Posture: Chicken or the Egg

There is a direct correlation between emotions and the quality of posture. When someone is feeling depressed, they hold a much different posture than a person who is completely elated. But which came first, the posture or the emotion? Could changing one cause a change in the other? It turns out that it is hard to separate the two. Try this silly little demonstration to get a better understanding.

Stand with your feet hip width apart. Begin to feel the heaviness of your arms and shoulders as they begin to slump forward and down. Feel how your head begins to draw forward and your spine begins to collapse. Allow you knees to bend and experience the weight of your body in your legs. Now say out loud, “I feel really happy!”

Did you let out a little giggle? Pretty hard to convince yourself that you feel happy? Feeling just the opposite while holding your posture in that position?
Posture AlignmentNow try standing tall with your shoulders drawn back and arms by your side. Feel your chest lift as the top of your head lifts toward the ceiling. Take a deep breath and say, “I feel really sad.” How convincing is that?

A change in posture is an unconscious reaction to some type of physiological, hormonal, or emotional experience. A physical injury, such as a sprained ankle, will cause a person to shift weight away from the injury and reform their posture to reduce the pain response. A reduction in serotonin will have a direct effect on a how a person feels and supports their weight. And, as you might have just experienced, emotions can have a tremendous impact on how balanced you are.

We already know that improving a person’s posture can reduce pain and compensations, but could it also have a positive effect on their hormonal balance and emotional wellbeing? What if improving your feeling of wellbeing was as simple as breathing? Crazier things have happened! Let’s do one more experiment.

First, as you stand comfortably, check in with how you feel. What is your emotional state? How does your body feel? Are there areas of tension? Next, place one hand against the center of your chest and one hand on your tummy. Feel how you breathe. Do you breathe more from the chest or more from the tummy? Continue to keep your hands in place. As you inhale, try to breathe into the tummy only. Can you keep the chest still as you fill your tummy? Take six deep inhalations through your nostrils and breathe out twice as long through your mouth. Now just walk around and see how you feel.

Stand as you did when you began this experiment and check in with how you feel now. Did anything change? What’s different? What’s the same? By breathing in to the mid-section you are more likely to turn on your “core” muscles which help maintain proper posture. Just a simple thing like breathing could help improve posture and have a tremendous effect on how you hold yourself and how you feel.

Obviously, this is not the answer to all of life’s problems but when you catch yourself in a less than desirable mood, take a moment to check in with your posture and maybe take a few deep breaths. Who knows, maybe things will appear just a bit better?

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