ASU music student taps ancient tradition to create preventive health regime for musicians

December 4, 2017

Brianne Borden, DMA graduate student in music performance, has experienced firsthand the rigors of pursuing a career as a professional musician — from debilitating performance anxiety to repetitive motion injuries. Borden drew on the ancient tradition of yoga to overcome her health issues and developed a program to help prevent these types of problems from occurring — Yoga for Musicians.

“Musicians are often perfectionists who are immersed in a highly competitive and physically demanding environment,” said Borden. “At some point in their professional career, all musicians face performance anxiety or nervousness and most musicians also face physical injuries.” Brianne Borden Brianne Borden Download Full Image

The techniques available for addressing these issues are often "after the fact" solutions, such as seeing a physical therapist, rather than preventing an injury. Borden’s goal is to prevent the issue before it happens, so she became a certified yoga instructor and developed a program specifically for musicians.

Borden was introduced to yoga in her teens by her mother and attended classes for several years. She abandoned the practice in college as she felt her time was better spent in the practice room. With the increased practice time and an already existent tendency toward anxiety, she developed several repetitive injuries and was terrified every time she stood onstage. On the advice of her physical therapist, her mother and her trumpet professor, she started attending yoga classes regularly. Borden said within the year, the results were obvious — her injuries were no longer an issue and her confidence increased every time she performed.

Brianne Borden“This transformation, paired with my curiosity, led me to research performance anxiety, injuries and yoga as a practice,” said Borden. “I couldn't help but share my findings, and the difference this has made for me, with others who may be coping with similar things.”

She said that when someone practices yoga, they often practice one or two different forms of yoga exclusively. In her Yoga for Musicians program, Borden used her academic research along with her training and learnings from multiple different forms of yoga — vinyasa, yin, Iyengar, hot, kundalini, meditation — to determine which parts of these practices and traditions are beneficial to the main struggles a musician faces.

Her program focuses specifically on foundational posture, breath work, coping and warding against performance anxiety and preventing repetitive-motion injuries. She intentionally explains the reasoning behind each exercise or pose and suggests times applicable to a musician when they could practice it. Examples include practicing alternate nostril breathing prior to a nerve-inducing performance or practicing a few rounds of Sun Salutations before warming up on an instrument. 

Borden said students are extremely engaged when she presents her yoga clinic at universities or conferences as she tries to make the experience relatable so every attendee benefits. She prefers that students bring their instruments to experience the immediate differences that some of the exercises make. Students are also instructed to keep journals to track their progress and note which poses and exercises resonated best with what they need for their musicianship.

“I have had multiple students contact me weeks or months after attending a session of mine, and share with me the changes they've seen in their playing and the positive impact of practicing yoga,” said Borden.

Learn more at Borden's website, She presented her Yoga for Musicians program at the 2017 International Trumpet Guild (ITG) Conference in Hershey, Pennsylvania, on June 2.  She also presented a similar program at the 2016 ITG Conference in Anaheim, California. She has been invited to numerous colleges and universities to present clinics to music students. 

Lynne MacDonald

communications specialist, School of Music, Dance and Theatre


ASU student leaves her mark in history and graduates early

December 5, 2017

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for fall 2017 commencement. See more graduates here.

Sarah Harris grew up in Ahwatukee, Arizona, in the shadow of beautiful South Mountain and has always had a passion for history and an interest in religion. So her decision to study both seemed to be the perfect solution. Sarah Harris will graduate this fall with a degree in history. Bachelor of Arts in history graduate Sarah Harris. Download Full Image

“As a child, I excelled in math and science. I came to ASU in middle school for a math decathlon competition but always loved history,” Harris said. “I was raised Jewish, and I went to Temple Emanuel in Tempe, which sparked my curiosity in religion.”

Harris will be graduating with her Bachelor of Arts in history from the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies with a minor in religious studies. She will be graduating with honors (and a semester early).

Her involvement within the school has allowed her to experience many of the opportunities SHPRS has to offer. During her last semester she particpated in an Undergraduate Research Experience led by Matthew Delmont, professor of history and director of SHPRS. She worked as a research assistant on Delmont’s book project, "To Live Half American: African Americans at Home and Abroad During World War II" and also completed an internship before joining the project.

As a historian, it will be my job to truthfully explain and extrapolate on historical moments and themes, and if I misrepresent the history or falsify conclusions, I can misrepresent history and cause harm to our world,” said Harris.

Harris answered a few questions about her ASU education.

Q: Why did you chose to study religion and history?

A: I chose to study history because I felt it was an overlooked subject that ties everything in our world together. When you study history you can understand the past, present, and the future. I wanted to understand why our world was the way it was, and study the causes of the problems that our world faces today. Oftentimes people overlook the differences and the histories of different places, which causes conflict, and I wanted to understand this so I could make a change in our world.

I chose to also study religion because it goes hand in hand with history. Major historical moments are often tied to religion, and studying the differences of religion helped me to understand the differences between cultures and societies and why they interacted with one another in certain ways. Religion is the base of most cultures, whether or not they admit to it, and I felt this was a crucial part of my understanding of history.

Q: What's the most valuable thing you've learned at ASU?

A: I would argue that the most valuable thing I have learned at ASU is how to successfully communicate and research. I am not arguing that I will write something that will one day change how we understand history, but I believe that every historically researched text does change the way we view history. My professors have taught me how to successfully evaluate sources, formulate thoughts and opinions, and research concepts and ideas that can help make me a successful writer and historian.

Q: What's been your biggest accomplishment at ASU?

A: So far, my biggest physical accomplishment has been my capstone paper. I had an outstanding professor that allowed me to write my research essay on a topic that I felt passionate about, and the outcome was outstanding. I have written numerous essays at ASU that I have felt proud of, but this one in particular allowed me the freedom to write entirely about what interested me, and challenged me to write a research paper on my own.

Q: What's the best piece of advice you can give to those still in school?

A: I would say that the most important concept to understand is that you need to find something that you are passionate about. There are many subjects that I am passionate about, but it took me many years, courses, and meetings with professors to figure out what that is. History is a field where you can specialize in very specific history or historical moments, so find your "thing" and stick with it. Also, history is a subject where connections are very important, so attend conferences or talk to your professors about what you are interested in, because they know the field better than you do, so listen to their advice and what they have to say. Finding a friend is also helpful. I met my best friend at freshman orientation, we realized we had the same historical interests, and we took some of our history courses together. Having someone to talk through history texts and concepts wiith is immeasurably helpful.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: Since I'm graduating early, I will spend the spring semester traveling. In fall of 2018, I plan to go to graduate school to study peace, justice, and conflict resolution, so I can study equality in America. After this, I hope to gain a position where I can do research to impact the lives of Americans, especially African Americans, and create change. Depending on where I am in two years, I might apply for a PhD program.

Rachel Bunning

Communications program coordinator, School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies