A blog post by Dr. Travis Stewart, Chiropractor and owner of MŪV Chiropractic and Yoga in Boulder, CO.
Posture & Spine Health for Stress Reduction
Proper posture and spine position can decrease stress in the nervous system by activating the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), which is responsible for the body's "rest and digest" response. This is in contrast to the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), which is responsible for the body's "fight or flight" response.
When we adopt a relaxed and upright posture, such as sitting or standing with our shoulders back and our chest open, we send signals to the brain that indicates that we are safe and in a non-threatening environment. This activates the PNS, which slows down heart rate and breathing, reduces muscle tension, and promotes a sense of calm and relaxation.
On the other hand, when we adopt a slouched or closed posture, such as hunching over a desk or crossing our arms, we send signals to the brain that indicate that we are in a threatening or stressful environment. This activates the SNS, which increases heart rate and breathing, raises blood pressure, and causes muscle tension and feelings of anxiety and stress.
Overall, posture and body position can have a significant impact on our nervous system and our stress levels. By adopting a relaxed and upright posture, we can activate the PNS and promote feelings
of calm and relaxation, while adopting a slouched or closed posture can activate the SNS and increase feelings of stress and anxiety. This is why the shape of our spine is so important. You see, our posture is most often determined by the structure of our spine. If the structure of our spine has been well maintained through proper motion, positioning, and alignment then our posture reflects that and can be held in the open and relaxed state mentioned above. On the other hand, if the structure of our spine has not been maintained then the slouched forward, stress-inducing postures become our new resting position. This lack of structural integrity not only causes damage to our spine, joints, and muscle tissues it also perpetuates the state of chronic stress that contributes to symptoms of anxiety, depression, and general feelings of overwhelm.
A quick story about Amy Cuddy, a Harvard professor that gave one of the most famous TED Talks of all time: linked here -->
Amy Cuddy is a social psychologist and author who is best known for her research on the effects of body language and posture on human behavior and well-being. She gained widespread attention for her 2012 TED Talk, "Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are," which has been viewed more than 60 million times and is one of the most popular TED Talks ever.
Cuddy's research has focused on the ways in which body language can influence hormone levels, feelings of confidence and power, and overall well-being. She has found that adopting "power poses" - confident, expansive postures that take up space - can lead to an increase in testosterone levels and a decrease in cortisol levels, which are associated with stress. She has also explored the ways in which nonverbal cues, such as eye contact and facial expressions, can impact interpersonal interactions and relationships.
Testosterone is a hormone that is associated with dominance, assertiveness, and confidence, while cortisol is a hormone that is associated with stress. By adopting a power pose, such as standing with your feet apart and your hands on your hips, Cuddy found that individuals experienced an increase in testosterone levels and a decrease in cortisol levels.
Cuddy's research suggests that adopting a confident and assertive posture can not only make us feel more powerful but can also lead to changes in our hormone levels that may promote better overall health and well-being. In particular, her work has shown that adopting a power pose can help to reduce stress levels and increase feelings of confidence and self-esteem.
In addition to her research, Cuddy is an author and speaker who has written about the importance of self-empowerment and confidence. Her book, "Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges," explores the ways in which body language and mindset can impact success and fulfillment in both personal and professional settings.
Here’s to improving your posture, increasing confidence, and boosting your overall well-being.
To health and happiness,
Move well. Live well. Be well.