The Body-Mind Connection

Recently I watched a TED talk by Amy Cuddy titled Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are. It is well known that our body language conveys as much or more than our words do. In this talk, Cuddy said that our “non-verbals” also dictate how we think and feel about ourselves. In her study, participants assumed ‘high power poses’ or ‘low power poses’ for just two minutes before being evaluated in a few ways. Two minutes was sufficient to create a noticeable change in interview outcomes and measured hormone levels (high testosterone, low cortisol). Those who assumed ‘high power poses’ were found to have more presence: more enthusiasm, greater confidence, higher risk-taking ability, etc. than the other group, as evaluated by a panel who was blind to the hypothesis and to the conditions.

I summarized her talk into the following two points:

  1. Our bodies change our minds, our minds change our habits, and habits change outcomes.
  2. If you don’t feel powerful, you can fake it till you make it.

So if we do fake it, and we ace the job interview, or the negotiation, or the social situation… then what? Do we feel like a bit of a fake, like we weren’t supposed to be there? To answer that question, Cuddy tells an absolutely moving and heart-warming story that has only a slim connection with the topic of high power poses or hormone levels. Watch the video embedded below to hear the story; it nets her a standing ovation at TED.

The notion that the body has an effect on the mind isn’t new. I’m sure there’s plenty of research linking physical exercise to mental well-being. There’s also the ancient science of yoga that links specific postures to specific effects on the mind. BKS Iyengar, in his epic book titled Yoga: The Path to Holistic Health, has a whole section on Yoga for Stress, where he lists out specific benefits for the mind from each posture. And of course from my own practice of the Art of Living, it is abundantly clear to me that the breath is the link between the body and the mind; breathing in specific rhythms harmonizes the rhythms of the mind very effectively.

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