The tail that wags the dog
We can all tell when a dog is happy. Just watch the tail. If the tail is wagging, then you know it’s happy. But why is that?
Seems a silly question, right? When a dog is happy, it wags its tail. Simple as that. But there might be a little bit more to it. Maybe the dog is happy just because the tail is wagging.
Ok, that’s a bit abstract. It might have landed for all the dogs in the audience, but here’s one for us humans: the smile. People smile when they’re happy. But can it work both ways? Try it out. Put on a smile for a minute or so, and see how you feel. Strange as it might sound, it actually works. Just by smiling, we start to feel happier. Different parts of the brain activate and different neurotransmitters are released into the bloodstream, right along with the change in consciousness. The tail is wagging the dog.
Our bodies are amazing marvels beyond our understanding. The emotions and thoughts that we experience from moment to moment are linked to the body, to the physical anchor of our existence. Every action we take leaves its mark upon the vehicle of our consciousness. Each step we take forms our feet in a certain way. Every way we work with our hands shapes them and strengthens them in distinct ways. Even the emotions we feel work their way into our postures and body language.
We’re all different, beautifully unique and distinct. And for each of us, our bodies are a deeply personal reflection of both our inner beings and the experiences we’ve had along the way. Every body is perfect in this reflection, great or small, muscular and slight, curvaceous or twiggy. And each of our bodies tells its own unique story, revealing glimpses of our inner world with every physical detail.
There are whole branches of human knowledge that explore the relationship between body and soul. Over the centuries, people have mapped out connections between personal character and the lines on our palm or bumps on our skull, the shape of our feet or the characteristics of our face. Each tiny detail of the body sheds light on our inner world. The belly button, for example, is thought to reflect our approach to life. Those with a large and pronounced navel have an outgoing personality. Really big “outies” reflect a personality that’s larger than life, and a flair for the dramatic.
Palmists see long fingers and know that the person they’re looking at has a strong emotional or intellectual nature, a tendency to reflect upon our experiences. When they see short fingers, they know their owners have an earthy, practical approach to life. Physiognomy, the study of the face, has a goldmine of interesting theories about how the facial features give silent tells about our emotional and physical nature. The philtrum, the groove that connects nose to mouth, is seen as an indicator of fertility. The longer, broader, and deeper the philtrum, the more fertile the person that possesses it. A large nose is connected with a powerful personality, while deeply set eyes suggest an introverted personality. A deeply furrowed brow implies that the person harbors a secret store of pent-up anger.
Now, while the lines on the palm, facial features, and bumps on the head might be open to interpretation, there are other aspects of our bodies that are even more revealing. Facial expressions like the smile are pretty obvious, but our posture can reveal even more about how we feel. When we feel powerful and confident, we open up. We sit up straight, open the shoulders, and take up a bit of space. And when we are feeling less powerful, when we are afraid, guilty, or insecure, we tend to close up. We cross our limbs, hunch in, cave at the chest and become smaller. The way we feel is broadcast to others through the features of our face and the posture and subtle language of our body. We send these cues to others around us, and they respond to them without even being aware of it.
The really remarkable thing, though, is that just like the smile, our posture and body language actually changes the way we feel. When we open our shoulders and straighten up, not only do we feel more confident, but the hormone levels change to reflect this feeling. Our cortisol levels drop, showing a drop in stress. At the same time, testosterone rises, bringing in a feeling of strength and will. We can literally change our body chemistry, just by changing our body language.
Give it a try.
Here’s a little exercise that shows you how closely connected our bodies and emotions really are:
- Put on a slouch. Let your shoulders round in and bend the body forward a bit. Why not take it all the way? Take a few steps, dragging the feet a bit and walking slowly. Take your eyes to the ground, and make sure not to engage with anyone. Let the breathing become shallow and weak. Now, keeping the body as it is, try and feel happy.
How’s that working out?
You’ll probably notice that it’s a bit difficult to connect with a feeling of happiness like this. You might feel tired, unmotivated, and even a bit sad.
Ok, next bit.
- Raise the head and lift the chin a bit. Straighten your back and open your shoulders. Breathe deeply and smoothly. Bring a firmness into your walk, planting your feel with purpose. If you happen to be doing this exercise around others, bring in some eye contact. And try to feel depressed. Keeping the strength and openness of the body, try to connect with that low feeling you had just a few moments back.
Once again, it’s hard to feel depressed and unmotivated when your posture is strong and open. This is the mind-body connection in action. Having felt what just a few moments of a conscious posture can do for your emotions, imagine how you can bring positive change into your moods and outlook. All by making a few tweaks to how you carry yourself. On top of that, over time, you’ll actually be able to see the physical effect on your body. Your physique will take on this new pattern as it moves to reflect your habitual thoughts and feelings.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. We store all manner of issues and unresolved feelings in our body in the form of “emotional armour.” This is the real gem of bodywork. By working with the body more directly, we can release trauma and pent-up emotions, dramatically improving mind and body at the same time. So, start with the posture and remember your power poses. See how these simple shifts can change your confidence, mood, and even the way others respond to you. When you’re ready to take it to the next level, consider regular sessions with a bodyworker. These sessions can work wonders in helping you to step into your most powerful, confident, and sensual self.
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