Meditation For Actors –Get Over Stage Fright & Excel Onstage

meditation for actors

Before I was a meditation teacher, I was an actor. Indeed, it was one my teachers at The Oxford School of Drama who told me about the benefits of meditation for actors.

I got into acting when I was 18. I trained in the traditional style, mostly method acting with the theories of Konstanin Stanislavski and Michael Chekhov. Their theories about character and emotions really resonated with me. And so, I became a touring stage actor, playing mostly the classics.

However, I had one problem. I had anxiety and I had always been shy. While I found it incredibly easy to method-act at home, I struggled in front of an audience. Whether it was my fellow students at The Oxford School of Drama or the audience at the theatre, I felt sick performing in front of people.

I had to get over my stage fright.

My vocal coach recommended that I start meditating. Actors had been gradually getting into meditation because it helps trains the mind. It develops quietness in the mind and helps us focus on our characters.

After a few months of meditating, when I stepped on stage, I no longer worried about what the audience thought of me. I lived the life of my character, with confidence.

Meditation made a huge difference to me. It helped with both my acting and my singing. Indeed, I fell in love with meditation. I learned absolutely everything about it. And now, years later, I am a meditation teacher and I help actors around the world. Indeed, I teach meditation to performers of all sorts. 

That brings us to today.

Today, I am going to show you how to meditate as an actor and the benefits of meditation for actors. Trust me, this is going to make an enormous difference in your life and in your career as an actor. 

Benefits of Meditation for Actors

Honestly, there are so many benefits of meditation for actors I don’t even know where to begin.

The benefits of meditation for actors include:

  • Helps you get over stage fright
  • Focuses the mind
  • Improves breathing (for speaking on stage)
  • Helps you better understand characters
  • Improves mind-body connection (so your emotions show more in the way you move)
  • Increases confidence
  • Helps us remember lines of dialogue

1: Get Over Stage Fright

Stage fright is the stress or anxiety of performing on stage. It is a sort of phobia often experienced when someone speaks on stage for the first time. However, some actors, including myself, suffer recurring stage fright. And it can make our careers much less enjoyable.

I suffered from stage fright for years until I started meditating. With meditation, I was able to relax even when performing.

There isn’t really any scientific evidence on using meditation for stage fright. However, stage fright is very similar to anxiety. And we do know that meditation helps with anxiety [READ: Meditation for Anxiety].

Specifically, meditation reduces amygdala activity and sympathetic nervous system activity, and increases parasympathetic nervous system activity. Overall, this helps us to relax and to stop stage fright.

2: Focusing on your characters

Many people underestimate how much focus and concentration an actor needs. We don’t really associate acting with high degrees of concentration. And in my opinion, this is a mistake.

As actors, we must quieten our own thoughts and feelings if we are to truly become our characters. We must be able to focus the mind one hundred per cent on our performance. And that requires concentration.

Thankfully, meditation is wonderful for concentration.

Research shows that meditators have more stability in their ventral posteromedial cortex. This is a region of the brain linked to mind-wandering. Meditation quietens this region of the brain. In turn, this means that when we act on stage, we are less distracted by our own thoughts and more able to focus on our characters.

READ: Meditation for Concentration.

3: Empathy and compassion

I always found empathy and compassion important in my acting. Why? Because we need to be able to sympathise with our characters. We need to truly understand our characters if we are to step into their shoes. And for this, we need empathy and compassion.

Plus, there is also an emotional to-and-fro that takes place on stage. We must be aware of the emotions of our fellow actors and respond to those emotions while we act.

Meditation heightens both empathy and compassion according to Barbara Frederickson, a researcher in Positive Psychology.

 

4: Better public speaking

One of the most important skills for an actor is voice projection, especially if you’re in a theatre show. You need to be able to carry your voice to the back of the theatre.

Carrying your voice while speaking clearly requires excellent breath control. You need to use the right amount of breath so you can speak your lines clearly and loudly without having to take a breather. Thankfully, meditation can help.

One of the best benefits of meditation for actors is that it helps with breath control. When we meditate, we practise diaphragmatic breathing. We learn to take our breath deep into the body, completely filling the lungs. And we learn to do this in a natural way. This helps when you go on stage because you will naturally be breathing properly.

 

Group Meditation For Actors

I personally believe that it is best for actors to do a group meditation at the theatre (or on set). With a group meditation, we create rapport among the members of the group. This can help to improve team mentality and to establish trust amongst the cast.

Here is a script for a group meditation for actors.

  1. All members of the cast should sit in a circle. You should also sit in the same way, either all kneeling or all sitting cross-legged.
  2. Hold hands with the people next to you and close your eyes.
  3. Take a minimum of ten mindful breaths. While breathing, focus on the sensation of your breath moving around your body.   
  4. Start to chant “Om”. One member of the group starts first. It does not matter who. Whenever you’re ready just start chanting “Om”.
  5. Now each member of the group joins in with the chanting. Start chanting each “Om” at the same time and meditate on the sound of this “group Om”. So, you are creating one sound as a group and meditating on it.
  6. Continue meditating for ten minutes. At the end, you will feel a sense of oneness and trust with the members of your group.

Summary

There are so many benefits of meditation for actors. It helps with everything from remembering lines to feeling confident in auditions.

As an actor and meditation teacher, I am here to help you succeed in your career as an actor. Book an online meditation lesson with me today.

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By Paul Harrison

Paul Harrison is a qualified meditation teacher and writer with more than 15 years experience in meditation and mindfulness. He studied meditation in Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University. Paul has helped thousands of people to discover their true potential through mindfulness, yoga and meditation.