I love the first autumn classes of the year, as they are still infused with a sense of the holidays. It's a lovely atmosphere: the studio is warm from the natural sunlight pouring through the skylights, the windows are open and the farm animals in the field behind often serenade us!
Today we had a wonderful session centered around the theme of confidence and lifting your breast bone (sternum, the bone at the front of your rib cage, connecting both sides). If you'd like to try it, place a fingertip on the top or near the top of your sternum, feel a little light pressure where your finger is. Meanwhile place your other hand to the side of your waist, that is between the bottom of your rib cage and the top of your pelvis. Focusing on the spot under your finger lift your sternum. You will feel your ribcage lengthen away from your pelvis, your shoulder blades softly drop a little and ease apart and your head will feel as if it has been centered and placed on the top of your spinal column.
Have you ever felt under pressure or intensely purposeful, or watched someone with those traits? When this happens it's almost like your body follows your head. The head is forward and may even be tipped forward with the chin close to your chest, so your sternum sinks slightly, the body can give the impression of scuttling behind to keep up!
The social psychologist Amy Cuddy used five poses – all essentially lifting the sternum - to test her research hypothesis that 'opening' your breast bone can increase confidence. Her team's research concluded that these poses did increase confidence. She also concluded that the opposite movements - allowing the sternum to sink back and the head to drop slightly forward - induced a feeling of powerlessness and a lack of confidence. Lifting the sternum enables you to easily project a poised, enthusiastic confidence. This self-assured enthusiasm is an impressively useful predictor of success according to Ref Lakshmi's research. Fearfully holding back activates the sympathetic nervous system, your fight or flight mechanism, or stress response. It indicates that you are not willing to be fully present in the moment, and people can tell.
We all respond to non-verbal communication all the time so when your sternum is lifted and you are present, that is attentive to what is happening around you, people respond. When the sternum is lifted and the head is sitting on top of your spinal column you inadvertently become compelling. To begin with you may find it a little odd, your body may not be used to this position, it will become more natural with repetition, little incremental changes. What we now know though is that you can self-induce presence by allowing the body to lead the mind.
It's liberating, I have changed so much from the subtle physical changes you've helped me make Mags. Increasingly I suffered from balance issues before coming to you, I always used to walk with my eyes lowered, with my mind in a whirl. Now, I make an effort to lift my breast bone and notice what's going on more, it helps me to feel in control both physically and mentally. As a consequence my life is more enjoyable, to me it's about having more confidence. -Catherine, July 2016