Understanding Body Language
Body language is a language of nonverbal cues, often expressing more than one had planned on sharing through their words. It’s as if their thoughts and inner experience were telling a story through the body, with or without their awareness.
Chances are you’ve heard a little bit about body language and may even understand some basic movements, such as having your arms crossed over your chest indicates being closed off while having your hands stacked in fists on both hips indicates a sign of confidence.
While being closed off may come off as more instinctual in certain circumstances, standing in confidence, for instance in front of a mirror, maybe a deliberate practice to elevate our mindset.
In this post, I’ll be sharing information specifically on being mindful of your posture and how it may relate to your state of mind. For a more in-depth understanding of the science of body language, check out this article 16 Essential Body Language Examples.
Noticing Your Body Throughout The Day
As with all mindfulness practices and techniques, the first step is to choose something to shine your awareness onto. Today you can anchor into the intention of paying attention to your body, specifically the neck and shoulder area, giving yourself the opportunity to let go of some extra tension.
Noticing your posture throughout the day opens your awareness to what is already happening within your body. By noticing how the body is positioned, feeling, or being supported, you are also dropping out of the busyness of thoughts and into the physical sensations happening right now. Not to mention the added benefit of helping your back and hip alignment long term, especially if you’re sitting in front of screens or living a mostly sedentary life.
Proper posture may be a challenge to keep at first but in the long run, will benefit your overall physical health. It will also appear a bit different for each person because of all body shapes, sizes, and capabilities but everyone can essentially follow these general guidelines.
A healthy posture appears as one standing or sitting as tall as possible for the shape of their back and comfortably, having their shoulders rolled back without holding tension, and dropped away from the ears, chest upright without being pushed too far out.
As a reminder, practicing mindful awareness isn’t about judging yourself for inadequacies or jumping on the urge to change whatever it is you’ve begun to notice. Mindful awareness it’s about turning on an inner light of awareness with a sense of curiosity and compassion while opening yourself to accepting what is already and considering more supportive approaches in how you respond.
A way to raise awareness of your posture is to think about the way you spend most of your day. Start by observing how active you are or how often you are seated throughout the day. Here are a few prompts you can ask yourself:
Am I on a computer or phone looking down at a screen? How often? What is my posture like while I do this?
If I am sitting most of the day, how supportive is the back of the chair or the firmness of the cushions beneath me? Is it comfortable? If not, how can I improve my seating?
Do I experience any discomfort in the neck or shoulder area throughout your day? If so, am I taking any breaks to move, shift, or release any tightness throughout the day?
How can I be more present with my posture and my body going forward?
Connecting Thoughts and Posture
After practicing mindful awareness of your posture throughout the day, you may find your awareness expanding on its own toward other parts of your experience. The ultimate goal of noticing posture may be to change or improve it over time, but that isn’t necessarily the intention.
By choosing to become aware of your posture more often, you are also noticing how your body is reacting to different environments and stimuli. One connection in particular that can be made is the one between your posture and your thoughts.
The more you practice paying attention to the quality of your posture each day, the feel of your neck, and the weight of your shoulders, you may also gain insight into the quality of your thoughts that accompany them.
As the basics of body language teach there are two main forms of language: open and closed. As you begin to notice whether you are contracting or allowing any given experience, you may also recognize the thoughts that are guiding the feelings in your body.
For instance, catching yourself in a negative or stressful thought pattern may lead you to notice that your shoulders are scrunched toward your ears, tightening the muscles around the neck. Or maybe your environment triggers a pattern of stress and tension, ultimately causing you to tense up your body in some way.
Once you’ve noticed the connection between what you’re thinking and how your body is reacting, you can decide how to respond. A simple way to return back to a state of openness is to take a deep breath, release that tension with an exhale, and move forward with a bit more clarity than before.
It’s within these quick glimpses into how the body responds to thoughts that you can deepen your mindful awareness practice, while further understanding your reactions and responses to the world around you.
Try This Practice Today
Your posture is an important component of mental and physical alignment. The more you practice noticing the connection between your thoughts and physical sensations, such as posture and body language, the more intention can be brought to the way in which you respond.
The thoughts and physical sensations you experience correspond more often than not. Your mind and body are in constant communication so it’s important to check in with yourself throughout the day and tune into inner that conversation.
When the mind is not disciplined it is likely the body isn’t either. Be prepared for distraction as it is the nature of the mind to fluctuate, while also bringing a sense of loving awareness by directing your focus back to the body.
Carve out a few minutes today to practice awareness of your posture. Try this:
- Take a few moments to settle into your seat or wherever you’re standing
- Close your eyes or soften your gaze away from anything in particular
- Tune into the feel of your body, your posture, your neck, and shoulder area
- Now imagine a string at the top of your head leading all the way up into the sky
- Take a deep inhale to straighten out your back, chest out, shoulders up
- On the exhale gently drop your shoulders while keeping an elongated spine
- Refocus your mind on the present moment
- Repeat this practice as many times throughout the day to realign and begin again
This practice can be something you do the moment you wake up, in between transitions throughout the day, during moments of stress, or anytime you’d like to tune back into the body. My favorite thing about this practice is that it’s practical and visual, while you’re tuning back into your body (the physical) you’re also imagining what alignment looks like (the mental).
A simple practice for bringing you back into your body and the present moment, with a dash of imagination, that can be as long or as short as you’d like it to be.
The body speaks through physical sensations and non-verbal cues, some of which you may even be unaware of, and it can often indicate a larger message. The words spoken may not tell the full story of what’s happening, while body language speaks volumes about how someone is feeling at that point in time. Whether they are closed off or more open, feeling comfortable or tense in their body, these bodily cues offer deeper insights that paint a bigger picture.
In order to get a better understanding of the energy you’re giving off, it’s important to start by noticing your body language, more specifically your posture. The area of the shoulders and neck could tell a lot about the “weight” one may be carrying physically, mentally, or emotionally. It can also shed some light on their response to stress during day-to-day activities and responsibilities.
By taking the time to practice tuning into how often you have proper or poor posture, you may also gain insight into the quality of your thoughts. There is a strong connection between what someone is thinking and how their body is responding to those thoughts. Since the mind is considered the intelligence center while the body is considered to be a vehicle or vessel, it’s important to be mindful of the connection between the two.
Cultivating a mindfulness practice around your posture will eventually expand your awareness of thoughts, thought patterns, and the amount of time spent on autopilot or in the thinking mind. While the ultimate goal may be to improve posture, the intention is simply to begin noticing what’s already happening. Adopting an attitude of non-judgment and loving awareness will help you stay consistent with your mindfulness practice.
By noticing posture you are intentionally tuning into the body, therefore dropping out of the thinking mind even if just for a few moments a day. These moments matter and over time add up to a significant investment through the journey of inner work journey.
May you have the courage to tune in today, and remember you can always come back to the here and now.