Beginners Yoga for Actors
How Yoga Helped Transform My Acting Career
How would you define an Actor’s life? I think of the buzz of getting an audition, of every day bringing something new, working for myself, feeling on top of the world when you book a job, the privilege of telling stories and making an impact on your audience, maybe even change their life.
I also think fast-paced, working multiple jobs, irregular routine, last-minute auditions and tapes, fluctuating income, city living and regularly dealing with rejection.
Acting is one of the most competitive industries in the UK, never mind during a pandemic and a recession. Hello, 2020! Things in our industry are now gearing up again, and in turn, actors are starting to get auditions, self-tapes and bookings. It’s time to start refocusing on ourselves and our careers.
I initially came to yoga to help me stay fit (which it has done) but what I didn’t expect to find was a change in myself and in turn my acting career.
There are some key things we need as Actors; body awareness, strong breath work and self-belief. These three things are found within yoga. The practice of moving the body, in sync with the breath and listening to your inner voice, go hand in hand with the experience of acting.
Here is a beginner’s yoga flow especially for Actors. This would be great to do before an audition or a performance to warm up the body, use the breath and to centre yourself.
1. Child’s Pose
Have your knees as wide as the mat, arms out in front with palms on the floor, allowing the hips to move towards the feet.
Take 5 deep breaths.
This pose will open the hips, the shoulders and calm the nervous system.
2. Cat and Cow
Come into all fours, having your hands underneath your shoulders and knees underneath your hips so you’re in line.
Inhale, drop the belly, arching the spine, taking your gaze to the sky for Cow.
Exhale, round the spine, bringing your navel in and taking your gaze to your naval for Cat.
Repeat this flow for 5 rounds of breath.
This warms up the spine, engages the core and expands your breathing.
3. Down Dog
From all fours, press into your hands start to lift your hips towards the sky. Feet shoulder width distance and hands shoulder width apart, pressing into ten all knuckles. Allow the feet to come towards the floor. If you’re rounding in the spine, take a deep bend in the knee. Having a straight spine is more important than straight legs!
Take 5 deep breaths.
This Lengthens the hamstrings, strengthens the spine and neck and builds strong arms.
From down dog, come on to your tip toes and roll through the spine to come into a plank pose. Press through your knuckles and start to dome through the upper back. Actively press through your heels and make sure your hips are level with your spine.
Take 5 (phew!) deep breaths.
This is core, arm and spine strengthening. A proper strong pose!
From plank, with control lower your knees, swing your legs to one side and sit your bum down. Then lower onto your back.
Take your knees in towards your chest, arms extended out to the side and on an exhale guide your knees over to one side and take your gaze to the opposite direction as your knees. Soften the jaw and allow the shoulders to relax on the floor.
Take 5 deep breaths on each side.
These lengthen and twist the spine, massage the digestive organs and neutralise the body after the previous poses.
6. Reclined Butterfly
Bring the soles of your feet together, opening the legs, allowing the knees to move to the sides. The closer your heels are to your groin, the stronger the hip stretch and so more the feet further away from the body the lessen the stretch. You can rest your hands on your belly or open your arms wide, palms facing the sky and bend at the elbow for cactus arms.
Take 5 deep breaths.
This is a juicy hip opener, encourages a natural arch in the lower spine and allows for deep breathing.
7. Corpse Pose
Extend the legs out, allowing the feet to splay out to the sides. Arms out long next to the hips, palms facing towards the sky. Close down the eyes and soften the jaw.
Stay here for as long as time allows!
This is the most important pose. It releases all muscles, allows your body to settle in neutral and gives you space to focus on your inner world.
After or during your Corpse pose you could try using affirmations. Affirmation means the action or process of affirming something. On a daily basis, we tell ourselves thoughts about ourself. What is the first thing you say about yourself in the morning? Really examine. I realised that in the morning when I first looked in the mirror, I looked towards my belly and I’d think ‘chubby’ or ‘fat’ or ‘bloated’. The first thing I would think about myself was a negative and hurtful thought. This is not something I wanted for myself. I want to treat myself with love and respect, to help me be and achieve the things I want.
Being aware of our thoughts is the first step to changing them. Now I try and look at my belly and think ‘beautiful’ or ‘healthy’ or ‘grateful’.
I use affirmations before auditions and believe me when I say they’ve completely changed how I behave and respond to them and during them. You could try ‘There is only one of me’; knowing how unique you are and that no one will adopt the character like you.
A quote that has really stuck with me throughout my career is ‘Comparison is the thief of Joy’ by Eleanor Roosevelt. Yoga allows me to put this thought into practice by truly listening to what my body can and wants to do, allowing me to be fully present and grateful for a working body. The magic of yoga is then taking this off the mat. Bringing our you-ness into our acting and into our daily life.
I hope you enjoy this Flow!
Lizi is a Manchester based Actress and Yoga Teacher. Her Acting credits include Emmerdale (ITV), Death of a Salesman (Royal Exchange Theatre) and Holes (Nottingham Playhouse). Her Yoga Training was at Sampoorna Yoga in a 200hr Vinyasa/Ashtanga style. Lizi teaches public online yoga classes every week at Yoga with Lizi.