Did you know that your posture has a powerful effect on your mood, hormone levels, and self-confidence? On top of that, your posture is a factor in other people’s response to you even on a subconscious level. If you look like you know what you are doing- like you are confident in what you are doing- others will believe that you do. Wow. When your mother told you sit up straight for all of those years, she was on to something big.
In individual yoga therapy we may select specific postures specifically to manipulate the response of the nervous system and to directly impact the internal experience. We often recognize that posture reflects mood. For example, the posture of depression can look something like walking around in the fetal position. However, it is helpful to know that posture can also shift mood. The area of research known as Embodied Cognition looks at the relationship between mind and body. This area of study has uncovered the proof that we can change our mood and our biochemical makeup by changing the outward presentation of the body like posture and facial expression. And the good news is that it works even if we are creating a posture that only represents how we wish we felt.
When we experience challenges in our lives, long-term levels of high stress, a traumatic event, or a loss, the nervous system is impacted in a powerful way. This then stimulates ancient survival responses in the brain which give us subconscious feedback on our probability of being a “winner” in our lives in the future. In other words, the brain begins to interpret our ability to bounce back and overcome what we have experienced now and in the future.
When the brain interprets the “loss”, or difficulty, as a blow so big that we may not recover, it lowers the levels of serotonin produced. Our walking around in the fetal position also tells the brain to support the posture of not being able to overcome the challenge and this also produces a reduction in serotonin. When we interpret ourselves as unable to cope or as a victim to the circumstances in our lives, our posture reinforces and supports this opinion. Furthermore, the people that we come into contact with read our body languange and can respond to us in a way that matches our presentation. (When someone is suffering from depression, they may very well be experiencing low levels of serotonin. Thus the frequent prescription for an SSRI- Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor to help increase the levels of serotonin in the blood stream.)
When we are excited or feeling ‘pumped up’ about something, our posture is tall, proud, and open-hearted. Then, our brain interprets that things are going well and produces the hormones to support that posture- creating a cyclical effect internally. Our brains are constantly working toward homeostasis and consistency, so when the posture reflects something other than the internal experience, the brain shifts to support that posture assuming that it has missed something or fallen a few steps behind.
So, this week, take a few moments every day and stand up for yourself. Practice tall posture, open your heart, lift your chin, and smile. Start your day with 8-10 breaths in a superhero posture with hands on hips, chest lifted proudly, and gaze out just above the horizon. See what happens with how your day flows. All of these shifts in your external presentation will force shifts in your internal landscape to match them.
I will be practicing right along with you.
Chat again soon,