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5 Surprising Reasons You Should Join an Acting Class

5 Surprising Reasons You Should Join an Acting Class

Acting class isn’t reserved for aspiring Broadway actors and actresses. Keep reading to discover how acting classes can help you improve your communication skills, develop self-confidence, and relieve stress.

Why I Decided to Take an Acting Class

I went to my first acting class during my senior year of high school, which required every student to play a part in a school play. The idea of performing in front of my peers terrified me at the time, because I was worried I might forget my lines, or have a fit of hysteria, faint, and fall off the stage. You might be wondering what possessed me to take an acting class if the idea filled me with such trepidation. To answer that question, we have go time-travel all the way back to my teenage years.

As a teenager, I was crippled by shyness. Meeting new people made me so nervous that I wished I could disappear. Talking to girls stressed me out so much that it made me break a sweat. Confronting a bully, or speaking up for myself, just isn’t something that I had the confidence to do. But confident or not, I was emotionally intelligent enough to realize I had a problem that needed to be fixed.

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    Here’s a photo of me playing Antipholus of Ephesus in a production of “The Comedy of Errors” at Milligan College in 2009.

    How Acting Class Improved My Life

    I’m happy to report that my acting adventure was a smashing success, minus the occasional wardrobe malfunction (trust me when I say, you don’t want to know). What was meant to be a single semester of high school theater class blossomed into a new hobby and passion that I pursue to this day. Below are the top five benefits I experienced during my time in acting class.

    1. I learned to communicate with people more effectively.

    “Huh?” is an expression I used to hear, oh, just about every time I said a word to anybody. Let me explain: I live in the south, where most people have a tendency to talk at a slow pace, effectively drawing out every word they say. Somehow, I grew up to speak in the exact opposite manner: with a quick, clipped pace. Add in the facts that I spoke in a whisper (fear of speaking up) and avoided eye contact (lack of confidence), and you can see how it might have been hard for anybody to understand the words that were coming out of my mouth.

    At the time, it was frustrating, because I thought nobody cared enough to listen to me. But now, I understand that the blame laid solely with me; it wasn’t that they didn’t care, it was that I wasn’t communicating effectively. Acting teachers are masters of diction and dialogue: you will discover how to enunciate so everyone can hear (understand) you, experiment with new tones that add meaning to your vocalizations, and become more confident in the unique voice you have.

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    2. I became more confident in my body.

    I used to have a lot of strange body tics. By “body tics,” I mean certain things I did (in some cases still do on a minor scale) with my body when I am stressed due to an uncomfortable situation, or being put on the spot (like when your acting teacher tells you, “Perform this monologue in front of a bunch of strangers,” for example). Things like…

    • When talking to another person, I avoided making eye contact with them and looked at the ground.
    • When seated, I made myself look very small by crossing my legs, rounding my back, and lacing my fingers.
    • When standing to perform a monologue or scene, I had no idea what to do with my body, and often resorted to fidgeting.

    A brilliant acting teacher named Evalyn Baron at the Barter Theater helped me learn to feel more comfortable in my body than ever before. I’ll never forget something she told me at the end of one of our classes together:

    “A tense instrument cannot fully express itself.”

    Evalyn believed in her statement so much that she began every class with a series of activities built to relax our bodies with things like breathing exercises, meditation, and  yoga poses. While you probably shouldn’t expect such thorough treatment in any acting class you take, a little yoga and meditation at home would be a nice supplemental exercise for you to do.

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    3. Relieve stress and tension through creative expression.

    Whether you walk into acting class after a stressful day at work or crappy day at school, you will be able to drop off some baggage while you’re there. Some dramatic scenes require you to tap into passionate emotions like anger, despair, hatred, love, shame, and yearning. While this is far from easy for any beginning actor, you’ll become more comfortable tapping into your full emotional range as time goes on. Many acting classes will require you to prepare your own monologue, which is a great opportunity to express some feelings that have been held in, as you could select a monologue that makes you think about whatever you’re going through in the real life (effectively giving you a much-needed emotional outlet where no holds are barred).

    4. Understand that it is okay to be vulnerable.

    Remember how I mentioned that I used to be as shy as it gets? Getting on stage and doing ridiculous things in front of an audience of strangers (like performing a scene only in your knickers, for examplehas a way of making you get over those silly inhibitions. In addition, performing a romantic scene (that could involve a kiss) with an acting partner could help you become more comfortable with expressing your true feelings to a current or potential life partner.

    5. Make new friends in a positive, dynamic, fun environment.

    If it wasn’t for acting class and my time in the theater, I wouldn’t even know a lot of my friends exist. You can expect to meet many different “types” of people people who come from a variety of ages, backgrounds, and worldviews. I often took a brief walk to a bar down the road after class with my new friends, where we enjoyed a little bit of booze and a lot of deep conversation, which I fondly look back on as some of my most fun life experiences. You can expect to become quite close to your new friends in acting class, as you’ll all be actively working to improve your communication, body confidence, and ability to express your emotions. Working on these things together has a way of creating an emotional connection you will grow to be thankful for.

