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Body awareness and the Art of Stillness Mindfulness for Actors and Performers with Annalisa Giostra

During this 6-week course we will be exploring the ability to calm and focus the mind which is essential to an actor’s success, in an audition and in a performance.

Problems often actors encounter are not so much because of lack of understanding, but because of lack of focus and relaxed, skilful concentration.

The six weeks workshop we have created helps actors regain control of their wild, distracted minds. It strengthens concentration and establishes a stable inner environment that allows the actor to explore their emotional life safely, deeply, and kindly. It also refines the ability to focus and fully live in each moment , making space in the mind, body, and heart to breathe, listen, and create.

In fact, the applications of meditation to the acting process have been long used by Stanislavsky, Chekhov and popular Acting Studios as a way to help actors to reach a profound relaxation while keeping their mind sharp and focused, but also to call on command emotions through wise investigation of the thinking world behind the character they are interpreting.
Each week we will explore practical tools to develop the ability to master our Mind, Body and Emotions, from breathing practices to body scan and Guided Meditations and we will learn how to stay present during stressful circumstances such as auditions, rehearsals and performances.

First week: Breath.

The breath and our relationship to our own breathing. Learning how to let the Breath breath itself and how to become its witness. From Breath to Mind. How breathing affects our mental state and vice versa. Breath, Body, Emotions: how to use the breath to unblock and release emotional and physical tensions.

Second week: Body.

How to feel the body from the inside out. The Body scan practice for self-awareness, self- evaluation and for instilling feelings or sensations on command. From gross to subtle: how to inhabit the Body fully and wholly.

Third week: Emotions.

How to identify triggers, label emotions, manage and work with them in daily life and on the stage. Deconstructing emotions through awareness in order to recognise what’s beyond them. How to work with fear and anger and how to respond instead of reacting in stressful situations.

Fourth week: Thoughts.

“Real but not true”. How to identify our and others’ thinking patterns and break and create old and new beliefs. From head to heart: stepping out from the trance of thinking and touching our Aliveness through the awakening of our senses.

Fifth week: Mind.

Becoming aware of the mood or state of our mind. How to consciously establish a mental environment in daily life and on the stage. Mind like Water: how to cultivate clarity, focus and tranquillity in stressful or challenging situations.

Sixth week: Us and them.

How to communicate clearly, feel others energetically and connect with them from a deeper level. The Energy field and how to interact with the living space around us. Cultivating Compassion in difficult times. How to reach out for support and how to give it to ourselves and to others. Vulnerability and human interactions: learning to work with our darkness and to use it for exploring our full potential, both as humans and performers.

Bio of Annalisa Giostra:
My journey as a Yoga and Meditation teacher started very early when as a teenager l joined a Theatre Company in Italy, “Re Nudo”, and had the blessing to work with a Body and Breath Awareness teacher who opened the main portal towards my future career.
For eight years I kept attending Theatre schools including the famous “Galante Garrone” Academy in Bologna and deepened the connection between breath, body and energy work, and started exploring energy related disciplines such as Tai Chi and Yoga.
I also enrolled for Theatre and Cinema studies at the University and did personal investigations on Stanislavsky, Brook and other Theatre Masters who integrated eastern philosophy and spiritual practices in their methods for training Actors and Actresses.
When years later l finally embraced the path of teaching yoga and meditation l knew deep inside that most of what l had become and loved the most sharing had been planted in my very first years of Acting apprenticeship and decided that at some point I would give back to other actors what once was given to me, that artistic and human precious life factor called Self-Awareness.
The more I advanced in my research, the more I felt that Mindfulness was crucial for being an authentic, fully “awaken” actor. I also started to see clearly how the EGO was an obstacle to being loyal to a character and realised that through yoga and meditation Artists could truly strip off unnecessary layers and become a vessel rather than performing from an imbalanced, self-centred place.
When writing this workshop l kept in mind both my life main paths: the one as an Actress and the one as a Yoga Teacher and tried to put together as many useful tips and techniques as possible to ease actors both on stage and in real life, aware of the role of feelings and emotions when in front of an audience but also when facing daily challenges and confident that everything we need starts and ends with a single, mindful breath.

