You don't need to be a yoga expert or professional performer to know that for some people, stage fright is VERY real and very scary. As singers, we have to be able to do our best work in front of large audiences and in front of our peers and company leaders in the case of auditions. Without overcoming stage fright and performance anxiety, we lessen our chances of success. Performance anxiety doesn't just happen to performers - it can be any task where we are expected to lead or speak, including yoga teaching, or maybe even attending a yoga class for the first time!
Science tells us that yoga is good for anxiety, but what what parts of yoga are going to help us lose our sense of fear when we have to perform in front of people?
First, a little about Anxiety:
Anxiety’s Effect on the Body
From Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, by Robert M. Sapolsky:
How do we STOP being stressed?
As singers, Dr. Christopher Arneson has some overall great tactics for preparing for performances and auditions. When we can prepare for a performance or audition well in advance, we have more control. When we feel in control, we often experience a much better outcome when we sing/perform/speak.
Performance Anxiety Reduction Techniques
from Dr. Christopher Arneson, DMA - Read the full article in the NATS Journal of Singing
Notice when you DO begin to feel anxious about upcoming events...
You may not be nervous until the day before. It may be a month of anxiety. Notice your fear, acknowledge it, write it down or talk it out with a friend and remind yourself that positive thinking will improve the outcome. Try to end your day on a positive note, word or thought.
Decrease Negative Self-Talk & Begin Positive Visualization
Other activities to try out:
Types of Relaxation - Make Health Happen by Erik Pepper
Where does Yoga fit into this concept? How will yoga help singers?
The answer to this lies far beyond practicing yoga poses at the gym.
Yoga's origins state that a yogi should live by 10 main principles - yes, it's a little like the 10 Commandments. If you live your life according to these "Dos" and "Don'ts" you will be on a path to contentment.
The Yamas and Niyamas teach us that we have to take care of ourselves while also finding ways to be positive influences on our environment and community in order to reach a Blissful state of living. As singers, we can be informed by these philosophies to improve our singing life and be better members of our singing community.
Taking all of these principles into account, where do you think you could grow more? Where do the Yamas and Niyamas align with preparing for a performance as Dr. Arneson's rules lay out? Do you think you could allow yourself to let go of some control and find joy in the process rather than the product?
If you are truly experiencing anxiety beyond stage fright and home treatments such as improving sleep, practicing yoga & meditation, and regular exercise are NOT working, find professional help with a psychologist ot medical doctor. There is no shame in taking care of your mental well-being.
“Performance Anxiety: A 21st Century Perspective” in the NATS Journal of Singing by Dr. Christopher Arneson, DMA (2010).
Make Health Happen by Erik Peper, Katherine H. Gibney, & Catherine F. Holt (2002).
Musician’s Yoga by Mia Olson (2009).
Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers by Robert M. Sapolsky (2004).
The Practicing Mind by Thomas M. Sterner (2012).
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America
Yamas and Niyamas