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Summary:  Learn how our posture affects our emotional state and experience a motion that will help balance your body and mind. Join host Pamela Stokes for this final episode in the Mental Health Month 4-part series and enjoy discovering your own easy optimal posture in moments. 

Topics:

  • [00:46]  Anxiety posture
  • [02:55] Depression posture
  • [09:12]  ARCH AND CURL
  • [12:46] The science behind ARCH AND CURL
  • [13:53] Mirror Neurons and Evolution

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Transcript: 

[00:00] Introduction

Hello, my friends. Pamela here. Thanks for joining me. Today’s our fourth episode in the series for Mental Health Month. And in today’s episode, I’d like to talk to you about the way that our brain interprets our body. When we have our body in a particular position, our brain gets a signal. Either we’re safe or we’re well, all’s well, or it gets a signal that there is a problem and we need to do something about it. 

[00:46] Anxiety Posture

So by having our body in a position that looks like or feels like anxiety, our brain will interpret that as we are anxious. And it will make all the chemicals needed for the fear response, for activation, to get out of there, to do whatever you can. So we fight or flee, just by having our body in that position. So what is this position? The position for anxiety, or when we put ourselves in the position, in this position, our brain interprets as anxiety is our chin is lifted so we’re exposing our throat; maybe our eyes are wide; we may have a lifted chest (elevated chest); we may stick out our tail; and we may feel tension in the arms and legs. So all of these things together indicate to the brain, just by body position alone, it’s time to get busy. It’s time to get activated so that we can get outta here, do something, fight or flee. There’s a problem. So that’s the activation. That’s what we call the sympathetic activation. Sympathetic nervous system is when something is getting revved up and ready for action. We need a little bit of activation, otherwise we would never get up off the couch. We want to make sure that occasionally we do do these kinds of movements so that we can stimulate that sympathetic nervous system, but it happens automatically anyway for us. 

[02:55] Depression Posture

The other body position on the other end of this spectrum is when we go into a body position that would indicate that there is a reason to give up, to sort of shut down, or to collapse. This is the parasympathetic nervous system that is getting involved, which to some degrees it’s good for us, right, we want to have rest, digest, create. We want to have these things. But if we get too much of this signal, then now we’re going to go into this response that sends the chemicals into our blood and into our body and into our brain that says we gotta give up, we’re done. And this is what we call depression. So we can show depression in our body posture by having our head slumped forward, our face jutting forward; we can have our shoulders rounded in; we can have a curve in the small of the back that’s rounded so our tail is tucked, our pelvis is tucked; and our belly is contracted. When we have these things, this kind of sort of slump position, when we are in this position, our brain interprets that that we have given up, there is a big problem and there’s nothing we can do about it. It is life-threatening and so we need to collapse; we need to shut down. So by having our body in this position, we are saying Yeah, that’s what’s going on. But it could just be that we are in this position because we kind of got forgetful about our posture. We’re not being aware of how this posture is relating to our mental wellbeing. What I have noticed since the coming into our lives of the small devices, these phones, that we look at frequently is I will see people oftentimes in this body position. So their head is forward; their shoulders are rounded; their chest is collapsed; their bellies contracted; their spines curled, and I’m thinking, gosh you know I wonder why we have so much depression and anxiety. I think this is possibly contributing, and I’m sure other people have thought this too. I don’t think I’m the only one. So we have the possibility of doing, or being in, a body posture that indicates depression. But if we turn that around and come out of that, we are actually indicating that we can come around and we can come out of depression. 

[06:22] Resilience through Posture 

We can stimulate that in our nervous system so that now we have the possibility of resilience. And that is what we like to have, because things come at us, life happens. We don’t plan for everything. There are events that occur that we don’t really have any say in, but we do have a choice in how we respond. So the more often that we can practice coming out of either of these two body positions—either the activated, sympathetic activation, startle, you know, chin up, eyes open, chest forward, those positions, and/or the other one, which is the collapse and the head forward and the chest collapsed and so forth. If we can go into them and then come back out of them, with ease and comfort, what we’re doing is we are actually practicing doing that in our mental state as well, because we’re stimulating the same chemicals to be made. 

[07:40] Intro to ARCH AND CURL

So what we’re doing in this activity today, it’s called ARCH AND CURL, and we’ve done this one before. This one you can find in a previous episode, but I don’t think I related it that much to mental wellbeing, mental health. And my goal today was to help you to understand that this motion that we’re going to be doing today is going to help your nervous system know that you can come out of that either collapse or activation state easily. And it will also, by doing this regularly, you will develop easy posture because what we’re doing is we’re doing it in such an easy way without any discomfort, that by finding our easy place, our middle place between these two body postures, we can come into easy alignment. And alignment, as you may remember, is what indicates that we are now in our power but we’re also calm. So it’s a calm readiness or soft power. And you can check out my episode on that as well. 