Drop in session: €30
Full Course: €180

Wild Woman Yoga with Sara Jager

The aim of Wild Woman Yoga is to create awareness of the cyclical female nature and provide tools of a mindful yoga practice to support ourselves through the different phases of the cycle and learn when it’s time to rest, to take action, to celebrate and to let go.

Benefits of Wild Woman Yoga:

● Embrace the monthly changes on your physical, emotional, mental and energetical level
● Take off the pressure of yourself to always be in a high performing state
● Allow yourself to take the time to slow down and restore
● Balance your inner masculine and feminine energy
● Find your authentic expression with movement and sounding
● Practice unconditional self-love by accepting all aspects of your femininity
● Tap into your sensuality and sexuality as a source of creativity and transformation
● Release any shame related to your womanhood and celebrate your uniqueness
● Include awareness of your womb, yoni, ovaries, breast in your yoga practice
● Connect to different manifestations of your feminine essence
● start listening to your body based intuition
● Raise the levels of your ‘feel good’ hormones

The wild woman yoga is created using the Koru method, an 8 step process:

CONNECTING women to their bodies,
CULTIVATING feminine energy,
CONTROLLING breath,
CARING for ourselves,
CLEANSING what no longer serves,
CONCENTRATING on what matters,
CO-CREATING sacred space,
CELEBRATING all that we are.

ELEMENTS INCLUDED IN WILD WOMAN YOGA

● SENSES: Our senses are overstimulated and mostly we have become desensitized. We include awareness of our senses to enrich our practice and also to train our senses to feel and sense the subtle sensations so we are able to listen to the signals our body is sending us and give ourselves what we
really need and not what we think we want.

Sight: visualisation, dristhi, tratak (flame gazing), setting up a visually appealing environment for our practice.

Smell: use of essential oils, quality incense sticks or natural fragrances of your choice, fresh flowers or
herbs, palo santo…

Sound: practicing or meditating with music, silent or loud mantra, sounding- releasing the sounds freely and not restricting them at any point of the practice.

Touch: bringing attention to the fingertips when they press the mat, slide over the floor or over the body. Placing hands to different parts of the body to sense the energy and giving yourself a self massage.

Taste: In the practice we don’t always include this sense directly, but we bring this intention into our daily life in form of mindful eating. However, it is a beautiful ritual to enjoy a special treat with full awareness after your practice.

● ELEMENTS: Connection with outer nature helps reconnect us with our inner nature as well. If you have the chance to practice wild woman yoga outside, this offers a wonderful experience. Otherwise including the awareness and calling in the energy of the natural elements can enhance your practice. Grounding into the Earth to receive support (savasana, meditation), using fire to transform (candles, tratak, breath of fire), air to uplift (pranayama, sky, masuline energy), water to move and cleanse (fluid movement, water bowl, visualisation, cleansing)

● FEMALE BODY: In the practice we are bringing awareness to different parts of the female body, which often act as containers for repressed emotions and stuck energy, but mostly don’t get any attention. We direct our breath into our womb, ovaries, yoni, breasts, move the hips and pelvic floor.

● PRANAYAMA: As mentioned above, beside the yogic pranayamas, we include also breathing into our body parts (womb- heart breath, earth womb breath, yoni breath…) and also breathing in and out through the mouth.

● EMBODIMENT PRACTICES: Beside the yoga asana practice we include some other movements as well, like shaking, dancing, intuitive movement, spiraling, hip circles, self-massage…At any point in the practice you are free to move in any way you feel and are not bound to the suggested asana.
● JOURNALING: after each session journaling is encouraged to reflect on the experience, note down some insights and soul whispers and explore your intentions. There are several playsheets and templates included to do that on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.

