A professional musician’s life is physically and emotionally demanding. Long practice hours, awkward body positions, heavy instruments, repetitive movements and the stress of performance and competition can take a toll on health and well-being. Recent studies suggest that mind-body practices such as yoga, tai chi, the Alexander Technique and Feldenkrais® may help musicians reduce performance anxiety and improve posture, breathing and body mechanics.
Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School conducted a small study in which 10 musicians who were enrolled in a 2-month summer fellowship program concurrently participated in yoga and meditation classes. Eight fellows did not take part in the mind-body activities, serving instead as control subjects. All 16 musicians completed pre- and postprogram questionnaires that assessed performance-related musculoskeletal conditions, performance anxiety, mood and flow experience. Evaluations showed that yoga and meditation participants experienced less performance anxiety than the control subjects, with relative improvements in all categories. Study leaders concluded that the consistent practice of yoga and meditation may be useful in helping musicians reduce performance anxiety. Results were published in Medical Science Monitor (2006; 12 , CR325-31).
In an unrelated review of research on musicians’ health, investigators from the University of California Medical Center and the University of California San Francisco School of Nursing reached a similar conclusion. The study authors noted that musicians are at high risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders and that proactive measures could reduce the likelihood and intensity of these injuries. Preventive steps that were suggested included identifying musicians’ strength and flexibility; improving posture; encouraging rest breaks; using ergonomic aids to lift, carry and support instruments; and incorporating targeted warm-up exercises, stretches and movement practices that improve postural awareness and movement efficiency. The researchers recommended that musicians consider “body posture work such as the Alexander Technique, yoga, tai chi or Feldenkrais, and mindfulness stress management.” The study appeared in AAOHN Journal (2006; 54 , 309-16).
Mind-body professionals and personal trainers are uniquely qualified to help amateur and professional musicians address musculoskeletal concerns. You can locate aspiring and established musicians through music schools, musicians’ unions, and organizations that hire musicians--such as theaters, other entertainment venues and churches.