The Circles of Energy

Lesson 4 – The Circles of Energy


Objective: Students will demonstrate their understanding of the three circles of energy by writing a self-assessment/reflection after participating in body exercises that practice the three circles of energy.


Essential Questions

  • How do you stand in each circle of energy?
  • What is presence?
  • Why is it important to perform in Second Circle?
  • How can Second Circle work benefit your life?


National Standards

  • TH:Pr5.1.II.a. Refine a range of acting skills to build a believable and sustainable drama/theatre performance. 

State Standards

  • Standard L2.T.CR.5: Explore physical, vocal, and emotional choices to develop a performance that is believable, authentic, and relevant in a drama/ theatre work.



  • Open space
  • Speaker (to play mindfulness exercise)
  • Whiteboard/Markers
  • “The Second Circle” book by Patsy Rodenburg



Review with students the three circles of energy. Ask students to explain, then fill in the gaps

  • First Circle – inward energy, of the past, energy falls short
  • Third Circle – outward energy, of the future, energy is general and goes past target
  • Second Circle – equal exchange of energy, of the now (present), energy goes directly to target




  • Inform students that they will participate in mindfulness. It is like meditation.
    • *For this lesson, I used the Headspace app and played one of the Basics exercises. I am including a written mindfulness exercise if you’d rather use that. You can also find mindfulness exercises on YouTube.*
  • Exercise
    • Ask students to sit comfortably in their chairs or to lay down on the ground. Tell them to sit with their eyes open and to breathe in through their nose and out their mouth. After a few breaths, ask them to close their eyes. Instruct them to focus on the rising and falling sensation of their breath. Ask them to imagine air and energy flowing into their body with each breath. Every time they breathe, they should send that energy and air to different parts of their body. When they breathe out, they should imagine tension and stress leaving their body. Give them time to breathe. Now ask the students to be aware of their thoughts: imagine they are leaves floating down a river. Tell them to not focus hard on any thoughts, but simply allow them to enter and exit and flow down the river. Ask them to try and keep their mind clear and to continue to allow thoughts to flow down the river. After some time, invite them to allow their mind to do what it wants. Finally, ask them to slowly open their eyes and become aware of their surroundings again.


  • What did you observe during mindfulness?
  • What circle of energy were you in with yourself? Were you in a different circle with your surroundings?
  • How can you be in different circles at the same time?



Tell students that they will continue to practice being in each circle of energy with different exercises.



Second Circle Body (from Rodenburg pg. 45-49)

  • Instruct: Rodenburg says, “The Second Circle body is a body with natural placement” (pg.45). Tell students that this exercise will help them stand with a Second Circle body. 
  • Tell students to find their own space in the room away from walls and other students.
  • Instruct students to stand in a neutral position. Inform them that you will be giving them instructions of how they should be standing to be in Second Circle.
  1. Feet
    1. Stand with both feet on the floor, parallel, and under your hips, your feet should feel and be engaged with the earth
      1. If the feet are not fully on the earth, you are in First. If they are too firmly planted, you are in Third.
    2. Shift your weight slightly forwards on the balls of your feet, but keeping your heels engaged on the floor
      • This will help you feel alert, but don’t push the weight too far forward
    3. Knees
      • They should be soft and not locked
    4. Hips
      • Check that your hips aren’t thrust forward
    5. Spine
      • Stand slumped to feel what it is like to have the spine in First
      • Now, make your spine rigid and held up to experience Third
      • Shift between the two slowly until you feel where the spine is straight but not pulled too far towards third
      • The spine should feel connected to your pelvis, knees, into your feet and the ground.
  1. Shoulders
    • Your shoulders should hang freely without depression or lift in the upper chest
      • .Gently life, drop, and circle the shoulders. Then let your shoulders find their own position.
  1. Hands
    • Hands should be relaxed by your side. They should not be clenched.
  2. Head
    • Is your head balanced at the top of your spine? In Second, the head is evenly balanced on top of the spine.
      • .If you need to, gently raise your head with your hands so it feels like it is floating on top of the spine.
      • The jaw should be unclenched, with the lips lightly touching
  • Inform students that this next exercise is designed to center and align their bodies further (directly from Rodenburg pg.48-49)
    • Stand slightly on the balls of your feet with your knees unlocked. Let your head fall onto your chest and its weight flot you over from the waist. Feel like a puppet hanging down from your hips. Shake out your shoulders with released knees and spine Let your head go. Hand, and remember to breathe deeply.
    • Stay on the ball of your feet and gradually come up through the spine [roll up]. Let your shoulders fall into place at the end of the movement. As you come up, don’t push your hips forward or hoist your chest up.
    • When you are upright, gently rock forward and back on your feet. If you are centered, you will balance and not stagger over.
    • Play with your usual stance and rock [on your feet]. Notice if you feel less secure and balanced. Keep checking from your feet to your head and notice any energy shifts that try to pull your energy into First or Third.
    • Stand in a centered position. Swing your arms up so you end up reaching for the sky, but without hoisting or lifting your shoulders or upper chest. Breathe calmly and silently.
    • Slowly allow your arms to open to your sides [until you make a ‘T’ pose]. Feel energy moving through your arms and out of your fingers. Release your shoulders and breathe. Allow the arms to return to your sides.
    • This is the most important moment.As the arms return, you will feel either a need to slump the spine and depress the rest of your body, pulling you into First Circle – a clear sign you are a First Circle body – or a desire to brace the chest and spine up, into Third Circle. Fight these desires and you will feel open, strong, and available within your body. You will begin to experience a different flow of energy. 
  • Now repeat a full check
    • Feet – energy forward on the balls with heels also on the floor
    • Knees – unlocked
    • Hips – not thrust forward
    • Spine – up, not slumped or rigidly held
    • Shoulders – released, not rounded or lifted and pulled back
    • Head – balanced, with ease, on top of the spine
    • Jaw – unclenched, with lips lightly touching.



