Have you ever noticed what your body is doing in the moment when your mind feels cloudy?
I’ve noticed that in those moments of murky thoughts, my body feels tense, stagnant, my shoulders are usually shrugged up towards my ears, and I’m slumped over (also known as the poor posture position). Most of us carry our stress in our shoulders and the muscles become tense to try to carry the burden. By trying to carry our burdens, our bodies inadvertently create a negative feedback loop to the brain causing even more cloudy thoughts. For example, when we are stressed or too focused on our chattering thoughts, we tense up and assume the poor posture position. This position blocks proper breathing and blood flow leading to unclear thinking and more anxiety.
In this tense, slouched position, we tend to breath using only the upper lungs, restricting the amount of oxygen our body receives. The slumped position closes off our heart center, which slows down the circulation of blood flowing through our bodies. We are depriving our bodies of its most important nutrient: oxygenated blood; without this nutrient our minds can’t focus clearly and our bodies feel deprived.
Within just 2-3 days of doing these 4 exercises and stretches, you are positioning your body to feel confident and open, allowing room for clearer thinking. This creates a positive feedback loop and a feeling of lightness; this lightness is because you are breathing to your lungs full capacity and allowing proper circulation to flow through you.
1. Chest Stretch
- Place hands with elbows bent, about shoulder height on either side of the doorway
- Place one foot through the doorway and lean forward
- Keep back straight
- Hold for about 10-30 seconds and repeat 3-5 times
2. Activate Mid Back Muscles
- Sit on the edge of a chair
- Make 2 fists with hands, place them behind your bottom, palms facing each other
- Push down through the fists as if to lift up from chair, bringing your shoulders back and down, squeeze muscles at your lower shoulder blade.
- Repeat about 20 times
3. Maintain Good Posture while Breathing
- Check your posture throughout the day.
- Good Posture is: head up, shoulders back and down, arching your back. Then take the strain out of your position by reducing 10% of your arching.
- Don’t forget to breathe.
- Inhale: expand your chest and ribs, your abdomen (diaphragm) should come down and out, do not arch your back to get this expansion.
- Exhale: your abdomen (diaphragm) comes up and in and your chest and ribs deflate, your shoulders should remain back and down
4. Check Your Posture and Reposition
- Your muscles may fatigue, causing slumping, so remember to reposition
- Go back and forth from overcorrection and slouched
- Overcorrect: Bring your head up, shoulders back and down, arching your back, while inhaling
- Slouched: Round out your spine and shoulders, bring your chin down to your chest and push your hips back, while exhaling
- Do this about 10 times and then sit back into good posture (see Step 3)
During times of stress and personal dilemmas is when our bodies need us the most, so pay attention and fix what’s necessary. In my practice, clients have reported just by bringing their shoulders down and back, and taking a full breath, they have less anxiety, almost instantaneously. I have found that just by adjusting someone’s posture, they feel less pain. They have more confidence and report having clarity in many areas of their lives that may have been blocked.
Photo Credit: Dhara Patel