IMPROV and YOGA
The Moment Is The Only Place Where Anything Ever Happens
This was spoken last week by a teacher of mine – a teacher neither of yoga nor of improv, but of Meisner, another acting technique. I love how all the paths that I love are about the same thing – because it is true, isn’t it – there is nothing that can happen outside of the moment of right now!
Even when we’re lost in thought, remembering something, planning something else… that thinking is then one of the things that is happening right now, whether we are conscious of what is happening or not. Being more aware of what is going on is definitely something we explore both in improv and yoga.
In yoga, simply noticing “I’m thinking,” or, “I’m planning” can be enough to bring our awareness back into the present.
“Thinking” wasn’t an evil thing to do! It is of course an absolutely vital ability – however in this particular setting, it isn’t what we’re especially looking to engage with.
In yoga we invite ourselves to explore the present moment, to notice things like our feet on the floor, our breath, whether our body is inviting us to move further into a pose, or to come out a little, or to just enjoy hanging out. We seek the yummy, the fun, the fascinating, and definitely that which allows our breath to flow freely. Not in an intellectual, analytical way, but very very pragmatically. How does the mat feel under my foot? The texture? The temperature? Pleasant? Where is the balance on the foot? Is it shifting? We have a curiosity, we invite ourselves to listen and respond, and to be gentle rather than judgemental with what we find, as whatever we find is totally okay. Discovering that in this particular moment we have no direct experience of our foot at all, is as fascinating and valid as finding that there is a coolness, a tingling, a numbness, a softness, or that the squishy mat feels funny.
In improv, it likewise appears to me that the less time we spend lost in our thoughts of what we might do, what might be clever or never-been-seen-before awesome, and the more we are aware of what our scene partners are offering, the better! When we are alert to what is going on, we might be more able trust whatever inspiration that arises in the moment, scary though that may be! In having been present we will have taken in the details that our partner was offering, and rather than being lost in planning or hypothetical scenarios, we can hope to offer something genuine in the moment. Perhaps what arises might surprise and delight ourselves and others, perhaps it won’t, either way having been present will have been a gift of respect to both your partner and yourself.
Of course, perhaps a little planning may prove useful in improv sometimes – I don’t really know – maybe as long as we’re aware that this is what we’re doing, and we’re alert and ready to ditch those plans the moment the scene heads off in a different direction. Like in yoga, when we are as present as we can be, we can suss whether the time is ripe to move in, to move out, or to wait.
This isn’t necessarily easy! And certainly not a the kind of presence most of us can maintain for longer periods of time. This is okay! And yet, it can be easy, too, do allow for that. It can be a relief, a relaxation for our whole being to get to let go of needing to plan and prepare every detail, to not worry about whether our impulses are any good. And this can in itself be energising, too! We may have more energy left over for the moment we’re actually currently living, and to really live in it. This is surely one of the reasons why many of us love improv – and our yoga practice.
So, improvisers, welcome to yoga! In essence we practice many of the things which are helpful to us as improvisers, too, maybe just from a different angle, with a different focus. It can be a truly lovely and helpful way to prepare for a session of improvising. And please don’t be put off from coming along to a yoga session even if you have never been before. There is no “right type and wrong type” for yoga, there is nothing to get right or wrong, and like in improv, if we feel we have messed up nonetheless, the same celebratory “Hooray!!! I messed up!!!” attitude couldn’t be more welcome! It is a space for us all to play and respectfully explore our reality, whatever that may happen to be, relaxing in the knowledge that it is all okay.
I teach a one-hour yoga drop-in for all levels, right before The Maydays Improv Drop-In on a Thursday, at the Maydays Studio in Brighton. Yoga from 18:45 – 19:45, Improv from 20:00 – 22:00.
If you have any queries at all, please don’t hesitate to contact me at [email protected] , or on 07986 124219.
(Improv needs to be booked directly with The Maydays)
Ocean is and actor and a Vajrasati Yoga teacher living in Rottingdean, near Brighton. She joined the Maydays improv community in early 2018, and loves it!