Instruction (questions are rhetorical): As you stand in Second, breathe. How can you breathe in Second? How is the breath connecting with your core? Determine how there is an equal exchange of energy going in and out of your body as you focus on your breath. We will talk more about breathing in Second on another day. Today, we will practice standing and moving in each circle of energy.



Walking through the Circles (adapted from Kris Peterson, BYU professor)

Now that we have determined what a Second body feels like, adjust your spine so it curves one inch inwards. This is only a slight adjustment, but the rest of the body might be in a different position because of this change. Think about absorbing energy from the space around you. Now start walking.



  • Explore what it feels like to walk in First Circle
  • Notice where your gaze is
  • How has your breathing changed? Don’t try to adjust it, just notice it
  • Be aware of what you are thinking about, is it about things in the past?
  • How are you taking energy in from the space around you?
  • When would you use this walk?

Stop, and notice what it feels like to be in First Circle.


Now, move your spine through its Second Circle position and past it so that it is one inch too far. Again, this is only a slight adjustment, but notice how it affect other parts of your body. Think about pushing your energy past the space around you. Now start walking.

  • Explore what it feels like to walk in Third Circle
  • Notice where you gaze is
  • How has your breathing changed?
  • Be aware of what you are thinking about, is it about things in the future?
  • How are you pushing your energy past the objects around you?
  • When would you use this walk?

Stop, and notice what it feels like to be in Third Circle.


Move your spine back into a Second Circle body. Walk around the room in Second Circle and Breathe.

  • How are you being present with the objects around you?
  • Think about sending your energy directly to an object and receiving equal energy from that object



  • What did you discover about First Circle?
  • What did you discover about Third Circle?
  • How did the energy transfer in each circle affect you?
  • What circle are you most comfortable in?
    • There is no right answer, but it can be helpful to know what circle you usually live in.



Tell the students that next we are going to practice being in Second with an object


Mindfulness Exercise

  • Ask students to look in their backpack or pockets, find an object that they can hold in their hands, pick it up and find a place to sit in the room. Sit in a way that allows you to be present with the object in your hands. Your goal with this activity is to know the object in your hand perfectly.
  • Instruct students to observe the object (questions are rhetorical)
    • What does it look like? What shapes do you see? What colors? What else do you notice?
    • What does it feel like? How heavy is it? Can it be manipulated in any way?
    • What sound is made if you tap it?
    • Does it have a smell?
    • Try to be in Second Circle with the object. Send energy directly to object and receive energy from the object
    • What does it feel like be in Second Circle with an object?
  • Now, tell students to turn their attention to the room you are in
    • Try to be present and in Second with the room around you
    • How are you sending energy out? How are you taking energy in?
  • Discussion
    • What was it like being in Second with an object and the room?
    • Have you ever been present with objects before?
    • How is this mindfulness different from the mindfulness we practiced at the beginning of the class?



Quickly Switching Circles

  • Ask students to find their own place to stand in the room. Tell them that their objective is to move their body into each circle of energy as the teacher calls them out. 
    • For instructor: Play with tempo, speed, and order. End with the students being in Second Circle and be there for a minute.



  • Ask students to complete a written self-assessment about the Circles of Energy
    • Give yourself a score 1-5 on how well you are able to stand and move in the circles of energy. (1- I cannot do it at all, 5 – I can be in all 3 circles easily!)
    • What did you discover about yourself today? What circle are you most comfortable in?
    • What was challenging about today?
    • How can you use these circles of energy as an actor?
    • How can you use these circles of energy in real life?


If there is time at the end, play different games and encourage students to be in Second Circle as they play.


  • Imaginary Tug-of-War
  • Where Game (Viola Spolin)
  • Zip, Zap, Zop
  • Snapping Game (from lesson 2)
  • Hitchhiker