This past fall, I was inspired to step out of my comfort zone and try something completely different. So I said YES to Improv! Not only was I looking for a different extra-curricular activity than what I would normally sign up for, I also hoped to cultivate more confidence with speaking in front of others and thinking on the spot. As the weeks went on I began to realize that what we were learning in improv isn't far off from what I've learnt in yoga and meditation practices...
- In Improv, they encourage you to pause before you respond to a prompt. So if someone says, 'What's in the box?' rather than panic and react (which can lead to funny outcomes), they advise to take a breath and respond. This sounds suspiciously like something I've learnt in my meditation practice. We learn to sit with whatever comes up, including difficult feelings or emotions. We learn to lean into these feelings, get comfortable and maybe even become friends with them. This skill that we learn in improv and in yoga can help us respond more thoughtfully to the ebbs and flows of life.
- Sometimes in improv you just can't think what to say next... so you just say something. Anything. Then later on you say to yourself 'Oh man! Why didn't I say *this*. That would have been so good. But no, I'm terrible at improv.' (Or was this just my thought process?). This cycle of negativity and self-criticism isn't great for us. Besides, wasn't the whole point of taking improv to have fun, do something different and learn a few things? Let go of the negative self-talk and be kind to yourself. Hmm... I feel like this has come up in yoga classes for me. "Handstand? Man, I won't ever be able to do that. I suck at life because I can't pop up into a handstand." Wait? Why am I practicing yoga again? Oh, that's right. Because it's fun and I learn things. Sounds like improv."
- Breathing. As mentioned before, when it's your turn to talk in improv, take a breath. In yoga if you're in a challenging posture, take a breath. When meditating, when the mind starts to wander, re-align your focus and take a breath. Actually, if you're doing anything, take a breath.
- As one of my peers so wisely observed in the final class, improv is really more than just thinking of the right thing to say. It's important to actually bring your mind AND body into the experience. When we become more mindful of our body and where it is in space, we tend to feel more connected to ourselves, those around us and heck, even the world. When the link between our mind and body is awakened in such a way, we'll bring more of ourselves into the improv scene / yoga class / meditation session. And maybe, just maybe this will teach us to include more of ourselves into the world. Whether that's to be brave and try something new, or to stand up for something you believe in. Or perhaps it helps you cultivate compassion for yourself and others. . As a yoga student and teacher, I have long reflected on what it means to have an active connection between mind and body, and will continue to ask the question.
It seems that improv is actually meditation and yoga in disguise. Who would have thought? (By the way, I took the Improv series at Brave New Workshop. They're awesome. Check them out if you're in the Twin Cities)