Impro & Yoga

“Fail with awareness and acceptance.” Brian Kest - (American Yoga instructor)

Improvisation and life go hand in hand.  The nature of improvisation is based on human behaviour, the techniques are the result of observing that behaviour.  If we allow ourselves to embrace a wider meaning and application of improvisation we see improvisation around us constantly.  We can also see the same messages being communicated by a lot of different people in different applications.  We can learn a great deal from this cross over.

Take Yoga for example.

Today I was at a Yoga class.  It was a new class and a new instructor.  In our first posture he spoke of ‘the need to quiet the mind and not judge ourselves.  Let the muscles do what they are doing, be aware but don’t judge yourself or compare yourselves to others.  The negative chatter will make your muscles tense and prevent them from releasing into the stretch.  Your desire to do better will just hold you back.’ 

I’ve said almost word for word this same sentiment in an impro class.  If you are censoring or comparing yourself to others, if negative chatter is happening and you are worrying about getting it wrong then you are not really available to your partner or the offers and you will miss what is happening in the moment.  Negative chatter will just hold you back.

Then he said

‘Don’t give your thoughts to much power. When you do it becomes ego and it controls you.  When your thoughts control you then you become a servant to them.  When your thoughts become negative chatter, judgemental chatter it removes you from being in the present moment and experiencing the now.  Any Yoga that does not also embrace the practice of letting thoughts and judgements go is a Hollywood Yoga.  It is based on an end result, and not on the benefits of the process.’

Um....has he read my blogs?  my mind? 

I almost screamed out an overly ecstatic somewhat When Harry Met Sallyorgasmic YES!!!!!!  YES!!!!!  YEEEEEEEEES!!!!!!!!

If we give our thoughts and ideas too much power ego builds.  If we have a great line, a clever gag, a funny blow line and we treat our ideas with too much preciousness then we begin to form our identity (ego) as an improvisor on the ability to have these ideas. Once ego is at play in improvisation the spirit of true impulse and generosity is gone.  Players are not working to inspire each other, but to inspire and amuse themselves.  You can see them care less and less about anyone else, or the scene.  As long as they have their hit, moment, laugh, satisfaction all is well.  These same improvisers are difficult to shift as they are getting exactly what they want.  Laughter.  They see this as a measure of achievement.  They have no desire for risk or discovery, they only want to shine.  They are playing safe and getting awarded for their cleverness.  The ideology and philosophy of improvisation is not at play. Instead these shiners have often learned to use the impro speak as a way to defend their bad behaviour.  They also use the generosity of others to make themselves look better.  There are improvisers who play with each other and improvisers who play for themselves.

So it seems Yoga has had the same battle as improvisation.  There is this amazing philosophy, approach and tools that when applied remove fear, judgement and allow people to discover and be in the present moment.  In todays world where we need to achieve, be good, excel, this technique has been given the fast food treatment.  In Yoga it is the focus on the postures achieving better flexibility to look more fit and attractive.  In improvisation it is the focus on the funny achieving the better gag to look more clever and original.

The parallel journey is interesting.

One can teach Yoga postures, but without the process, without breath and release of thought - what kind of Yoga is it really?

One can teach Impro games, but without the process, without being present, honouring and inspiring your partner- what kind of Impro is it really?


All content copyright © pattistiles