[09:12] ARCH AND CURL

So let’s go ahead and try ARCH AND CURL together. What you’ll need to do is to find a chair that you can sit on that has a hard seat, without armrests, and sitting enough forward in the chair that your back isn’t touching anything. So that’s the way we begin. Your feet will be flat on the floor and you can rest your hands on your thighs. So let’s go ahead and try ARCH AND CURL together. Please join in. The first part of this is to find yourself in an easy comfortable sitting position, resting your hands on your thighs; your feet are flat on the floor; you’re sitting a little forward in your chair and you’re just being there. And then on an inhale, you’re going to allow yourself to come into a slight arch. So inhale, your chest lifts, your chin lifts, your eyes look up, and there’s a slight arch in your back. And then, on the exhale, you’re going to come through the middle place—just kind of take a note as you pass through—and exhale. As you exhale, come into the slump. So now your head is forward, your shoulders are rounded, and your back is curled. That’s your exhale. And then we’re going to inhale and come back through the middle—kind of note where that middle place is. And this time we’re going to go into that arch just halfway as far. So your chin is lifted a little bit, your chest is popped up, and your back is arched. That’s your inhale. And again, on your exhale, coming through the middle place—kind of just taking a note where is that middle place—and exhale, come into your slump or your curl with just half as far this time. Your head is, your face is facing forward, jutting forward a little, and your shoulders are rounded, your back is curled. That’s your exhale. And then again we’re going to come inhaling through the center place and just a tiny little arch this time, just a little bit of one. And then exhaling, coming back through that middle place and then into the curl. Your head is forward, shoulders rounded, back is curled just a little tiny bit. And then inhaling, coming back to that middle place. Now pause and take a few breaths here and notice how you feel. You may feel taller. You may feel ease in your body, and comfort. You may feel more of yourself on the seat. Maybe a little bit softer through the pelvic floor. And that’s it. That’s what we have. 

[12:46] Science Behind ARCH AND CURL

So we’re practicing doing the ARCH AND CURL because we are stimulating both the sympathetic activation. We’re coming out of that. We’re also stimulating the parasympathetic, the slouch or curl or slump position, which is depression, right? So we’re going from anxiety through the middle to depression and back through the middle, and we’re kind of finding that ease between the two that allows us to turn off both of those responses. So just moving your body in this way can really help change your mood, change how you feel on a regular basis. I do hope that you have found some benefit from this and that you will continue to do this for yourself. Just re-watch this, re-listen to this, and practice it with me. We can do it together.

[13:53] Mirror Neurons and Evolution

So this is what I have for you today, to share for you today, in our last episode of the series. Please listen back to the first three episodes and you’ll get a little bit more, well a lot more, that may be beneficial to you to help keep your mind healthy and keep yourself well. If you’re finding that you are struggling right now, you’re not alone. There are many people who are having difficulties because we don’t know what’s happening in our world. There’re a lot of unknowns. When we have unknowns, this is one of the biggest reasons for the stress response. When we don’t know what’s happening, we can really get upset about it. So I’m here to tell you that we don’t know and that’s OK, because what we do know is our heart is still beating for us; our body is still doing all of the chemical reactions that it’s supposed to do—a million different chemical reactions every second that are happening for us. We do know that. We do know that the sun is going to rise. We do know that the planets are moving around. We do know all of these things, so focusing on those things is very helpful for us. It’s going to keep us in a state of calm and inner peace while things work themselves out. And they usually do. The more we can be in this place of ease and comfort, the more we will help ourselves and the people around us to feel that sense of calm and peace. So this isn’t just for us as individuals, this is for all of us, because what we feel and what we give out, other people respond to that. We have mirror neurons. That’s what we’re doing here is we’re mirroring each other. So be that mirror for others around you. Show them how calm looks. Show them how peaceful looks. And by practicing these movements, you’re going to get to that place. 

[16:28] Sign off

Thank you so much for joining me today, and send yourself some appreciation for doing this. It’s not just for you, it’s for everyone. What a gift you’re giving to yourself and to the planet. So thanks for being part of the evolution with me. I really do appreciate it. This has been Move Into Resilience. I’m Pamela Stokes. Take it easy.

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