Updated: Jun 5, 2019
Why Does Our Theatre Teach Yoga?
It may seem like an oximoron— a theatre company and... fitness?
But yoga is so much more than fitness.
Patanjali, author of The Yoga Sutras, an ancient yogic text, defines yoga as “the practice of quieting the mind.” On the surface, this may seem like a practice to simply get off the mental gerbil wheel and find stillness. While this is true, yoga holds the keys to our inner wisdom, our communion with others, and our insight into who we are and our place in this life, our duty to the world, or what is called “dharma.”
My Path from Actor to Yogi
As an acting student, I was introduced to yoga as a means to “limber up.” After experiencing more profound effects beyond the classroom in my personal practice, I realized how much more yoga really has to offer everyone, especially the artist.
In addition to literary analysis, character analysis, and the technicalities of costuming and design, I began to use yoga and meditation as part of my creative process as an actor, and now this method is one I teach to all my actors as a director, earning me the nickname “The Yogi Director.”
I found that yoga forms the bridge between the intellectual understanding of a character and the physical embodiment of that character. The effects yoga has had on the many actors I’ve worked with, including myself, have been no short of miraculous.
To be a great actor requires immense empathy, vulnerability, and bravery. Yoga allows us to reach into the inner wisdom of ourselves, achieved by trials and tribulations throughout our lives that will help us to relate to the struggles of the character we are tasked to portray. Yoga helps us to transcend our mental blocks and negative self talk to embolden ourselves on stage, to ward off our insecurities, and give a performance that doesn’t hold back. Yoga finally helps us to calm our minds and awaken our bodies so that we have a chance to mindfully and physically feel the energy of our character coursing through our veins, and vibrating down our spine. We can deliberately and safely activate a much more profound understanding of our character in order to physically manifest our creative vision for them.
Yoga is the ultimate tool for success in every creative endeavor, and it is why I chose to become a certified yoga teacher through a program accredited by the Yoga Alliance, Karen Weber’s Fox Valley Yoga Teacher Training.
Acting is Alchemy, and Yoga is Magic
Yoga is a powerful catalyst for epiphanies and transformation, and is miraculous. I had an actor once say to some skeptical new Goodly members, “I don't know how it works, it just does. It’s magic.” When I teach yoga to my artists, I know full well the potency of the practice I am teaching, and how incredible it is. It is not a practice to underestimate, and it is not one to do automatically. Yoga in its purest form is mindful, safe, and pushes us forward to be the best we can be in every aspect of our lives. It is absolutely magical, it is the acknowledgment of the magic within ourselves, especially as the empathetic alchemists we are as actors.
Simply put, everything I could tell an actor over and over again is solved by yoga. Yoga makes my actors consciously and deliberately fearless, insightful, and compassionate so that they may use their natural instincts with the right intentions to produce their greatest performance. It is fitting then that Patanjali also said “Just as the pure crystal takes color from the object which is nearest to it, so the mind, when it is cleared of thought-waves, achieves sameness or identity with the object of its concentration.” If our object of concentration is our character, we will find him or her within ourselves naturally and truthfully.
Yoga is so much more than fitness, it is the key to the door to our inner divine being. She is always there, waiting for us simply to knock.
By Katrina Syrris, 200 CYT
Founder and Owner of Goodly Creatures Theatre
Copyright 2019 Katrina Syrris