My husband Mike makes fun of me because almost everyday I come home all excited about a discovery I made and it’s always the same discovery: how yoga is related to x,y or z. He’s like “Cat, I get that you love yoga so much and that you see it in everything. I get how that’s possible since yoga is such a universal thing. I just think it’s funny how surprised you are every time you find this out.” He’s absolutely right. Anytime I make a conscious link between a seemingly irrelevant subject to yogic philosophy - I am ecstatic. It’s like I discovered a secret or something no one knows. I just want to yell, “Can’t you see? Don’t you see how these two things connect?? Everything is the same. We’re all connected. It’s crazy!" So, of course, it makes sense that when I took Level A Improv Classes at Second City - I immediately saw the similarities between yoga and improv. Here are the top three ways I think they’re the same:
1.) Be in the moment.
In yoga classes, we practice being in the moment by focusing in on our breath in different postures and using our breath as a guide to help us explore our bodies and minds. If there were a “goal” in yoga, it’d be to be present to what’s happening *right* now.
In improv, you can’t plan anything out in advance. If you think you’re funny, you’re not. If you try to make something happen, it won’t. Your ability to “succeed” at improv relies on your ability to let go of your thoughts and judgments and instead just listen and be attentive of the people and things happening around you *right* now.
2.) Get over yourself.
In yoga, there’s a lot of talk about letting go of your ego and realizing that we are all connected. In improv, you basically learn the same thing. It’s a “sum is greater than its parts” situation in both practices. In improv, you’re trying to get a bunch of people to work together and in yoga you’re trying to get the different parts of your mind and body to work together. In improv, you’re only as good as your ensemble, and you have to support each other at all times. It can’t just be about you, it’s about everyone as a team working together. You can go for the cheap laugh and do what you think is funny in the moment, but if you build up a joke together and discover it as a team, it’s so much funnier. On another level, this is what’s happening in yoga, but with yourself - it IS all about you, and you got to get every piece of your mind and body working together in order for it to work. If you lead a pose with your ego or your arms - you’ll fall out or get tired. But if you do a pose with your entire body active, engaged and at play - you’ll fall into each pose effortlessly.
3.) You have everything you’ll ever need, right here, right now.
In yoga, you’re constantly put in front of all your insecurities, fears and doubts. Every pose is a mirror for you to see yourself in. You can either entertain all the thoughts and judgments that come up, “I’m not good enough” “I’m too fat” “I hate this pose” “What’s for dinner?” or you can learn to transcend these thoughts and open up to what’s there - complete and total possibility in what you’re doing.
In improv, you can stand there and doubt everything that’s about to come out of your mouth, or you can just say “Fuck it” and do what needs to be done. The sooner you realize that everything you’ll ever need is front of you and you can literally make up whatever you want - the easier time you have. It then just becomes a matter of consciously responding vs. just reacting. Ding ding ding! Yoga helps us with that too.
I love thinking of yoga as improv and vice versa. Improv is fun and goofy and there are no rules. There’s no right or wrong, and I’m obsessed with that. Now I’m in a writing class that basically has the same rule: “There are no rules.” Except this time I am asked to attach to certain thoughts and see where they go aka purposefully hang on to my thoughts and explore them aka the EXACT opposite of what I try to do in yoga.
Does this game ever end?