The power is in the pose

Written by Eileen Hopkins

My road to counselling and psychotherapy has been interesting. Having worked in a caring profession, nursing for over 30 years, I was always at my happiest when interacting with my patients & I have always been a people person.

In 2013 I completed my first 10km run, however at the 8th Km mark I wanted to lie down and die! My legs felt like they were about to fall off, and I wasn’t sure how I was going to make it through the final 2km. Then it came to me, adopt a power pose so I put both arms in the air in a victory pose and sailed across the finish line second last, but I did it.
Adopting my victory pose that day wasn’t totally insane, I promise! I had just read Amy Cuddy’s book; ‘Presence’, where she talks about the art of power posing. Cuddy’s message is simple:
Power posing for 2 minutes will boost your mood and increase your confidence in stressful situations.
Was I convinced? Well, I had doubts and wondered was it just a placebo effect. So, I decided to explore a little further.
In this article, I am going to take you on my journey of experiences with power posing. I will start by describing some high and low power poses, I will then share some of my own experiences of power posing and finally, I will highlight three benefits.


But what exactly are high and low power poses?


Let me explain:
High power poses
In a high-power pose, the body takes up a significant amount of space exuding confidence, action and power.
Two examples are:
Wonder Woman/Man Pose:
Place hands powerfully on hips, spread legs wide, shift pose to make yourself feel bigger.
The Haka
For those among you who follow rugby, have you ever noticed ‘The All Blacks’ before every match, they perform the ‘Haka’, a traditional Maori war dance? The ‘Haka’ is a fierce display of pride, strength and unity.
Tony Robbins, American motivational speaker gets himself in the zone for about 10 minutes prior to going on stage by jumping up and down on his trampoline and he states that the quickest way to change your emotional state is to change your body language.


Low Power Poses


Whereas in a low power pose the limbs are constricted and clenched. This causes you to you feel less confident. What do you do when you feel insecure? For many people, they tend to tumble in themselves, slumping shoulders forward, hands in their pockets, crossing arms over chest. Essentially, this is about making ourselves smaller, aren’t we?

Moving now to look at some of my experiences with power posing, I have already mentioned my victory pose during my 10km run, I am going to tell you about another of the many times that I have used it. Prior to participating in the speech final contest at Toastmasters International in Norwich, UK, I spent a couple of minutes in the bathroom in front of the mirror assuming a power pose & saying the following to myself repeatedly: “I am so excited.” This really enhanced my confidence and my performance on the day. Was I excited I hear you ask? I was terrified; however, do you know that our bodily responses to fear and excitement are quite similar. Does this mean that you should start your next talk, presentation or meeting with your hands held high in a victory pose telling yourself you are excited?
Not so fast!
Cuddy says this tactic is to be used privately before you begin speaking, presenting, or meeting.
In the third and final part of this article, I will list three of the main benefits of power posing.

1. Positive power posing increases your confidence. Cuddy attributes this to a resultant change that occurs in your body chemistry.
2. Preparatory power posing for two minutes prior to an interview or speech has been shown to improve performance during the actual interview. High power posers were found to be more likely to be chosen for hire.
3.Using positive body posing results in an endorphin release. Endorphins are our ‘feel-good’ hormone, and they reduce anxiety.

In conclusion, I started by describing some high and low power poses, I then shared some of my own experiences of power posing and finally, I listed three of the many benefits.
All you need is your body, positive language, some privacy and two minutes and it can significantly alter the outcome of your performance.
I will leave you with some words of wisdom from Maya Angelou:
‘Stand up straight and realize who you are, that you tower over your circumstances.’

Next up for me, the Dublin Marathon!

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