I’m sure you’ve heard of the saying “fake it till you make it”? I used to hate hearing this, one of my core values both personally and in business is AUTHENTICITY… so how can faking it align with that?!
Well, it turns out there really is something to it, especially when it comes to POSTURE and BREATH.
It works like this:
Whatever our body state is, it effects our emotions and our mind.
Whatever our emotional state is, it effects our body and our mind.
Whatever our mind state, it effects our body and our emotions.
Whether we’re aware of it or not,
whether we notice it or not,
there’s an inextricable connection within and throughout ourselves!
If our posture is poor (eg. shoulders drooping forward, upper back overly rounded) we are giving ourselves the message that we are cowering, that we are in need of protection. So emotionally we might start to feel down or stressed or anxious. BUT if we allow our shoulders to drop back and down, opening up around our chest, lengthening through our spine, slightly lifting the chin, we are giving ourselves the message that we are feeling confident, alert and open-hearted.
It works with our breath too! When our breath is shallow and high in our body… when our inhales are emphasised more than our exhales, we’re giving our body the message that we are in distress or at least on high alert. Whereas when we gently encourage our breath to make its way deep into our belly, and when we focus on our exhales, we become calmer and more relaxed.
Interestingly, this works in every direction. For example, if you are having negative thoughts, feeling worried, feeling down, your body will likely respond by starting to curl forward. If we are feeling anxious, our breath will become shallower and remain high in our chest.
“Postural changes affect thoughts, emotions, and energy levels, and conversely, energy levels, emotions, and thoughts affect posture”.
Erik Peper, I-Mei Lin and Richard Harvey. (2017) Posture and Mood: Implications and Applications to Therapy. Biofeedback 45:2, 42-48.
Our breath has a powerful effect on our overall health. But when our posture is slumped, and our chest “closed” we can’t breathe as effectively as we would with a long spine and open chest.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell which came first, the posture, the mood, the negative thoughts or the energy levels! For example, a senior school student spending a considerable time at a desk with a hunched posture, feeling a little sore with a stiff neck, aching shoulders and back, feeling anxious, stressed and overwhelmed.
So here’s where the faking it hack comes in…
It doesn’t matter what came first (well sort of, but not in order to first help yourself)
The main takeaway is that YOU have A LOT of control over how YOU ultimately feel, and it can be as simple as working on your posture. For example, if you have a presentation to make in front of a class or other group of people, and you find yourself feeling awfully anxious and lacking confidence then try standing tall, lengthening through your spine, gently encouraging your shoulders away from your ears, bring awareness to your feet and their connection with the ground to show yourself you’re steady and stable. Take some long, slow breaths to show yourself you are calm.
Here’s where I might sound a bit weird, and I promise I didn’t make this bit up (trouble is I can’t remember who wrote about it so can’t credit them, so if you know, let me know, so that I can!)… anyway, stick with me! Notice your thoughts, but override any negativity by giving those thoughts a name (like a real name such as Alice, Mike or whatever you like!) and then use that name to tell those thoughts thank you for their concern but they’re unnecessary right now because YOU are in charge and YOU have got this! Weird hey?! Give it a try though before you knock it… I’d love to hear how you go!
Whether or not the feelings of anxiety, stress and overwhelm are caused by posture, they can definitely be alleviated by improving posture. It’s not always important to know the cause. Sometimes, it’s ok to just work on alleviating unwanted symptoms.
By practicing a few gentle yoga postures and taking some time to practice a relevant yoga breathing exercise, you can change your emotional state. To an extent, you CAN choose how to feel by manipulating your posture and your breath!
What’s more, over time, a regular yoga practice will strengthen your core muscles, lengthen muscles that typically get tight (watch out for a future blog on the PSOAS muscle!) and allow your body to naturally keep a better posture.