Auditioning always feels high-stakes. Whether it’s your shot to book a big role or gain acceptance into your dream university, walking into an audition always brings a lot of anxiety, excitement and nerves. From working as a casting assistant and an actor, I can tell you that there is one common factor among every successful audition I have ever seen: a centered actor.
I have seen nerves cause the most talented actors to crumble and I’ve seen opportunities go to much less talented actors who were more centered and relaxed in the audition. Sometimes the nervousness comes in the form of light jitters; other times it can be debilitating and really sabotage our ability to give our best performance. Relaxing and centering yourself before an audition may be easier said than done.
This is why many acting methods focus a lot on relaxation. Unfortunately these can involve creating a lot of sound and movement which can be disruptive in an audition waiting room. I’ve spent a lot of time and research trying out different methods of relaxation that work well without thinking too hard about it and can be done inconspicuously in any setting.
So here are five of my favorite ways to relax and get centered in ten minutes or less:
1. Alternate Nostril Breathing or Nadi Shodhan Pranayama
This is my FAVORITE quick relaxation technique before an audition. The yogic philosophy behind this breathing technique is that it clears blocked channels and helps you release tension and fatigue. Within three or four rounds of this, I always feel much more grounded and it’s the perfect subtle technique to do in a waiting room.
Start by bringing your right hand to your nose, placing your thumb on your right nostril and your index finger on your left nostril.
Gently press your thumb to your right nostril, blocking it off and inhale through your left nostril.
Once the breath is full, exhale through the same nostril.
After all the air is out, release the pressure from your right nostril, and gently press your index finger to your left nostril, blocking it off.
Inhale and then exhale through your right nostril.
Repeat the alternating breathing
2. Breathing Apps
If you find that you’re too nervous to focus on your nostrils, begin with a breathing exercise that’s a little more basic and requires less thinking. There are a lot of free apps such as Essence, 3 minute mindfulness, or Breath 2 Relax that you can download and watch as icons tell you when to inhale, hold and exhale. Clearing your mind and focusing on just breathing will do a lot to center you and calm any nerves you may be experiencing.
3. Isolated Tense and Release with Visualization.
If you experience a lot of body tension when you are nervous, try this isolated tense and release exercise:
Quiet your mind and do a quick mental scan over your body to feel where you are holding the most tension.
Once you’ve identified few key spots, focus on each area individually and tense the muscles in that area for a count of five beats. Then relax and breathe deeply.
Do three rounds of tense and release for each individual area that you feel tension.
After three rounds for each area, visualize that a large egg being cracked over the top of your head. As it runs down, spreading steadily and evenly down your body, it carries residual tension with it. When it reaches your feet, imagine it leaking the residual tension out of your body through the soles of your feet.
4. Mantra Meditation
I have found Vedic meditation to be an amazing tool as an actor for both preparing for character and for relaxation before an audition. If you ever have an opportunity to take a seminar in it, you should check it out! For our purposes, we can take some of the concepts and use them as a centering tool if you have a lot of mental nervous energy. Unlike other forms of meditation, we do not ask you to just silence your mind and observe your thoughts floating by. Instead, we are going to employ the practice of a mantra.
Make up a word in your mind. Don’t choose an existing word, but rather string together two or three sounds that will be easy enough for you to remember without thinking too hard. Don’t just use the classic “Ohm.”
Close your eyes and breathe normally. Begin repeating the word in your mind. Don’t assign it meaning. Focus only on repeating the mantra for at least 5 minutes and up to 20 minutes. Set a timer for yourself.
I had a meditation teacher once tell me that when we use a mantra in meditation, we think of it like inviting a date to a party where all of the other guests are your thoughts. You may briefly interact with the other guests at the party, but the mantra is the date you come back to. Use this tool to help you find focus and witness your thoughts without feeling caught up in them.
5. Power Posing
There’s some really interesting research out there about how body language changes the way that we feel about ourselves. If you’re curious about all of the research, here’s a really awesome TED talk about the subject: Amy Cuddy’s Body Language Ted Talk
For our purposes, you can find a bathroom stall or a private place for just two minutes before your audition. Raise your arms above your head like you’re in a victory pose and hold it for those two minutes. Doing this has been proven to lower our cortisol levels and raise testosterone levels which are the markers of people showing capability and confidence. Even if you’re going in for an audition where your character is an insecure person, it may still be worthwhile to power pose before the audition. It would allow you to walk into the meeting collected and confident and when your scene begins, show an even more dramatic shift when you transition into character and sink into a weaker posture.
Try experimenting with each of these techniques to see which ones have the greatest impact on you. Keep these in your back pocket the next time you need to prepare for a big audition!