How a simple posture can help the classical musician's mindset before a performance
My youngest daughter is an absolute firecracker. She loves her “high heels” and dresses up whenever she gets the chance.
- High heels, bathing suit, Mary Poppins hat, and a fur boa? Check.
- Aviators, turquoise nail polish, and a play silk toga? Check.
- Face Paint, hair in a ponytail, fur vest, and athletic shorts? Check.
She’ll take herself in these outfits and strut in front of the house. Sometimes singing, sometimes talking to herself, sometimes lost in her imagination.
And while she struggles with doubt and insecurity like the rest of us, in those moments? In those moments she is free and she is 100% herself.
Amy Cuddy has an interesting TED talk where she shares her research about how our bodies, specifically our posture, can affect our thinking by way of hormones.
She runs a couple of experiments and in them one group of people are told to sit or stand in what she calls “power poses.” Power poses are when a body occupies as much space as it can. If seated, the person is leaning back, arms behind their head, one leg crossed at the ankle. If standing, the person has feet shoulder-width apart, hands on hips, head raised (just like Wonder Woman.)
The other group of people is told to make themselves small. Crossed legs, hunched shoulders, head lowered.
Both groups stand or sit in these poses for two minutes. Then they are evaluated. One experiment put them into a high-pressure job interview. Another experiment tested their levels of testosterone and cortisol.
We learn that the simple act of maintaining a posture for two minutes affects the participant’s hormonal levels and how they are perceived by an impartial observer. Those people who stood in the power poses had higher levels of testosterone (the hormone that signifies confidence and dominance) while the group who made themselves small had higher levels of cortisol (the body’s main stress hormone.)
This research shows that by holding a certain posture people are actually able to change how they feel.
Not only does holding a power pose affect the participant, but it also affects the way they are perceived. through non-verbal communication. So while internally the power pose group is feeling more confident and self-assured due to their increased levels of testosterone, they are also externally projecting that confidence during a highly stressful encounter. These participants are taking up space, they are making eye contact, they are coming into the room assertively and interacting with authenticity.
Application for the Musician
Many musicians have developed a pre-game ritual before performances. The ingredients to these rituals are as varied as the people who enact them. Oftentimes these rituals involve meditation, visualization, and breathing exercises.
I’d like to propose that you begin to experiment with using a power pose along with a powerful affirmation or intention about your performance. By combining a physiological process like a power pose along with a psychological process like an affirmation, you’ll be activating your mind and your body to be primed for the performance at hand.
You’ll find somewhere private - the green room, a bathroom stall, a practice room - set your timer for two minutes and begin your power pose while saying something like:
I perform authentically and connect with my audience.
I am prepared and excited to share my work.
I already possess what I need to be successful.
I have a beautiful idea to share today.
I play my heart out on stage and that is enough.
A simple, short exercise that reaps measurable rewards to the musician.
We all want to step onstage in our fullest, most authentic selves. We want to walk with the confidence my little daughter has when she is strutting up and down the sidewalk in her high heels and a fur boa.
This simple exercise will bring you a step closer.
Next Steps and Additional Resources
Here at The Musician's Mindset we have some incredible resources for developing and implementing mindset practices that will transform how you perform on stage.
First, check out our Personalized Mindset Tools Quiz to discover the mindset strategies perfect for YOU!
Join the waiting list for my FREE mini-course, How to Stimulate Your Vagus Nerve and Calm the Heck Down.
Founder of The Musician's Mindset
Katie is dedicated to helping musicians overcome stage fright and believe in their own unique artistic voice. She believes live classical music is a powerful antidote for the division, pain, and loneliness pervasive in the culture and strives to support all artists to confidently share their work with the world. She lives in Cincinnati with her husband, three kiddos, a dog, a snake, and a goldfish named Orca.