Yoga Ameliorates Performance Anxiety and Mood Disturbance in Young Professional Musicians

  • Sat Bir S. KhalsaEmail author
  • Stephanie M. Shorter
  • Stephen Cope
  • Grace Wyshak
  • Elyse Sklar


Yoga and meditation can alleviate stress, anxiety, mood disturbance, and musculoskeletal problems, and can enhance cognitive and physical performance. Professional musicians experience high levels of stress, performance anxiety, and debilitating performance-related musculoskeletal disorders (PRMDs). The goal of this controlled study was to evaluate the benefits of yoga and meditation for musicians. Young adult professional musicians who volunteered to participate in a 2-month program of yoga and meditation were randomized to a yoga lifestyle intervention group (n = 15) or to a group practicing yoga and meditation only (n = 15). Additional musicians were recruited to a no-practice control group (n = 15). Both yoga groups attended three Kripalu Yoga or meditation classes each week. The yoga lifestyle group also experienced weekly group practice and discussion sessions as part of their more immersive treatment. All participants completed baseline and end-program self-report questionnaires that evaluated music performance anxiety, mood, PRMDs, perceived stress, and sleep quality; many participants later completed a 1-year followup assessment using the same questionnaires. Both yoga groups showed a trend towards less music performance anxiety and significantly less general anxiety/tension, depression, and anger at end-program relative to controls, but showed no changes in PRMDs, stress, or sleep. Similar results in the two yoga groups, despite psychosocial differences in their interventions, suggest that the yoga and meditation techniques themselves may have mediated the improvements. Our results suggest that yoga and meditation techniques can reduce performance anxiety and mood disturbance in young professional musicians.


Yoga Meditation Music performance Anxiety Mood 



We gratefully acknowledge the contributions of Nancy Buttenheim, Jo Ann Levitt, and Larissa Hall Carlson who served as instructors for the yoga program, Ann Megyas who assisted many of the yoga and meditation classes, and Angela Wilson who supervised the followup data collection. We also thank the Kripalu Yoga Center and the Tanglewood Music Center for supporting this research. Sat Bir S. Khalsa has received consultant fees from the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sat Bir S. Khalsa
    • 1
    • 2
    • 5
    Email author
  • Stephanie M. Shorter
    • 2
  • Stephen Cope
    • 2
  • Grace Wyshak
    • 3
  • Elyse Sklar
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of MedicineBrigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA
  2. 2.Kripalu Center for Yoga and HealthLenoxUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychiatryCambridge Hospital, Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public HealthBostonUSA
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyWayne State UniversityDetroitUSA
  5. 5.Sleep Disorders Research ProgramBrigham and Women’s HospitalBostonUSA

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