Ever wanted to own your body and your space more but haven’t figured out how? Maybe you should have listened to your Mother’s postural advice that she was dishing out when you were a youngster. “Stand up straight” and “shoulders back” ring a bell? Well it turns out that your Mum was doing more than ensuring you don’t become the hunch back of Notre Dame, she was subconsciously developing strong posture patterns which can be really useful in your performance in the boardroom, on the sports field or in a job interview. How you sit and stand matters.
Increasing performance through posture
When we stand in strong postures we trigger a release of testosterone which in turns makes us essentially feel strong, confident and essentially ready for battle. Turns out there is a reason for the military standing at attention concept! Research has shown that when we have a surge in testosterone physically and mentally we are able to perform at a higher level. Potentially in competition the effects of strong posture may be two-fold, positive for you and intimidating for the opposition.
We all know of someone with less than optimal posture. Rounded shoulders, hunched back and your head titled down are postural patterns to avoid. We want to stand tall, open shoulders and looking ahead to create influence, confidence and respect.
Power postures – Amy Cuddy
If you haven’t watched Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk then it’s a must in terms of power poses. Cuddy highlights how posture can change the way you think about yourself and others think about you in the presence you have through your posture. She demonstrates power postures (for example, two hands in the air with straight arms like victorious runner crossing the finish line) and the influence they can have on your self esteem based on research she has done on posture. It’s well worth the watch.
I’ve been a fan of Cuddy’s power postures for a while now. In fact I would use them in competition to help me get an extra hit of testosterone before I would walk out to the field of play. I would often use my last nervous one to as an opportunity to do a power pose in the women’s toilets. Whether it was superwomen or the two hands in the air, I tell you what I walked out of the toilet with another coat of amour around me. Posture has the power to show strength with your body in times of vulnerability.
Physiological postural benefits
As a physio, there are obvious benefits to me from a musculoskeletal perspective around having great postural mechanics. If you have ever done a ‘slump’ stretch as a neural tension test you will be aware that slumping the upper back acutely tightens in particular the sciatic nerve which can have tension and injury implications down the line. In my experience you very rarely see elite athletes with poor posture and those that do tend to be injured and not around for long.
To summarise, I think we can use the positive effects of good posture for performance, health and confidence as well as the obvious benefits in terms of the way you present yourself to others and to allow yourself to be the powerful person you are. In the words of a well known restaurant chain ‘be staunch walk tall’!