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By Ninazolotow @Yoga4HealthyAge

by Baxter

Yoga for Performance Anxiety

The Violin by Juan Gris

On our blog we have espoused the benefits of yoga techniques for many health conditions. One the most common life situations that prompts us to become anxious and over-stimulate our Fight or Flight response is the need to periodically “perform” for others. Performing can take the form of presentations in the academic world, starting at a very young age all the way up to the defense of one’s PhD thesis (that doesn’t sound stressful, does it!). It could be in the joyful context of the bride and groom’s dance on your wedding day when neither one of you are dancers. It is a common expectation in many corporate settings that you will give presentations to your fellow workers or prospective clients. As a young violinist, I recall vividly the levels of anxiety that I would experience prior to performing in violin competitions (that’s right, vying for $ against other little violinists) and as a soloist with the Toledo Youth Symphony in my sophomore year of high school. I weathered those stressful, stormy events, but I can only wonder at how it might have been if I had been practicing yoga and meditation as a youngster. I received this story via Facebook from a student I met on one of my teaching weekends in North Carolina, and thought that it speaks for itself and was worth sharing. Thanks to Janet for allowing me to share it with you here today!


by Janet Orenstein
As many of you know I played a recital with Allison Gagnon last night at UNCSA -- only my second recital in 17 years (the first was last year, also with Allison). I walked onstage forty minutes before it started to check a tempo and found myself to be in almost a state of panic. My heart started racing and my hands went clammy and cold. My mind was racing. I went backstage to my room and had the impulse to just keep playing the violin until I felt better. Thankfully some inner wisdom stayed this impulse. My body was in trouble, but somehow I knew the difficulty was in my mind. I kept thinking about my students being at the recital, and how only a few had ever heard me play. Their primary teacher is Ida Bieler, a phenomenal powerhouse of both teaching and playing, who leaves me in awe on most occasions. I saw that I was terrified of not being worthy. What on old story! But what to do? Didn't Terry Brown (a fabulous yoga teacher) teach me that extending my exhales will calm the nervous system? How many times had I practiced that very thing in yoga class? (And how many repetitions of the same information does it take for me to learn?) So ten minutes later when Brooks came backstage to wish me luck, he found me sitting in the dark, breathing. In fifteen minutes my heart slowed and my hands stopped feeling cold. My mind still raced, but ten minutes later that too started to slow down. I tuned my fiddle and went backstage. Allison smiled at me and we went onstage to play Ives. She starts the piece alone and I listened to her. I was there with her, and, miraculously, I remained present the entire recital. I felt that rare and powerful connection to another human being that communicates trust. I was listening and reacting, and I felt heard and reacted to. That has got to be yoga, right? It was a blast. We were in sync and nothing else really mattered at all. I forgot my students; I forgot the entire audience. I remembered that this is why I play the violin. Thank you, Allison, and thank you to all my numerous teachers of violin and yoga. And of course, thank you to my students, who as it turns out, are also my teachers.

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