Your Posture Matters
Yoga master B.K.S. Iyengar in his book Light on Life wrote, “It is through the alignment of the body that I discovered the alignment of my mind, self, and intelligence.” He emphasizes using posture to understand and transform yourself. No matter how poor your posture is, you can make it better. The benefits of doing so extend beyond your physical body.
Harvard faculty researcher Amy Cuddy describes these benefits in her TED talk Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are. She compared the hormonal effects of two minutes of adopting a good posture (high-power pose) and a poor posture (low-power pose):
Risk tolerance, which is the gambling, we find that when you are in the high-power pose condition, 86 percent of you will gamble. When you’re in the low-power pose condition, only 60 percent, and that’s a whopping significant difference. Here’s what we find on testosterone. From their baseline when they come in, high-power people experience about a 20-percent increase, and low-power people experience about a 10-percent decrease. So again, two minutes, and you get these changes. Here’s what you get on cortisol. High-power people experience about a 25-percent decrease, and the low-power people experience about a 15-percent increase. So two minutes lead to these hormonal changes that configure your brain to basically be either assertive, confident and comfortable, or really stress-reactive, and feeling sort of shut down. And we’ve all had the feeling, right? So it seems that our nonverbals do govern how we think and feel about ourselves, so it’s not just others, but it’s also ourselves. Also, our bodies change our minds.
Does her conclusion sound familiar? It’s very similar to what Iyengar had to say about posture. Social psychology is lending support to the ancient ideas from the Yogic tradition.
It’s important to notice that both Iyengar and Amy Cuddy describe a process by which physical change causes mental and emotional change. This means it’s time to start practicing good posture as a means to an end, not only as an end in itself. You can experience a much happier, more balanced, and relaxed lifestyle when you focus on maintaining good posture.
Stand with your back to a wall with feet shoulder-width apart. Breathe deeply and slowly while you extend your head directly upwards. Gently pull your head and shoulders directly back toward the wall, tense your abs, and bend your knees slightly. Be as tall as possible and maintain this position in a relaxed state for 3-5 minutes. You can easily fit this practice into your daily routine. The benefits will be immediate and lasting.