The Happiness Posture

Have you ever noticed that happy people have good posture? No adjustment needed. The emotion of happiness seems to automatically lift the heart, align the spine, and soften the tense spots located throughout the body. Isn’t that fascinating? My movement prescription could easily be summed up in two words: Get happy.

But in all seriousness, the mind-to-body connection cannot be denied. Our feelings really do show up in our physical bodies and feelings that have been lingering for a while, really settle in. The common ones I see are

  • Worry puts the head in front of the shoulders
  • Grief sinks the chest and collapses the shoulders forward
  • Boredom "pouches" the belly
  • Anxiety shrugs the shoulders
  • Fear tightens all over, and constricts the breath.

What's this got to do with well-being? Two things: First, your thoughts and feelings really do rule your physical body. This is precisely why I teach meditation and affirmations along with movement—because how you feel and what you think are inseparable from how you move. Second, the mind-to-body is also body-to-mind. (It’s two-way traffic, as I like to say!) You can lift and soften in body, and watch your thoughts and emotions lift and soften. The body follows the thoughts and feelings, but the thoughts and feelings can actually follow the body, too. 

So, the next time you stand in Mountain Pose—with your feet firmly planted and your ears stacked over your shoulders, shoulders stacked over the hips—place your hands in prayer at your heart and lightly lift up your sternum to meet your thumb knuckles. Pause to notice how you feel. You may feel a little happier. Mountain Pose isn’t just standing tall. It’s the happiness posture.

Find out about programs with Ellen Barrett at Kripalu.

Ellen Barrett is a Kripalu Yoga teacher who has been teaching group exercise since 1989 and whose mission is to get more people move for whole-person health.

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