Improv Theatre Can Make You Happy?

improv theatre yes and

Today I want to tell you about something a little off topic, but still something that’s very important to me, that has changed the way I live. That’s improv theatre.

What’s improv? Let’s ask wiki:

Improvisational Theatre, often called improv or impro, is a form of theater where most or all of what is performed is created at the moment it is performed. In its purest form, the dialogue, the action, the story and the characters are created collaboratively by the players as the improvisation unfolds in present time, without use of an already prepared, written script.”

I started improv theatre pretty young. I went to a stage school when I was a teenager, and when my acting class was entering a theatre contest we were given a crash course in the art and then put on stage. After I left for university, I didn’t think any more about improv. Not until a few years ago. I was in a bad place, feeling pretty down, but I saw an advert for a Frankfurt based improv class and I decided to join.

So why would doing things spontaneously be life changing? Well, it’s all in the art of improv theatre. You’re on the stage, you have no script, no storyline, nothing. You just have to trust the other people around you and work as a team to make it work. If someone comes up to you and says “mummy, I don’t want to eat my greens!” then you are suddenly a mother, and the other person is your child, and the situation is that they are not eating vegetables.

It’s your job now, as a team player, to say YES to all of that, then say AND. YES, I am a mother of this child who won’t eat vegetables, AND I have been feeding them nothing but broccoli for five weeks so that is why they are not eating.

You cannot say, for example “no, those aren’t greens they are jam sandwiches.” That’s blocking – when you shoot someone down, contradict them or give a negative answer that stops the conversation/story. Blocking is bad.

It seems so simple, but learning to work with this concept can make you a much, much happier person as it seeps into your own life and you start ‘yes anding’ all the time. Learning to take the offer that someone gives you and continue you it on instead of shooting it down is a very good skill to have. Take this following example –

“Oh, I made lasagne last night” (Offer)

Now, you as the receiver have two choices –

1. “Pfft, I hate lasagne. Never have, never will” (Blocking)

2. “Oh really. I’m not so keen on it, but how did you make it?” (YES, you made lasagne last night AND I want you to tell me how to make it)

Option 1 will shoot down the conversation fast. There’s nowhere to go, except a disagreement. Unless that’s what you want, of course. But option 2 is much better because you can not only explain why you don’t like lasagne, but you can also engage in the person and ask them more.

If you’re not able to take an improv class yourself, I hope that at least you can learn the way of “yes, and”. Thinking about this and stopping myself from blocking and always accepting offers has helped me become much happier and also much better at communicating – especially at work.

Frankfurt Zoo

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I caught wind of there being a baby tiger in Frankfurt zoo, so I ditched my own little tigers grabbed the boyfriend and marched right over there.

It was meant to be the hottest day of the year and promised temperatures of 38c, but in fact was something around 35c. Regardless, the place was pretty much empty so that was pretty awesome. What’s a shame is that they’ve bumped up the entry price from 5 euros to 10 since I went last time, but it’s a pretty special zoo so I guess it’s all for the greater good. If you are a new resident to Frankfurt, you should have a 2 for 1 ticket in the voucher book they gave you when you registered.

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After ALL THE FAFFING we eventually arrived at the zoo at about 3pm, which happened to be feeding time. I think the daddy lion was the most interesting when he was eating – gently licking the chunk of meat as if he was really enjoying it. But we did get to see the baby tiger have his dinner too. The photos of him were much much cuter than him eating, however. You can get postcards of him at the giftshop, so I have him on my wall now.

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They have a great section for fish and insects which are all indoors, so we could escape the sun. Personally, I love the fish (and penguins!!) the best. I love aquariums so much and the ones near where I was in Japan were really great – especially Nagoya Aquarium. I think fish are so much better at being models than animals, so aquariums are the best places to test out new cameras.

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Not that this guy wasn’t trying his hardest, too…

The best thing about Frankfurt zoo is that they are part of a breeding programme to help endangered species. The rhinos, giraffes and many other animals are there to help save their species, so you get to see some really rare animals, like the aye aye, which are endangered because people think they are bad luck so kill them (and I know that because I read and understood the German sign! Yay go me!)

Frankfurt zoo is one of my favourite places and needs at least 4 or 5 hours to see it all. It’s well worth a visit if you’re in town.

Find the zoo at Bernhard-Grzimek-Allee 1  60316 Frankfurt and get there either by getting the tram or U Bahn, or simply by walking up from Konstablewache, which is a nice walk with lots of lovely restaurants and cafes (including my favourite, Maingold cafe!)

Hot Yoga

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So for a month or so I’ve been going to a thing called “hot yoga” (otherwise known as Bikram yoga) with a girlfriend of mine. She’s been doing it for a while and finally persuaded me to go along with her. Bikram yoga is like regular yoga, only in 40c heat and 40% humidity. And also, where in normal yoga the routine changes each time depending on the students, Bikram yoga uses the same 90 min set every time.

If it sounds scary, that’s because it is scary. The first time I went, the teacher told me that if I feel dizzy, like a want to vomit or black out, I’m doing it right.

So why am I doing it??

In actuality it’s not that bad. Often, going into the pose I feel really ill but once I’m there and I’m breathing as the teacher is telling me to, I feel stable and not like I’m going to throw up. And I sweat. Everyone sweats. You have to bring a full towel to cover your yoga mat because you will sweat so much it’ll be as wet as if you’ve dunked it into a swimming pool by the time you’ve finished.

I went for the first time because I was looking at lots of photos of yoga people on Tumblr and I decided I wanted to be cool like them. I am ridiculously influenced by things I see around me. I’ve just finished painting my nails green after seeing a girl at work with green nails and deciding I want green nails too. I made the boyfriend a strawberry – avocado – spinach sandwich the other day because I saw a photo of it online and decided I wanted one. And so with yoga, I decided I wanted to be the people in the photos and so I joined my friend in her class.

I’m going to be completely honest here and say that while mental pictures of me being cool and flexible were what brought me to Bikram yoga, it is the changes to my body that keep me going. Sure, it’s water weight. But you burn about 1000 calories each class, and I do see a difference the morning after every session. My legs look amazing. So amazing I just go out wearing knee high socks and I don’t even care. I’m 26, I go to the gym often, I eat well and now I have this one thing that boosts my confidence and my legs look amazing and I don’t even care if I’m not “meant” to wear knee high socks.

The other reason why I keep going back is that I have pretty weak knees and the heat in the room makes the exercises a lot kinder to my joints. I’m a lot more flexible in the hot room, and my knees aren’t nagging me nearly as much any more. I feel they are much stronger which is great.

The downside is that it IS super scary. Being told that wanting to pass out is normal is usually a sign that you should get the hell out of there. I still can’t do the whole routine through. There’s this pose called the camel pose which looks simple but comes towards the end of the routine and I can’t even start to bend back – I just want to vomit. The best I can do it kneel “Japanese style” and wish for the day that my Bikram sea sickness goes away.

The last scary part is that the routine and the teachers push you. If you clicked on the camel pose video above you’d have heard the teacher say “it’s supposed to hurt”. Things like that are said often. They want you to push yourself beyond your boundaries and stretch that little bit more but often it’s said in ways that sound like they don’t have your health as their priority. However, when doing this kind of yoga you really need to just listen to your body – you know your limits – and use your common sense.

HERE is a nice video showing each of the poses in the routine. It’s pretty positive. But if you search you can find lots of negative things about the yoga and its founder. Personally, Bikram yoga makes me feel better about myself and as long as I look after myself, I don’t see it having a negative impact on me.

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