Why More Actors Are Doing Yoga

Why More Actors Are Doing Yoga

This article first appeared in mindbodygreen.com and is written by Marcus Julian Felicetti

Acting is actually a movement art form, like dance. Certainly, the voice is often involved. But the voice for an actor is an extension of the body, and a completely disembodied voice is not acting. There must be some sort of visual interaction. As ancient Greek philosophy stated, “acting can be any mimesis (performance) that is being watched.”

Any tradition of theatre, ancient or contemporary, will demonstrate that actors train the body. Look at Japanese theatre (Noh, Kabuki, Suzuki, Butoh); Italian theatre (Ancient Roman, Commedia dell’arte); Ancient Greek; Naturalism; Absurdism; Epic theater; and many more, and you’ll easily find that they all relied on the physicality of performance and therefore were required to train like athletes for the stage. I know because of my five university degrees the first one was in Theater and Drama. I have been teaching yoga for 14 years, but my hobbies are acting, dance and singing.

Many of my students are actors. There’s a reason why so many actors know the essential role of regular yoga practice in their lives and work. The answer is “control.” Therein lies the rub…

Control is the ultimate word for an actor. Or any mover. What does it mean? It means mobility + stability = control. It can be applied to the body generally has a whole, or to an individual part of the body, such as the breath, the scapula, the pelvis, etc.

Without good all-round body control, you can’t act. And yoga develops exactly that body awareness and control. And because of this perfect marriage between acting and yoga, when any actor graduates from a reputable acting school these days, they will have completed in the course of the degree hours upon hours of yoga training. And likely they will have recognized the role it plays in their craft and continue it with dedication as a discipline.

There’s no doubt in my mind that the most stylish people can move. People like Paul Newman, Marlon Brando, Don Cheadle, Robert Downey, Jr., Laurence Olivier are amazing movers. One of my favorite movies of all-time is One-Eyed Jacks. If you see how Brando moves in that movie and study that, then you’ll know why he is considered one of the greatest actors of all time: because he’s an incredible mover. He may not have been trained in yoga, but he trained in movement-boxing, dance, weightlifting. And they also develop your control as a mover.

What’s the opposite of control? It is informally referred to as “motor amnesia.” It’s what most people have.

Control is an ability to move in complex ranges of motion and within those shapes create high degrees of stability and the ability to apply proper force output. Simply, it is what an advanced hatha yogi has, what a gymnast has, what a dancer has, what a good martial artist has, what an acrobat has, etc.

So the two main points of this article are, first, that yoga is one awesome tool out of many possible tools. And second, no, yoga isn’t for weight loss; anyone can tell you that. It’s for anything and everything you want it to be. Including art.

In my yoga teacher trainings, one of the first things I ask my trainees is, “Essentially and broadly speaking, why do we practice yoga?”

I explain that it is for three reasons:

1. Health/ Healing/ Longevity/ Radiant Beauty/ Therapy/ Physical Wellness/ Flexibility/ Strength

2. Spirituality/ Relationship with God/ Love/ Peace/ Concentration/ Connectedness/ Mental Clarity/ Centeredness/ Calm

3. Because we ALL as human beings have a fundamental need to move in intelligent and creative ways/ To create beautiful shapes with our bodies is a deep intrinsic part of what it is to be human – in this way Yoga is like dance or martial arts.

Please share your comments of why you practice yoga below…

Marcus became a yoga teacher soon after discovering yoga at University. His classes are fun, passionate and often intense. They offer students the chance to go deep within and connect with their breath and release their emotions.