Body Language and the Alexander Technique
I was fascinated by this talk by social psychologist and Harvard professor, Amy Cuddy. Our body language affects how others see us, but Cuddy’s research suggests it also affects how we see ourselves. She shows how “power posing” (using expansive, confident postures) can even affect our testosterone and cortisol levels, not to mention have a huge impact on our chances of success.
As an Alexander Technique teacher I teach people to let go of compression and collapse (exhibited strongly in the “powerless” poses Cuddy describes) so they can be more expansive yet relaxed. My self-confidence has grown immensely since becoming proficient in the Alexander Technique. I’m also much more aware of what I am doing with my body, so am less likely to be giving unintentional negative body-language “signals.”
I’m curious how being expansive within “normal” postures, rather than “power poses,” affects us. My own experience, and that of others I know who have studied the Alexander Technique, suggests confidence and self-assurance do increase. Adding some “power posing” into your repertoire of movements would, I imagine, boost that even further. And I can’t help but wonder how much more effective the “power posing” would be if we were truly expansive, inside and out, in the way the Alexander Technique teaches us!
Can you think of a time when the body language of someone else has given you a false impression of what they were really feeling? Have you tried out the “power posing” for yourself? Or if you’ve studied the Alexander Technique, do you think it’s affected your overall confidence? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
thanks for your blog.
I believe , ‘ alexander technique is just like ocean.
And the remaing alternative techniques are just like rivers.
The ocean always welcomes any river to mix into self’ .
‘Power pose’ concept is a good idea to use.
Whether cuddy knows the alexander principles for doing power pose?
whether she is depending on the feelings to do the power pose?
If she uses the alexander beliefs, then her idea becomes advanced concept.
If not, then she is using with old habitual tension only.
Any how, today i learned one word ‘power pose’ .
Thanks your encouragement blog.
You are most welcome! Thanks for your comments.
I loved this video, Imogen, and have also be thinking about it since I saw it last week. I’ve even used the idea of “power poses” in my lessons now – it’s a very useful idea. Yes, they work. And yes, AT absolutely does help to develop confidence. I think that somehow we are accessing “inner” power poses! You can’t necessarily see them on the outside, but the expansive dynamic is certainly there on the inside. Thank you, Imogen!
I too have used the idea of power poses with some of my students. It’s so interesting. I love the idea of “inner” power poses to describe what we do! Fabulous!
The idea of power poses can be problematic with men as it can encourage an ape like chest beating posture, i.e. pushing the chest up and out causing the back to shorten and narrow.
Funnily enough, I recall my first ever AT lesson and because of the broadening across the front I felt as if I would be perceived as being aggressive. Of course, that was just the perceived contrast from where I had been before.
Interesting. I guess the essence of what I was trying to say is that finding that expansion (what Cuddy calls “power poses”) from the inside is potentially even more effective than a simplistic power pose. And as you say, if you push your chest up the back shortens and narrows – which is the opposite of expansion – so maybe a mixed message to the body??
I know what you mean about feelings associated with broadening across the front (letting go of the inward tightening and collapse). For me it felt extremely vulnerable at first, while at the same time deliciously relaxed – again in contrast with where I had been before!
I love the work of Prof Paul Ekman and Joe Navarro as well as the TV show Lie To Me with Tim Roth. I considered getting deeper into this subject as part of my AT work, but have enough on plate for now 🙂
thanks for your blog.
I was fascinated by this talk too.But what striked me most is how science stumbles on the statistics of various parameters atributed to living and find ways how to DO it right but never gets to the guiding principle ie: you know..
I know what you mean… 😉
Oh my, many thoughts on watching this – thank you for the opportunity to do so.
I ‘did’ power posing for the first 21 years of my life; gained ‘excellent’ for posture, was considered ‘cock-sure’ (a very 70’s saying, of course!) and ‘too big for my boots’. I had lost connection to the me cowering inside, but nonetheless, I daren’t drop the front a (very apt word for the use I had adopted). I discovered later on that I had clearly thought the AT would give me even more ‘looking good’, and for the first 10 years of teaching, that’s what I did. I didn’t teach it, but I did it. Until… I let go and found out who I was. It was THEN people opened up, saw me, noticed me, wanted me. Not before with all the subconsciously off-putting posturing. Of course we all interpret talks and words differently, and although I did that, someone else will do something quite different. But the journey did set me on the path of working toward and teaching authenticity. And that leads me to say: Power poses = arrogance. It feels arrogant when I see it exactly because it ISN’T authentic! (The hint is in the word ‘pose’.) Authentic can be quiet. It’s poise, connection, integration, that speaks power to me, loud or soft. It is my being shown Who They Are, not who they think I ought to see.
I invite people to read chapter 2 (The Myth of Charismatic Leadership) of Susan Cain’s book, ‘Quiet’, about introverted, and often utterly magnificent and powerful, people such as Einstein, Yeats, Chopin, George Orwell, Charles Schultz, Stephen Spielberg, Larry Page, JK Rowling. (Including the wisdom of Snoopy, ET, Google, and Harry Potter.)
Not feeling fabulous? Throw my arms in the air and stick my hands on my hips? No, just saying ‘No’ to the collapse that might want to happen; that’s enough, and keeps me in touch with that which needs releasing/healing at some point.
Let’s open up to who we truly are, allow the poise that is ours, heal the wounds inside that have us believe we are NGE (not good enough) and then our heads will be able to sit lightly on our necks, our backs can be allowed to remain long and free, and our open self (including our open fronts) will be one of welcome, acceptance, quiet strength and self-assuredness, and we can turn the world from thinking ‘tight power’ is the only road to success.
We just all work in different ways; my passion is to facilitate a shift in the people who are fed up with faking it and who want to deeply heal the things that set up the need to fake it at all.
But thank you again, Imogen. You’ve helped me further clarify something important to me.
Thanks so much for your thoughtful response, Annie! I think you’ve really got to the heart of it. I find it interesting that even “faking” the expansive postures got these results though and would love to know how those changes would compare with people who have learned to be “internally spacious” using the Alexander Technique.
And I love Quiet – a book that truly resonated with me this past year.
I loved the Amy Cuddy piece, but I’m appreciating the AT Community response to it. I loved the idea of “inner power pose” as another way of thinking of “expanding field of awareness.” Annie, your thoughtful response raises some interesting ideas. I hope there IS a book in your future. Thanks for posting, Imogen.
You are very welcome, Marlene. A truly fascinating subject!
This is a wonderful post, and so valid. Thank you.
Glad you liked it, Wendy 🙂
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