The Breath Improvisation

Purpose of the Activity

This is another strange and wonderfully minimalist exercise.

Minimalist improvisation really can create a non-verbal experience of improvisation in its most essential form. This is an example of a minimalist improvisation activity that can be enacted at almost any stage of an improvisation workshop or event. It is also very good if the session has become too complex and cluttered and you want to find a simple, clearer space.



This activity is best done in threes, sitting in a circle, close together, set apart from other groups.

It can also be done VERY close together with foreheads touching.

It can also be done standing in a circle with hands on the high back of the person in front of you.

The aim is to be able to feel the breathing of the others in the group.

Agree who will start.

Find a safe pace for breathing so as not to hyperventilate.

The person who starts, starts to draw in a breath, and the others follow. The person breathes out and the others follow. At first we simply follow. As time goes on, one person’s breath may drag slightly behind the others or run ahead and the others gently follow this until we are all in “breathing harmony again”. Play with different rhythms, it can become almost musical. Keep the overall place slow, with allowed pauses to keep it safe.



This simple exercise, devoid of words, movement and even eye contact short circuits all the usual thinking activity, as we enter the music of breathing and really come into the improvisational moment. It’s a great team or group bonder and also there’s plenty to debrief around leadership, synergy, playfulness, the power of minimalism, non-verbal communication and harmony.

In debrief you can ask:

– how did you experience this activity?

– what did you learn about yourself?

– what happens when we become conscious of our breathing?

– what happened to the way we communicated?

– how might this serve as a metaphor for the way we work together?


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