I’ve known for a while how my thoughts can affect my feelings, and how my feelings affect my body. Anxious thoughts equal anxious feelings equal tight muscles and exhaustion. Everything is connected.
But what’s new to me is that I can change the order of those events.
I can “strike a pose” (physical) and it will change my feelings (emotional) and then change my thoughts. How cool is that? It’s like finding out you can drive in reverse! All the way to Chicago! (Or something like that…)
Beginning yoga and an interesting TedTalk has helped me with this insight. The TedTalk I saw was by Amy Cuddy about the benefits of power poses. You can see it here.
At first I took power posing with a grain of salt. But then I had some very enthusiastic religious types on my front lawn one day. We had a spirited, and actually fun, conversation. But the man involved kept inching closer to me. And my first response was to back up. Then I decided to do something else. I moved forward. I made myself bigger by putting my hands on my hips, elbows out. (I have a friend who calls this putting on your “Bitch Wings”). I noticed the conversation flowed much better after that. Well, for me it did.
Making yourself bigger makes you more vulnerable. You are a bigger target. But you don’t look scared…so you must be confident and maybe a little tough…. See how it works!
I have a very meek default. So now when I have an uncomfortable situation ahead of me where I’m going to need to hold my ground (like returning something to a store, or talking to a school counselor) I do a few power poses before I get there. And if things don’t go well, I get bigger. Not louder. Bigger. It’s crazy how it makes you feel brave.
But with yoga, it’s not just about feeling powerful. And so far for me, it’s not at all about feeling powerful. I have been surprised by the results.
My favorite pose is the extended child’s pose. You can see it here.
An interesting thing happens to me when I do this pose. I immediately feel safe, and sheltered, and comforted. I can’t help but picture worshipers in the East and in ancient times. There is a reason people bow down like this to worship. I had thought it was only about submission. Boy, was I wrong.
I’ve noticed something else at the end of the yoga class when we are lying quietly with soft music playing or readings from the instructor. It is suggested by the instructor that we lay with our palms up and open. Do you have any idea how dangerous this feels? Lying on the ground, eyes closed, body relaxed, arms to the side, palms up and open. Some days it’s just too scary for me to do. But most days, I take a breath and open my palms. And then something else happens. I start to feel very very grateful. Gratitude washes over me and my mind is filled with thanksgiving to God. There hasn’t been a yoga class for me yet that hasn’t ended in worship.
The physical body changes the emotions which change the thoughts, which then opens me up to worship.
Driving in reverse. All the way to Chicago…