The scene: You’re sitting in the casting office waiting to be called in for the lead role of a feature film. You’ve been practicing your lines with the dog you walk, both of your roommates, your barista, best friend, and acting coach. You showed up at 10 a.m. for an 11 a.m. appointment and have to make it to your day job by 11:45. Your boss has written you up twice before for being late. It's 11:12 and if you don’t make it on time, you’ll definitely be fired. You’re $300 short for rent that’s due tomorrow.
And on and on goes the mind chatter.
Especially when the stakes are high, our minds fixate on the worst possible outcomes, the ground feels like it's crumbling beneath you, and the very last thing you’re able to do is focus on the audition at hand. So how do calm your nerves and focus your mind? How do you let go of all of the distractions so that you can do the best job possible in the audition room?
The solution: Pranayama, the regulation of the breath. Whether you’re about to go on stage or walk into an audition, I’ll guide you through a breathing and centering exercise to help focus your energy, reclaim your ground, and connect to the present moment.
Close your eyes and notice how you’re feeling in this moment. Let’s start with the physical body: Is there holding in your jaw, behind your eyes, in your shoulders. or hips? Notice if this physical tension might correspond to tension or holding in the mind.
Are there thoughts that, try as you might, keep coming up that are not serving you in this moment? Instead of pretending they don’t exist, embrace them. Note that “this is a way my mind thinks but it is not the only way.”
Feel the ground. Whether you’re standing or sitting, feel the parts of your body that are being supported by the earth. Because the earth is holding you up, can you try a little bit less? Can you do less and allow more? If you have enough space and feel comfortable doing so, these two shapes can help you feel more connected to the ground:
Balasana (child's pose)
Take your big toes together to touch. Allow your knees to separate comfortably wide. Allow your forehead and palms to rest heavy on the ground. This posture takes our focus inward. We ask the backside of our hearts and lungs to expand.
Supta Baddha Konasana (reclined bound angle)
Laying on your back, take the soles of your feet together to touch. Allow your knees to fall open like the pages of a book. You can rest your hands somewhere on your body or on the ground palms facing up. This posture asks energy to flow to the hips, a center for creativity and brings more awareness to the opening the front body.
Collect the tension.
As you breathe in, gather all of the thoughts, worries, distractions, tensions, and open-mouth exhale, sigh out, soften just a touch in the places of holding. Know that the tension won’t go away in one glorious exhale, but breath by breath we can soften back into ourselves and the present moment. Anxiety builds up because of attachment to the future. Release the attachment and notice the effects on the physical body. Three big cleansing breaths like this can be enough to get us back in touch with the present moment.
Focus the breath.
If it feels like your mind is still raging around, this simple breathing technique will help to quiet the extraneous thoughts. Start by pushing all of the air out of your body. Find the empty, the bottom, the nothingness. From that place, breathe in on a slow count of four. Start to fill up your belly, then your heart, then your head. Hold your breath at the top for four. Breathe out slowly for four. Hold empty at the bottom for four. Repeat this 10-20 times. Let the mind focus on the counting so that the body can reap the benefits of this breath work. As we slow down the rhythm of our breathing, we slow down the rhythm of our heart and mind.
The breath is the key to the present moment. It cannot exist in the past or the future. By noticing the quality of breath in the here and now, we ask ourselves to stay connected to the moment to moment energetic shifts that occur constantly. Energy, breath, thoughts, emotions, were made to move through us. Let them move and then let them move your audience.
Kristin Calabria is a New York-based actor and fitness professional. She received her BFA in Acting from Boston University and studied film at Prague Film School. On stage, she has worked on “Café Collections,” “Ti Jean and His Brothers,” and the devised piece “The Consensus Project.” She also consults on movement heavy plays like “Messenger #1.” Kristin starred in the web series “Not So Common Sense” and the animated series “Middle SchooLOL.” She teaches yoga, boxing, and strength training throughout Manhattan, leads fitness retreats around the world and does print work for companies like Reebok, Box and Flow, and SurfYogaBeer. You can find her on Instagram @kstarcalabs.
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