    Take an acting class—you won’t regret it!

    I feel confident in saying that going to acting class changed my life for the better. I don’t get as nervous when I introduce myself to people I haven’t met at parties. I’m able to express myself more clearly with better diction and more enunciation. I feel more comfortable and “at home” in the body that is mine and mine alone.

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    If you’ve ever been to an acting class, or you’re a working actor professionally or in the community theater, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you agree with the benefits listed here? What else would you include on this list? If you would like to act but are too nervous, too scared, or too worried about what might happen… what’s holding you back?

    Featured photo credit: Inside the Acting for Film & Television Campus/Vancouver Film School via flickr.com

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    Daniel Wallen

    Freelance Writer

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    Last Updated on June 18, 2018

    What Really Works: How to Relieve Lower Back Pain Effectively

    What Really Works: How to Relieve Lower Back Pain Effectively

    Eight out of ten adults experience lower back pain once in their lifetime. I am one of those people and I’m definitely not looking forward to my participation award. I know how it feels like to step out of bed and barely being able to put on your socks. Having lower back pain sucks. But 9 out of 10 patients that suffer from lower back pain don’t even know the primary cause of it.

    Video Summary

    Back Pain? Blame Our Evolution

    Once upon a time in our fairly recent past, our ancestors felt the urgency to stand up and leave our quadruped neighbors behind. Habitual bipedalism, fancy word for regularly walking on two legs, came with a lot of advantages. With two rear limbs instead of four, we were able to more efficiently use our hands and create tools with them.

    Sadly, life on two legs also brought along its disadvantages. Our spine had four supporting pillars previously, but now it only got two. The back is therefore naturally one of the weak links of our human anatomy. Our spine needs constant support from its supporting muscles to minimize the load on the spine. With no muscle support (tested on dead bodies) the back can only bear loads up to 5 pounds without collapsing [reference Panjabi 1989]. With well-developed torso muscles, the spine can take loads up to 2000 pounds. That’s a 400-fold increase.

    Most people that come to me with a history of a herniated disc (that’s when the discs between the vertebral bodies are fully collapsed, really severe incident), tell me the ‘story of the pencil’. The injury with the following severe pain usually gets triggered by picking up a small, everyday object. Such as a pencil. Not as you may think by trying to lift 100 pounds – no, but by a simple thing – such as a pencil.

    This tells us that damage in your back adds up over time, it’s a so called cumulative trauma disorder. Meaning back pain is a result of your daily habits.

    Sitting Is the New Smoking

    Whenever I sit for too long, my back hurts. In fact, 54% of Americans who experience lower back pain spend the majority of their workday sitting. But isn’t sitting something that should reduce the stress of your back? No, just the opposite.

    The joints between the bones of the spine are not directly linked to the blood supply. These joints instead get nourished through a process called diffusion. Diffusion works because molecules (such as oxygen, important for cells) are constantly moving and try to get as much space for themselves as they can. A key element for diffusion therefore is a pressure difference. In the image below the left room contains more moving molecules than the right, that’s why the molecules from the left are moving to the right. This way nutrition gets transformed into the joints, whereas toxins are transported out of the joints.

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    Sitting puts a lot of pressure on your spinal chord. The diffusion process therefore can’t function as efficiently. Nutrition and toxins can’t be properly transported, the joints get damaged.

      Sit Properly

      If sitting can play such a huge part in the creation of your lower back pain, how do you sit properly then?

      Is it better to sit with a straight back or should you rather lay back in your chair? Can I cross my legs when I’m sitting or should I have a symmetrical position with my feet? These are questions that I hear on a daily basis. The answer might shock you – according to recent science – all of them are right. The best sitting position is an ever-changing one. An ever-changing position minimizes the pressure on certain points of your spine and spreads it on the whole part.

        Credit: StayWow

        Stand Up More

        Even better than a sitting position is a stand up position. Standing dramatically reduces the pressure on your spine. If you’re forced to work on a desk the whole day though, you have two options.

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        Take breaks every hour of about 2-3 minutes.

        Set an alarm on your phone that goes off every hour! In that time you stand up and reach to the ceiling, on your toe tips with fully extended arms. You’re inhaling during the whole process. You do this activity for 20 seconds. Afterwards you’re walking through the office for the next 2 minutes. You might grab a healthy snack or some water in that time. The exercise relieves the pressure on your spine, while the walking makes sure that the joints on your spine are properly used.

        Or get a standing desk.

        One of the best companies on the market for Standing Desks, according to my research, is Autonomous. Autonomous offers a rather cheap Standing Desk, with the ability to change the height. Which means you can start the day standing and switch to sitting if you’re tired.

