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Posture: More Than Meets The Eye

We all know posture is important and is a reflection of someone’s self-confidence and mood. We are constantly told that the way we hold ourselves is related to how people judge us and poor posture can lead to injuries and suboptimal performance. It is accepted your mood can be reflected in your posture. If you are anxious or shy you are more likely and make yourself seem small and avoid eye contact and we can all picture the confident types who storm into the room commanding everyone’s attention. There is a lot more to posture then meets the eye.

More recently, it has been discovered that not only can your mood and physiology affect posture but the relationship also works the other way. Try this: hold a pencil length ways between your teeth for 30 seconds. Feel better? Happier? You should. Holding a pencil in your mouth like this forces you to engage the same muscles you use to smile and will result in elevation in your mood. When we are happy we smile and it would seem when we make ourselves smile we become happy.

Research has taken this one step further. Often we are told about hormone levels and imbalances. Two of the big players are testosterone which is involved in confidence, and cortisol which is often used as a marker of stress. It has been shown that standing (or sitting) in a dominant posture (think about standing with your hands on your hips like wonder women or sitting leaning back in your chair with your hand behind your head) for as little as two minutes can increase your testosterone levels and reduce cortisol levels1 . Even more, researchers have suggested that holding these postures prior to a stressful event may also even prepare the psychological and physiological systems for the stress to come and improve confidence.

Yes posture is important for your healthy joints and better movement but it has far wider reaching affects from your mood and confidence levels right down to a cellular and hormone levels in your blood. Your mood and physiology affect your posture and your posture can affect your mood and physiology.

Homework: Next time you are going into a stressful event like a meeting or speaking in front of a group of people, go into the bathroom and stand like wonder women for 2 minutes. Not only will it lower your stress hormones but it will increase your confidence. Oh, and most importantly; research has also shown that other people will notice the difference2!

1. Carney, Dana R., Amy J.C. Cuddy, and Andy J. Yap. “Power Posing: Brief Nonverbal Displays Affect Neuroendocrine Levels and Risk Tolerance.” Psychological Science 21, no. 10 (October 2010): 1363–1368.

2. Cuddy, Amy J.C., Caroline A. Wilmuth, and Dana R. Carney. “Preparatory Power Posing Affects Performance and Outcomes in Social Evaluations.” Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 13–027, September 2012. (Revised November 2012.)

Simon is an Australian trained physiotherapist with a Bachelor of Applied Science and Masters in Physiotherapy. He has worked with Olympic and elite athletes from a variety of sports and currently consults to various Westend shows. He has presented at conferences in Australia, India and the United Kingdom and is available for appointments at KX on Tuesday and Thursday mornings and Sunday afternoons.


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