Pianist, Pedagogue, Writer, Scholar, Yogi
Author of two books on musician wellness, Dr. Lesley McAllister is a pianist, yoga instructor, and advocate for using yoga, sport psychology research, and mind/body relaxation techniques like imagery to assist musicians of all levels in attaining peak performance. As Professor of Piano at Baylor University, she directs the piano pedagogy program and teaches classes on Performer Wellness. Her book The Balanced Musician: Integrating Mind and Body for Peak Performance was the first textbook intended for musician wellness classes.
Her newly released book from Oxford Press, Yoga in the Music Studio, describes how music teachers can use yoga with students at all ages and levels, including preschool students in early childhood music classes, adolescents who are beginning to experience performance anxiety, and seniors in Recreational Music Making, as well as college music majors and professional musicians. The book is filled with sequences and strategies to use immediately before performance and throughout one's life to reduce the impact of stress, anxiety, and fatigue while enhancing performance ability and overall well-being.
Dr. McAllister holds the Doctor of Musical Arts in piano performance and pedagogy from the University of Oklahoma. She regularly coaches musicians and gives workshops on mind/body relaxation techniques including imagery, meditation, mental rehearsal, and yoga for musicians.
Why Should Musicians Practice Yoga?
It can help with
As we learn how much tension is needed for each movement, we begin to understand how to relax the muscles that are not being used, leading to less effort and fatigue, better sound, and reduced risk of developing repetitive stress injuries.
Better Overall Health
The regular practice of yoga leads to better sleep, greater endurance, reduced fatigue, and a stronger immune system through the circulation of lymph. Breathwork and stretching reduce pain, while increased circulation and the movement of synovial fluid result in better joint health. Those who practice yoga also tend to take better overall care of themselves, attending to their diet, sleep, and other needs with greater care. The practice of pranayama also results in improved lung function.
In yoga, we transition from the "thinking mind" to the "feeling body." Just like in peak musical performance, we allow awareness and trust to take over so that judgment decreases and spontaneity increases.Yoga practice allows us to enter the "flow" state more quickly so that peak experiences can occur.
Regular yoga practice leads to better concentration as well as improved memory and reduced reaction time. The practice of pranayama in particular enhances attention and focus, and reduced hyperactivity has been found in children with ADHD who have regularly practiced yoga.
Research has found that the regular use of yoga reduces depression and anger, and it even reduces performance anxiety among musicians.
The activation of the parasympathetic system through deep breathing and stretching results in less stress and the ability to transition more quickly into a state of relaxation following an activated state like musical performance.