        Exercise for Lower Back Pain

        Sitting is an immobile position. Your joints are made for movement and therefore need movement to function properly. If humans are moving, all moving parts: e.g. the joints, bones and muscles get strengthened. If you’re in a rested position for too long, your tissues start to deteriorate. You have to get the right amount of activity in.

        But not too much activity. There’s a chance that going to the gym may even increase your risk of lower back pain. I know plenty of friends with chiseled bodies that suffer from pain in the spine regularly. Huge muscles do not prevent you from back pain. In your training you should focus on building up the muscles that are stabilizing your back and relieve pressure. Squats with 400 pounds don’t do the trick.

        The more weight you carry around, the more weight your spinal chord has to bear on a regular basis. That’s one of the reasons why huge, muscular guys can suffer from back pain too. One of the most important goals of your exercise regimen should therefore be weight loss.

        Here are some important tips for you to consider when starting an exercise regimen:

        Make sure you implement cardiovascular training in your workout routine.

        This will not only help you lose weight, it will also make sure that your arteries, which flow to the tissue next to your spinal discs, are free of placque and can therefore transport nutrients properly.

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        Important: If you have rather strong back pain, maybe even an herniated disc, don’t start running on a threadmill. Running is an high-impact exercise. Which means there are continuous, reocurring high pressure points on your spine. Your endurance training should therefore either be fast-paced walking or a training on the elliptical trainer for the beginning, because both have little to no stressful impact on your backbone.

        Focus on developing your whole core if you want to minimize your pain.

        There are some people that do hundreds of sit ups a day. While sit ups are a good exercise for your abdomen, it also puts pressure on your spine due to the bending movement. A sixpack workout routine is one-sided. Your abs may become overdeveloped in comparison to your back muscles. You’ve created an imbalance. A great way to train your abdominal muscles and back muscles simultaneously, is holding the plank position.

        Stretch only if you have tight muscles.

        I remember stretching every morning after I woke up. I took 10 minutes out of my day to just work on my flexibility and prevent injuries. Little did I know that I was actually promoting an injury, by doing so.

        Contrary to common belief, stretching is only partially beneficial to treating lower back pain. Stretching makes sense if tight muscles (such as the hamstrings) are forcing you to constantly bend your back. Stretching to treat pain doesn’t make sense if you’re already on a good level of flexibility. Hyper-mobility may even enforce back pain.

        If you found out that you had tight muscles that you need to stretch, try to stretch them at least three times a week. Don’t stretch your muscles right after you wake up in the morning. This is because your spinal discs soak themselves up in fluid over the nighttime. Every bending and excessive loads on your spine is much worse in that soaked-up state. Postpone your stretching regime to two-to three hours after you’ve woken up.

        Where to Start

        The key to improving your habits is awareness. Try to get aware of your back while you’re sitting down, laying down or lifting an object next time. This awareness of your body is called proprioception. For example, you have to be aware whether your back is bended or straight in this very second. Trust me, it is harder than you might think. You may need to ask a friend for the first few tries. But the change that this awareness can make in your back pain is absolutely fascinating. This consciousness of your body is one of the most important things in your recovery or prevention.

        Here are a few behavioural tactics that you need to be considering:

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        If you’re leaning forward more than 30 degrees with your upper body, support your spine with your arms.

        Ever tried to show a colleague of yours a complex issue and found yourself awkwardly leaning forward on their desk, pointing with your fingers to his paper? If that ever happens again, make sure you’re using the not-pointing arm to support yourself on the desk.

        Keep a straight back.

        Be it while exercising, stretching or standing. If you’re bending your back you’re putting stress on small areas of your spinal chord. A straight back redistributes the force to a bigger area. You’re minimizing the pressure. Remember this whenever you’re at the gym and reracking your weights, focus on having a neutral spine.

        Put symmetrical loads on your spine.

        I used to play the trumpet when I was a child. The instrument is pretty heavy. The trumpet gets transported in a big, metallic suitcase – with no wheels. Being the nature of suitcases, you only carry it with one arm, on one side of your body. This forced me to constantly lean on the other side with my upper body, while transporting the instrument from A to B. Not really the healthiest activity for your spine as you can imagine.

        If you have to carry heavy objects, carry them with both arms. Put the object in the middle of your body and keep it as close to your mass of gravity as you can. If this is not possible, try to carry the same amount on the left side than you do on the right side. This puts the stress vertically on a fully extended spine. The load is much better bearable for your spine.

        Stay Away From the Back Pain League

        Our world is getting more sedentary. We will continue to develop faster transportation, more comfortable houses and easier lives. While our technological progress definitely has its amazing benefits, it sadly has its downsides too. The danger for back pain will continue to rise on our ever-increasing motionless planet. It’s time to raise awareness.

        Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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