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Posture and Power Posing

Have you seen the TED talk by Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist and associate professor at Harvard Business School, on posture and body language? There is a good chance you have - the video has over 22 million views. If not, it’s well worth it. You can view it at the TED website here. Also, see a write up about her in the New York Times here.

To quote; “Our bodies change our minds… and our minds change our behavior… and our behavior changes our outcomes.”

Part of the video talks about a scientific study relating to posture. Taking a “high power” pose resulted in participants feeling more confident in stressful situations, which in turn resulted in positive outcomes. Conversely, when the participants took a “low power” pose, the results were the opposite. In “high power” poses, you make yourself big and take up space. Cuddy suggests standing with hands on hips, or with outstretched arms. “Low power” poses involve making yourself small, such as slumping your shoulders or touching your face and neck.

We think of this video when teaching yoga to our corporate clients. So often throughout the day we are slumped over our computers, looking down at our phones, or sitting at a desk with crossed legs. Try practicing a few “power poses” for a few minutes before a big meeting, interview or other stressful situation at work.

Warrior II is a great open power pose. The chest is stretched, the hips are wide, arms and legs are long and active. As you inhale, lengthen through the limbs and up through the crown of the head. As you exhale, let go of any anxiety, stress or negativity that you have been holding inside. Hold the pose for a minute or two on each side. Take note of how you feel before and after the pose.

If you’re sitting in your chair, you could do Gomukhasana arms. Lift one arm up then bend at the elbow, use your other hand to help push the tricep behind the head. Then clasp hands behind your back (you could also use a strap or grab onto your shirt with each hand). Broaden the chest, lift up through the breastbone, lean the head back slightly into the tricep. Try pulling elbows away from the body. Release gently and do the other side.

Or, choose a pose that works for you, broaden the chest, feel tall and strong, make yourself take up as much space as possible. Note how you feel before and after.

We love the idea of using yoga to help us feel stronger and more confident in our lives off the yoga mat. We think the real benefits of yoga occur in the mind. Afterall: yogas chitta vritti nirodhah. For those of us who don’t know sanskrit, it translates to “yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.” This is Yoga Sutra 1.2. If you have been practicing yoga for a while, you may have noticed this effect already.

Feel free to leave a comment sharing your favorite “power pose” and any results you have noticed.

Happy posing, yogis!

A version of this article first appeared on

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