Show Yourself Some Love; Counteract Cold Weather Posture

By: Dr. Caitlin Davidson

Turns out Shonda Rhimes knows whats up ….

The moment you step outside, it hits you.  The blast of cold in your face that makes you gasp for air and immediately duck your head and hunch your shoulders to protect yourself from the onslaught.  It’s the unpleasant and unavoidable part of winter that makes us want to hunker down and just get it over with.  But on top of the cold air and grey skies, the postures we assume during the winter months can have a profound effect on our neurochemistry.

Researchers at Columbia and Harvard have studied the relationship between certain postures and their impact on a person’s psychology and physiology.  Research participants were asked to hold certain postures for one minute at a time, after which their mood and hormone levels were measured.  Participants who held expansive, “high power” poses with arms and legs outstretched reported feeling more powerful and in-charge compared to those who held contracted, “low power” poses with heads bowed forward and arms folded across the chest.  On top of that, participants in “high power” poses also exhibited increased levels of testosterone and decreased levels of the stress hormone cortisol.  Meanwhile, “low power” postures had the opposite effect, with increased cortisol and lowered levels of testosterone leaving those participants feel more stressed and less in control. 

So when we brace ourselves against the cold and feel compelled to hold those hunched-over postures until we finally warm up again, we are signalling to our bodies that we are feeling stressed and not in control and our bodies will respond by making hormones that support those feelings!  This is called a feedback loop, whereby if you behave a certain way you will start to actually feel that way.  The way to counteract this negative feedback is to fake-it-‘til-you-make-it.  By which I mean consciously holding the body in more open, powerful postures, like a superhero stance, to convince your body that you feel calm and in control.

A great place to practice these superhero postures is right here at Yogathletix.  During fitness classes, use the explosive movements to reach further, jump higher and feel more powerful.  Stretch your limbs wider during jumping jacks, lunge further in your speed skaters, jump bigger in your burpees.  During yoga classes, use your breath to empower and broaden your poses.  Reach further in your warriors, open wider in your sun salutations, and really embrace your heart openers.  These simple conscious efforts to make your body feel more expansive will help to lighten your mood, release discomfort from the body, and leave you feeling less stressed and more in-control.  And with the neurochemistry changes that automatically occur in response to these postures, the positive feedback loop will have you feeling like a superhero for the rest of your day. 

 

So show yourself some powerful love this February.  Open your heart, stand tall, and take control. Or like Rhimes writes “hold up your head, enter the arena and face the enemy,”  winter’s got nothing on you superhero! 

 

Reference: Carney, D., Cuddy, A. and Yap, A. (2010). Power Posing. Psychological Science, 21(10), pp.1363-1368.

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Dr. Caitlin Davidson, BSc (Hons), DC

Dr. Davidson graduated Magna Cum Laude from the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College in 2016, while being co-president of the ICPA Pediatrics Club and teaching in a Senior’s Chair Yoga Program. In 2017 she also became a Certified Animal Chiropractor. She is a member in good standing with College of Chiropractors of Ontario. Dr. Davidson is passionate about helping your entire family live your healthiest, most balanced lives. And she loves to practice what she preaches, which is why you can catch her in all styles of classes at Yogathletix!

Jamie Bell