Piano Performance With(out) Fear: The Power of Yoga

A woman practicing Mindfulness by performing a Yoga Tree pose

The practice of Yoga may provide an answer to a widespread problem among musicians. That problem is performance anxiety or stage fright. One in four musicians use Beta-blockers to improve their live performances. For some musicians, anxiety symptoms can be so debilitating that they lower the quality of performance and lower marks resulting from examinations. In addition, they can also lead to performance avoidance and the abandonment of study and career. Thankfully, there is a practice which has proven to be helpful, the practice of Yoga.


A Study of Yoga (Mindfulness) and Music Performance Anxiety

Bethany Butzer et al, in 2016, published a study on this topic in the Journal of Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback. The title is Yoga enhances positive psychological states in young adult musicians.



The aim of the study is to examine the role of Yoga in facilitating positive psychological states. Namely, these states are psychological flow and mindfulness during music performance. Firstly, psychological flow involves complete immersion in an activity and is a very rewarding and enjoyable state. No attention or "psychic energy" is left for any distractions. Secondly, Jon Kabat-Zinn, a renowned author on the topic, defined mindfulness as "paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally". This study recruited participants from the summer fellowship program at the Tanglewood Music Center. They received instruction at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health.



Yoga demonstrates promise as an effective technique for improving flow and mindfulness and for reducing confusion and music performance anxiety.  The authors recommend further studies.



Krishnamacharya, often referred to as the" Father of modern Yoga", developed a party trick where he was able to stop his heart from beating. He did this in an effort to demonstrate the potential and power of Yoga. If Krishnamacharya can do this then surely, using the same methods, we can learn to self-regulate our performance anxiety.  Right from the start, we experience benefits but practice it is not a quick fix. It requires a dedicated effort over an extended period of time. The payoff, however, is huge!


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