What should an actor do to concentrate and to relax at the same time? Richard Boleslavsky (1889-1937) was a Polish born actor and exponent of the Moscow Art Theatre who believed in something he called "Spiritual Concentration," the ability to say to your feelings: "Stop and fill my entire being." He was convinced that this faculty can be developed and trained as much as one can train the human body. As a consequence, he developed a series of exercises aimed at enhancing inner concentration.
First, he asserted, the actor should concentrate his/her thoughts on each separate group of muscles, bringing them from the state of tension into one of relaxation.
Second: "The verifying of your muscles in the sense of supplying them only with the necessary amount of strength during ther performance of the following exercises: walking, sitting down, the lifting up of different articles from the floor, taking down of same from a high shelf, pointing at different things, calling, greeting, lighting a cigarette, the handing of a burning match to someone while a third person tries to blow it out, kicking with your foot articles of a different weight, lacing a shoe, any physical exercise, hollowed by complete rest, the taking of an intricate position followed by an immediate relaxation of all the muscles with its natural result--the fall of the body, the giving of a blow, the defense from a real or imaginary blow.
"In doing all these exercises you must follow exclusively the example of nature and perform them in a high spirit and in a joyous frame of mind. You must understand as well that the relaxation of you muscles does not mean by any means their weakening. You must train your muscles every day without making it a meaningless series of physical exercises. Each of your muscles must understand the reason for its particular training."
True. A pianist practices every day. So does a singer, a sportsman. The actor's tool is his body. Some of our body functions are automatic--the beating of the heart, our breath. Others are learned: riding a bycycle, walking, dancing. We must develop the ability to tell our mind to send to each of our muscles the energy needed to perform each task we do in the process of a role-play or show. We do this intentionally in the exercises so that when we act we can send the precise amount of energy needed to express the emotional state required in each segment of the play we are performing.