It was a Sunday afternoon in the city of Boston. I was sitting in the Boston Opera House, struggling to stay awake. My wife and I were in the first row of the balcony, with a phenomenal view of the stage. The touring production of Phantom of the Opera was churning through Act I, and my head was doing a bob and weave act. I tried shifting positions and changing my breathing. I tensed and relaxed my muscles, tried some good old-fashioned will power, and finally, I gave in. Sometime during the song, “All I Ask of You,” in one of the most beautiful theaters I have ever seen, I took a nap. My wife tells me it was only a short nap. I woke to the sound of applause at intermission.
I do love musical theater. I also love naps. I think it’s a bit inappropriate to enjoy both at the same time, but sometimes the human body has its own idea about what is appropriate. Rogue naps notwithstanding, I’ve enjoyed a lot of yoga classes and stage musicals since then. It may come as no surprise when I suggest that musical theater and yoga have a lot in common.
Yoga is enjoying quite a run of popularity. Some 36 million Americans practice yoga, and there are more than 6,000 yoga studios in the U.S. The theater is also on a roll. More than 40 million Americans attended a live theater production last year, and there are more than 4,000 (non-movie) theaters in the U.S. The great Russian actor, Konstantin Stanislavski, called the theater “a combination of craft, sensitivity, balance, nuance and rigor.”
Sounds like a good yoga class to me.
The practice of yoga and the production of a musical involve a lot of moving parts. For either to work, these moving parts have to come together to create something greater, to connect us to what it means to be human. On a yoga mat, there are arms and legs, hips and shoulders, bones and muscles, heart, lungs and brain all working to get you feeling better in your human body. Under the stage lights, there are actors, producers, musicians, set designers, songwriters and playwrights, marketers and box office folks all working together to leave you feeling a little better than when you came in.
A yoga class and a musical theater production both require a healthy leap of faith. The very idea that someone would break into spontaneous song is a little hard for some folks to grasp. The idea that anyone would willingly twist and turn a body around on a yoga mat can be a little challenging for some, too. Both, however, can leave you feeling better in your body, and more connected to the world around you.
In the fall of 2017, after an afternoon hot yoga class, I went to Concord High School to see a production of Into the Woods. I made sure to enjoy a cup of coffee in the lobby before the show, just in case one of those rogue naps snuck up on me. The theater looked spectacular. The lighting and set design were truly amazing. It was a sold-out show, and the crowd was buzzing as the house lights dimmed and the orchestra kicked in. It was a show as good as any you’ll see – anywhere. All the “moving pieces” had been wrangled and rehearsed into an amazing piece of musical theater, from start to finish. Behind the scenes, I’m sure a lot of work went into making it happen.
When you step on to the “stage” of your yoga mat, you’ve got to start with moving some body parts. You’ll need a healthy leap of faith, and you’ll have to wrangle and rehearse those parts so they start to work together. And they will. You’ll create your own musical, with your own body. It starts with an idea, an intention. An idea that you can feel better in your body, using nothing else but what you already possess. Here is where yoga and musical theater diverge. At the end of the show, there is thunderous applause. At the end of the yoga class, there is a quiet awesomeness that is uniquely you.
Treat yourself to a musical. Concord High School is staging Chicago in May next year. Get yourself to a yoga class. You can find one of those every day. And take a nap. Try not to fall asleep in the theater, but if you need some quick shut-eye in my yoga class, I’m okay with that.
(Mike Morris is the owner of Hot House NH Yoga & Pilates.)