What Your Body Says About Your Mind
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What Your Body Says About Your Mind

Body language and posture often reveal more than you realize about what is going in inside your mind. What is your body silently telling the world about you?

Body Language

Body language, by definition, is “nonverbal, usually unconscious, communication through the use of postures, gestures, facial expressions, and the like.”1

How you carry yourself, how your body is aligned or positioned, and how you move are all good indicators of your mental and emotional state. Here’s an example:

You see man on the street slowly walking toward you, stooped forward, with head and eyes down toward the ground. He is tall, but clearly has lost an inch or two just by being hunched forward. You get the unspoken message that he clearly doesn’t want to be noticed by others. Even if you said, “Good morning” to him with a bright smile and cheerful tone, he might look at you and give a little grunt of acknowledgement,or maybe nothing at all.

A few minutes later you see another person, this time a woman, walking toward you with her head up, chest forward and open, and space between her ears and shoulders. Confidence just beams from her. You get the feeling that if you said, “Good morning” to her as she passed you by, she would turn with a big smile and give you a loud and sincere “Good morning!” right back.

Get the picture? Your physical alignment and movement are good indicators of how you’re feeling emotionally.

Granted, sometimes people can fake it to make it. People who are clinically depressed can still smile and appear to have it all together, and people who are hunched forward can actually be very happy, energetic and outgoing. Even if it’s not completely obvious, more subtle clues exist in your body and tissues. You can try to hide it, but your body will give it away eventually.

Posture

Your posture can influence how you feel, and how you feel can influence your posture (learn the difference between alignment and posture here).

Posture has numerous definitions, including2:

1. The relative disposition of the parts of something.

2.  The position of the limbs or the carriage of the body as a whole: poor posture; a sitting posture.

3.  An affected or unnatural attitude

4.  A mental or spiritual attitude.

5.  One’s image or policy as perceived by the public, other nations, etc.

6.  Position, condition, or state, as of affairs.

You likely know the second fore-mentioned definition, but take note of definitions 3-6. Posture isn’t just how you sit at your computer, but also your attitude, your image as perceived by others, and your current state (as in health and emotional state).

Take a moment to look at yourself in the mirror, or become aware of how you’re sitting. Look at and feel your posture. Does your body position reflect how you’re feeling right now? What are you conveying to others, and is it in alignment (no pun intended) with how you actually feel?

Are You Living in Fear?

You live in a society that is, generally speaking, living in a fearful state, even if you don’t recognize it.

Most of the Western world lives with their head forward of their shoulders, like a turtle with its head sticking out from its shell. If your head is forward, your body adapts by tilting your head back slightly, as if looking up, in order to keep your eyes relatively level with the horizon. This is all done unconsciously and is exactly the same position as someone who just got frightened or startled.

Below is a photo (found in the book Anatomy Trains by the founder of my Structural Integration school, Thomas Myers [2009]) from the 1930s that shows this exact scenario. In the picture on the left, the gentleman is standing normally. In the picture on the right, this is his posture when a blank round is unknowingly fired from a gun behind him.

Book diagram of the "startle response" which looks a whole lot like today's common head-forward posture
The “startle response” is the same as today’s common head-forward posture.

Doesn’t this posture look the same as so many of us at our computers, and walking around in general? Yep. Even if you aren’t feeling afraid or scared, your body’s position is telling your brain that you are. Do you see a problem with this? Thankfully, there are things that can help get your head back on your shoulders where it belongs so that you no longer look like the gentleman in the photo above.

How Do You Change?

There are certain thing you can do to try to change your posture and body language, but your habits and patterning get ingrained into your body, particularly in your fascia (connective tissue). Certain types of yoga and other self-care techniques can help change your posture, but only to a certain extent. You can’t do it alone. If you could, I would simply teach you how to do it yourself. Outside intervention such as Structural  Integration is extremely effective at helping you achieve significant, lasting change.

The majority of my clients have a forward head posture when they first come to work with me, yet working solely with their neck doesn’t usually change this as effectively as working with their whole body. Real change begins by looking at and addressing your whole body from the ground up so that your body can support your head and neck from below with ease.

Imagine how it would feel to be like our second example in our people watching scenario mentioned earlier: the woman walking down the street, standing and walking tall, shoulders back (without trying), feeling strong and confident your own skin, and able to take on the challenges and excitement that life brings.

This isn’t just a dream. This can be your reality when you choose it and get help to achieve it. Getting your head on and the rest of your body organized might just give you the sure-footedness to move forward with each step and each day, the freedom to breathe easily, the ability to hold your head high, and ultimately become your best Self without chronic tension or pain.

When you’re ready to experience lasting freedom from chronic pain, and feel more ease in your body and life,then I would love to work with you. Contact me today to schedule your session.

Next time you’re out grocery shopping, walking down the street or at a social gathering, start to notice other people’s posture. What are their bodies conveying to you?

Wishing you all the best,

Jennifer Soames, BCSI, Certified Yoga Instructor, Nutritional Consultant, LMT

Santosha Bodywork, Issaquah, WA

  1. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/body-language
  2. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/posture?s=t
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