Yoga & Wellness Advocate
A regular visitor to Tokyo, New York City- based yoga instructor and interculturalist Judit Torok shares her techniques for alleviating big city stress.
Warrior for Confidence
Body language and non-verbal communication have a profound effect on not just how others perceive us, but on how we feel about ourselves.
I N a TED talk (a platform for discussing technology, entertainment and design), titled “Body Language Shapes Who You Are,” Amy Cuddy, a Harvard Business School associate professor and social psychologist, describes her research on the effects of physical poses for regulating our emotions. She claims that a person’s level of confidence, self-esteem and determination, all of which are closely linked with higher levels of testosterone (competition hormone) and lower levels of cortisol (stress hormone), depends on what body shape or posture a person habitually holds. The way we shape our bodies communicates non-verbally to others and, more importantly to ourselves, how we feel. Cuddy explains that holding a pose for as little as two minutes can radically change our self-perception and lead to significant life outcomes. So to feel more empowered, we should shape our body into a pose that promotes confidence. While it might be “pretend” at first, the more often we shape our bodies into powerful poses the more likely we will become confident people over time.
These ideas seem very powerful, but how do they relate to yoga?
This research means that in important ways we are in control of who we are, who we become and how others perceive us. We can manage all of this simply by holding powerful poses with our bodies. Cuddy’s research recommends that reaching the arms and elbows up and out while lifting the chin up high is a “power pose” that projects pride. Standing with the legs apart with the ribcage and spine lifted shows competence and trustworthiness. Hands on the hips and the body weight equally distributed between the two feet projects steadiness and poise.
In yoga we regularly practice a number of such ”power” poses, or asanas. Here are two of them: Warrior I Pose (Virabhadrasana I) is named after a famous dialogue between two warriors – Krishna and Arjuna – in the ancient text of Bhagavad Gita. This pose represents a spiritual warrior who is able to face life challenges as much as face their own shortcomings. Holding this pose for a few minutes will provide many physiological benefits, such as opening the chest and strengthening the shoulders, thighs and the back. But more importantly, it will increase your sense of power, strength and balance that are marks of a trustworthy leader in any field.
Warrior II Pose (Virabhadrasana II) is another variation on the warrior series, named after a fierce warrior, an incarnation of Shiva. The therapeutic benefits include relieved backache, stimulated abdominal organs and increased stamina. Holding this pose for a couple minutes can help you find your internal center of body and mind to become more focused, determined and ready for action.
Practicing Warrior poses might not be easy at first. It takes time and effort to master the complex internal and external tensions that these yoga poses promote. However, when we power-pose with Warrior, we train our bodies to change our minds, and our minds will affect our behaviors and will ultimately lead to positive outcomes. A powerful Warrior pose truly has a potential to change our lives in meaningful ways.
Try to practice Warrior poses before embarking on a new project, going on a job interview or leaving on an important business trip. Or, hold them for two minutes while taking deep breaths before a critical business meeting or a major presentation. “Fake it, until you become it.” That’s what Cuddy recommends. Then you’ll be ready to take on any challenge that comes your way with strength and a steady mind. tj