Managing Music-Related Stress

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Whether it’s in the practice room or performance hall, performance anxiety can undermine the best-practiced efforts to play or sing. What are some simple strategies musicians can use to effectively shed the nerves and feel free to enjoy the music?

Yoga poses, breath work, and meditation

A study examined the effects of yoga poses, breath work, and meditation on residential music fellows at the summer program of the Tanglewood Music Center. It showed that participants demonstrated a significant reduction in performance anxiety and an improved mood after the 6-week training program.

How can I get those results?


Yoga is a movement practice that has both physical and emotional benefits. Through a series of poses, called “asanas,” a participant can build strength, flexibility, balance, and coordination. Additionally, yoga participants report an increased sense of calm and ability to regulate emotions. The word “yoga” means to unite, and in this case the physical practice positively unites the body and mind.

If you are interested in learning about the different types of yoga, check out this resource.

To better understand the science of yoga, click here.

Want to see a yoga session FOR musicians lead by a musician? Watch “Music, Body, Mind.”   


Deep breathing exercises can be used to invoke the “relaxation response,” a term coined by Herbert Benson, founder of Harvard’s Mind/Body Institute. Breathing strategies have been found to alleviate the “fight or flight response” and help to reduce an elevated heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, anxiety level, and cortisol (a stress hormone) in the blood. Musicians also experience the fight or flight response while performing, so using a simple breathing strategy can help lessen the effects. One breathing technique derived from yoga and popularized by Dr. Andrew Weil is the 4-7-8 breath. Check out his video guide where he walks you through the step-by-step process of the breathing technique. Not only does it have direct implications for performers, it can also have general health benefits. Dr. Weil encourages people to use the strategy to avoid over reacting when emotionally provoked, for addressing cravings, and for falling asleep.


Musical experiences can be meditative themselves, so it isn’t a stretch to use conventional meditation techniques while singing or playing for the reduction of performance anxiety.  One way meditation helps is by increasing awareness and focus allowing the performer to stay present to the moment of music making with less attention going to that sour note or bobbled rhythm. It’s also a great tool for emotional regulation so that a bobbled rhythm doesn’t cause an emotional tailspin with additional musical mistakes that might have been avoided had you kept your cool. Meditation has the capacity for practical applications to performing. 

Want to try out some simple and accessible meditations? Go to and try up to ten meditations for free.

Managing music-related stress is a major concern for many performers. Strategies like yoga, breath work, and meditation provide a realistic and helpful way to address performance anxiety. Try it yourself and reply back to this email letting me know how it goes for you!

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