Power PostureI slouched my 5-foot-8-inch frame into Greg’s office weighing a mere 108 pounds. Power posture? Definitely not. But I had yet to learn about that.

For the previous year I’d been battling an undiagnosable illness that had doctors all over Manhattan scratching their heads: An adverse reaction to an antibiotic had catapulted my body into a complete meltdown. With liver, stomach, and intestinal problems, I bounced between specialists trying to determine how to lower rising liver enzymes, stop rapid weight loss, and cheer up what appeared to be a very unhappy duodenum. The effects of painful symptoms, invasive tests, and doctors’ collective ignorance left me overwhelmed, learning to live as a chronic patient. When my emotional health started a kamikaze dive, I entered therapy.

Power postures work with your mind/body feedback loop to create a grounded and centered internal experience. By making your body feel secure, your mind receives the message, ‘Everything is all right,’ which it translates into stress relief.

Greg’s office overlooked Columbus Circle, a busy intersection near Central Park. The décor was deep maroon and dark blue and felt a little like a cave, which was good: I desperately needed to feel safe and secure. We began our first session with an overview of why I needed help. Then I got specific in explaining how out of control I felt.

“I’m constantly falling apart,” I said as Greg leaned back in an overstuffed chair. “The smallest thing happens and I lose it—anger, tears. I can’t handle the stress. At every doctor appointment, I sink into my chair and go silent and numb and start to shake.”

“What if I said I could teach you something simple that would help you shift out of feeling powerless and into a sensation of feeling powerful?” Greg asked.

“I’d say, ‘Sign me up!’ What do I have to do?”

“Very little. Power postures work with your mind/body feedback loop to create a grounded and centered internal experience. By making your body feel secure, your mind receives the message, ‘Everything is all right,’ which it translates into stress relief. Just holding a power posture for two minutes can reduce cortisol, a major stress hormone.”

At first the critic in me muttered that it was unlikely a posture could change the way I felt. As my body experienced a difference, however, that voice in my head quieted.

Greg coached me through eight simple steps, pausing to allow me to experience each adjustment and settle further into the pose. He was right; there was very little to do and it was really easy. The steps look like this:

  1. Sit on the edge of your seat with only about 1/4 of your thighs supported by the chair.
  2. Place your feet flat on the floor parallel to each other, hip width (about 6 to 8 inches) apart.
  3. Place your palms face down flat on your thighs.
  4. Roll your hips forward so that you are seated on your sitz bone/tailbone.
  5. Allow your spine to extend in straight alignment.
  6. Imagine a string gently pulling your head up toward the ceiling.
  7. Hold your head up perpendicular to the floor so that your eyes look ahead.
  8. Roll your shoulders up beneath your ears. Then roll them back as if your shoulder blades are trying to reach each other. Lastly, roll your shoulders down and back until you feel the muscles in your neck extend and settle. Stay in this pose for two minutes or longer.

At first the critic in me muttered that it was unlikely a posture could change the way I felt. As my body experienced a difference, however, that voice in my head quieted. By the time the two minutes were up, the voice had retreated and what filled the space left behind was a faint hum of well-being, which got my attention.

More than a decade has passed. It turns out the medical problems were caused by psychological issues. Once I repaired my mind, my body followed; all my symptoms evaporated.

I began practicing the posture at home just to get comfortable. Then I started employing it during every doctor appointment. The feeling of my feet solidly on the floor, my chest thrust outward as I rolled onto my sitz bones, and my shoulders coming down from my ears eased me into a place in my head where I could take deep breaths, organize my thoughts, and engage in an intelligent medical conversation.

More than a decade has passed. It turns out the medical problems were caused by psychological issues. Once I repaired my mind, my body followed; all my symptoms evaporated. Today I use the power posture as an exercise to remind myself to be present, maintain inner connection, and remember that the ability to shift from powerless to powerful resides in my own body and mind.

Read about Michele Rosenthal.

Explore More

2 Comments

  • Alex Constantopoulos
    Posted August 23, 2013 2:53 pm 0Likes

    Thank you for sharing this, Michele…I find myself in somewhat the same predicament and will use this exercise immediately!

  • Michele Rosenthal
    Posted September 5, 2013 2:05 pm 0Likes

    @Alex — I’m so glad the idea resonated with you. I continue to use the posture today whenever I need a boost of physical power or emotional confidence. Let me know how it works for you!

Leave a comment

Social

Subscribe to Our Newsletter