Did you know that in 1973 a man named Nikolaas Tinbergen won the Nobel Prize for studying behavioural patterns in animals. He explained how posture affects all the systems in our body, not just on joints, muscles, ligaments and nerves, but on the immune, respiratory and endocrine systems too. All can reflect and be linked to changes in physical posture.
A simple example is when someone is depressed, the chest tends to collapse, which can affect the depth and quality of breathing, making the respiratory system less efficient. ‘Postural language contains a wealth of psychological information,’ says Mukunda Stiles in his book, Structural Yoga Therapy.
Here are simple ways you can use your body language as a tool for self-discovery
- Develop mindful awareness – observe and scan the body in a neutral way, without criticism of judgement. Notice the obvious such as position of shoulders, head and arms and then move towards the more subtle, such any imbalances or areas of heaviness or tension. Do this without reacting or forming any opinion and without external distractions, therefore developing mindful awareness and the capacity to be present with your body.
- Learn to self-study – through the continuous process of reading your body’s cues you can get to know what your body’s signals and messages are trying to say. Is your tension the cause of stressors in your life or tension as a result of working to get stronger? Being more sensitive to warning signs can help you spot mental and physical health issues early enough to divert your course and do something about them.
- Incorporate a regular physical practice – through a regular yoga practice or other mindful movement activity you can get to know your body and self better. Improving sensitivity to the physical can open up sensitivity to the non-physical and areas of yourself that have been less obvious. This can in turn improve your sense of self.
Becoming more aware of postural cues, physical imbalances and warning signs from the body can help bring about changes you need. In a future post I’ll share a step by step guide to how to do a conscious body reading.