● PERSONAL RITUAL/DAILY PRACTICE: Wild Woman Yoga encourages yoginis to bring the practice into their daily life. You can find more about this in the daily practice lecture.

HOW IS WILD WOMAN YOGA DIFFERENT FROM A REGULAR YOGA CLASS?

Wild Woman Yoga is created with the changing female nature in mind. Every week the class is aligned with the current lunar phase (or phase of your menstrual cycle) so it varies in the intensity and style.

● NEW MOON (menstruation): slow meditative flow, restorative

● WAXING MOON (follicular): dynamic, playful and more challenging yoga flow
● FULL MOON (ovulation): sensual dancing yoga flow, moving meditation
● WANING MOON (luteal): yin, hatha, mixed style practice aimed to ground and release

HOW DOES A WILD WOMAN YOGA SESSION LOOKS LIKE?

We always start with checking in with our present state: how are we feeling on a physical, emotional, energetical and mental level. Based on what is present, we allow the body to start moving or ground into meditation or pranayama. We set our intention or sankalpa for the practice. Main part of the practice consists of an asana practice combined with different embodiment practices (shaking, dance, non-linear movement, self massage, sounding….) according to the phase of the cycle. After the physical practice we settle into meditation and when ready to come out spend some time journaling on the intention and insights received during the practice.

I HAVE MY OWN YOGA PRACTICE/ATTEND OTHER YOGA CLASSES – IS WILD WOMAN YOGA
COMPATIBLE WITH THEM?

Yes. Wild woman yoga encourages you to have your own practice. What the practice does for you is that it brings you more awareness of your body, which you can use in your other practices as well, be it yoga or any other activities.

WHAT IF I DON’T HAVE MY PERIOD? (Note* an individual practice is aligned with the menstrual cycle, while in group courses we are following the lunar cycle)

If you don’t have your menstruation due to hormonal issues, health problems or you are in menopause, you will still benefit from the practice and can align it with the phases of the moon.

WHY IS IT CALLED WILD WOMAN YOGA?

To explain the use of the term Wild Woman I am referring to Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, author of the book Women who run with the Wolves: Myths and stories of the wild woman archetype:

“So, the word wild here is not used in its modern pejorative sense, meaning out of control, but in its original sense, which means to live a natural life, one in which the criatura, creature, has innate integrity and healthy boundaries. These words, wild and woman, cause women to remember who they are and what they are about. They create a metaphor to describe the force which funds all females. They personify a force that women cannot live without.”

DO WE WORK WITH SEXUAL ENERGY IN WILD WOMAN YOGA?

While cultivation of sexual energy is not the focus of wild woman yoga, we are cultivating sensual energy, which is a much broader field of energy and we are also cultivating pure life force energy or creative energy, which can be expressed and experienced in many ways.

We are bringing our attention to our sex centers in breathing and meditation with the intention of sensing what is present in our bodies and not with the intention of sexual energy stimulation. For example you may be guided to place your hand on your breasts to feel the emotions and sensations that arise from this action or to send love to a certain part of your body, but there is no stimulation of intimate areas for the purpose of arousal (like yoni yoga with jade eggs, breast massage or self pleasuring).

We are also working a lot with the pelvic floor- an area where women are storing lots of emotions and trauma that can come up during breathing exercises and/or movement, which is completely normal.

Know that you are in a safe space and that the best thing you can do is to stay present and embrace whatever is coming up.

Where to Find Us

Located in Pietà by the Msida Yacht Marina at 190 Triq Marina (between BOV bank and the jewelers).

Centrally located a short drive from Ta’ Xbiex (3 min), Msida (4 min), Valletta (5 min), Gzira (6 min), Birkirkara (6 min), Sliema (10 min).

Or come by bus, bus stop Marina (904 / 1057)

Parking

Free parking by the marina side next to La Vela restaurant.