasa Flow on Monday lunchtimes (free to those in training).
After studying English Literature and Theatre at the University of Leeds and becoming an active member of the university’s Theatre Group, Sophia realised acting was the right path for her. After living in France for a year to feed her love for travelling and tutoring, she’s now back in London to follow the actor/blogger dream. She loves exploring all things ‘drama’ and hopes to one day be in productions that can give a powerful voice to important issues and delve into challenging roles. She is currently studying at The Actors Temple on The Foundation Course and is a keen blogger busy travelling around interviewing alumni, trying out new classes, reviewing the latest shows and ultimately exploring this world of ‘acting’!