Let’s get physical!
Does the idea of doing another voice warm up make you yawn? Well today is your lucky day. It’s time to shake off your tension and get into your body. Here is Stagemilk’s quick and dirty physical warm up.
Why are you doing a warm up? What is your goal? Once you have established this work out a plan that best suits your end goal. If you are simply trying to maintain your strength, flexibility and awareness, as most actors should, aim to do a short 10-15 minute warm up everyday. If you are warming up for a specific production, what are the key requirements of that production? Do you need to increase fitness, flexibility, or some other aspect of your movement work…
A gentle introduction
One of the biggest mistakes actors make when warming up, is to go too hard, too fast. Your body needs time to ignite. A great way to start your warm up is to gently roll your wrists and ankles. Once you feel connected to the small joints in your body, allow the movement to expand to your limbs and pelvis. Get everything moving with a gentle ease. If your energy levels are low, or you just prefer being on the floor, grab a yoga mat and get horizontal. Taking time for this initial stage of your warm up can seem like a waste of time, but it will keep you safe, healthy, and most importantly on stage.
One of the best exercises for grounding yourself is using a small, firm ball. You can use a squash balls, or we have a link to one below. Stand in a neutral position, with the weight of your body evenly over your feet. Begin rolling the ball under your left foot. Firstly roll the ball forward and back under your foot. Do it for around 10 rolls front to back and then side to side. Finally move the ball freely around the foot, as if you were trying to paint the bottom of your foot with the ball. Remove the ball and again stand in a neutral position. You should feel much more centred and planted on your left side. Repeat this with your right foot.
I find this exercise is the best way to quickly get more centred and well balanced. This is really important before starting more intense physical work.
When I was studying acting our movement teacher wasn’t a proponent of stretching, instead encouraging Feldenkrais and other practices that naturally extend flexibility. I liked this approach but have since become a fan of stretching. It’s a great way to increase flexibility and reduce the risk of injury. If the idea of doing stretches for 30 minutes is horrifying, try a yoga class. This can be a more enjoyable way to stretch.
If you are stretching at home, stretch bands can be really useful for getting the most out of your session.
Get the blood and breath pumping
The breath is key to every great performance. We breathe to feed our brain and heart, preparing the body to think and feel. If your breath is held, your character’s emotional availability will be limited; and so will your performance. Some actors feel like they can rely on their awareness in the moment to take care of their breath. I think that’s crazy. Get you whole body ready for anything and everything before going on stage. Sure, you might not go the whole way tonight, but you want to be able to safely, if the impulse takes you there.
Jog around the room, shifting directions, changing levels, keeping your body ahead of your mind. Throw off the intellectual and embrace the physical. Your body wants to explore places that your mind would never think of. Run, jump, walk in slow motion, crawl. Do the things that you don’t think your character would do. You might find something new.
If you feel the need to add tension, make sure you release it with some yoga or spinal rolls. Before going onstage I always do a few star jumps, a few push ups, a few pull ups and then I roll the tension out of my back using a foam roller. They are great for releasing spinal holds and lumbar tension – highly recommend!
Make it fun
Whether you are doing a 5 minute warm up or an hour long movement class, make it fun. If you can enjoy what you are doing it will be something you come back to again and again. Like with all exercise it’s better to do something small everyday, then one big physical warm up every month.