Can the depression or the anxiety or other mental/emotional states that you feel have anything to do with bad posture?
Is there a link between bad posture and depression, for example—a body/mind connection, if you will?
Later on, after the patients were in remission they were photographed again.
The photographs showed major differences in posture.
During the depression patients tended to hold their heads lower and their spines slumped.
After the bout of depression had passed their heads were held more level and their spines more erect.
The fact is that every client I have ever worked with that came to me because of depression, anxiety or other mental/emotional struggles, had something in common: their posture.
It appears that there is indeed a direct connection between our mental and emotion health and our physical posture.
Think about it… if you see someone sitting in their car in traffic and their neck is thrust forward with a scowl on their face and their fists clenched, there’s a good chance that they’re angry.
Let’s say you see someone in the grocery store and their head is bowed and their upper spine is slouching and their pelvis is tucked under, how do you think they’re doing?
It’s likely that they’re not doing well, right?
We could guess that they were feeling down.
On the other hand if you see someone who’s head is high and the front of their chest is lifted, how do you think they’re doing?
Instinctively we would guess that they’re having a pretty good day.
Let’s do an experiment.
Hold yourself with your head down, the front of your heart pinched off in a slouched posture, your tailbone tucked under and try to generate intense gratitude.
Now try to generate and feel authentic gratitude.
You’ll find that it’s nearly impossible to generate and feel authentic gratitude without opening the front of your body and lifting your face and your heart to the sky.
Try holding yourself with your arms and chest open and your face turned to the sky and then generate and feel hate or grief or sadness.
You’ll likely find that its hard to do.
When I try I always end up laughing because in that position, dark states of mind and emotions seem kind of absurd.
What’s the mechanism behind this phenomenon?
The reason that our posture has an effect on the emotions we can feel or not feel is because it alters the flow of life force energy, also known as qi or prana.
Prana or qi or life force energy that moves through our bodies carries with it the same intrinsic intelligence and wisdom that animates the planet we live on.
This is the same intelligence that animates the whole Universe.
Life force energy provides the fuel that maintains our physical parts: our organs, systems and cells.
This flow of life force energy also provides the information that creates our mental and emotional selves, as well.
If that life force energy is allowed to flow up from the planet, through our legs, our belly, our solar plexus, our heart, our throat, our head and out through the top of our heads and circulate back around, we’re connected within ourselves, we’re connected to the planet and our purpose here—we’re directed by that purpose to serve others with our unique gifts.
In that place there is no separation.
There is a deep peace, joy, love, contentedness and sense of satisfaction.
That’s what’s possible, that’s ideal, but that’s not the reality we’re born into.
This all started way back when our early nervous systems were forming in the womb.
That primal, sensitive part of our nervous system was sensing into the people around us via our overlapping bio-energetic fields.
It picked up how the people around us were “doing” themselves, what was their relationship with the things that make us human like vulnerability, power, love, anger, fear, etc…, and since we relied on them for our survival we immediately adopted those ways of being and folded them into each developing cell.
As we felt into the people around us, we picked up from their systems that certain parts of us, certain emotions, were not safe to feel.
So we walled those parts of with tension and defense posture.
There’s an actual physical manifestation of this separation in our bodies.
Defense posture is where we pinch off the front of our body, protect the heart and the vital organs in preparation for fight or flight.
And the reason we change our posture is to redirect life force energy.
In the case where we’re slouched and the heart is pinched off, the energy is being directed back down before it gets to the heart because our system has decided that it’s not safe to let that energy run through the heart and be felt.
There are also ways that we redirect energy laterally causing lateral assymetries in the way we hold ourselves.
Here are a couple of examples.
FYI, the green line comes straight up from between their feet and represents the center of gravity.
Ideally the vertical red line would line up with that green line.
The lateral red lines across the eyes and shoulders and ribs would ideally be level.
By the way, I compare these “before” pictures to their corresponding “after” pictures later on in this blog post.
This may have got you thinking about your posture.
It’s going to be hard to see yourself from the side but you can see yourself straight on in a mirror.
Look at the level of your shoulders–Are they even?
Are your ears level?
Is your head and neck centered over the center of your chest?
You may be surprised to find out that they’re not.
You might ask yourself, “Isn’t it normal for our bodies to not be perfectly symmetrical?”
Assymetry is common but it doesn’t mean it’s normal.
These assymetries in our posture represent the ways that we’ve created boulders in the river of qi or life force energy that flows through our bodies.
The river of qi has to divert itself around those boulders so we don’t feel what’s contained in them… and our structure follows.
Our structure dictates the type and range of emotions that we are able to access.
If we’ve pinched off our heart and our shoulders are rounded forward our nose is constantly being pressed into the proverbial dirt.
The type of emotions that are encouraged by a slouched posture with the heart being pinched off are despondency, dejection, feelings of inadequacy and hopelessness.
There is a gravity to those emotions.
Someone who suffers from depression is constantly being pulled down into those emotions and their posture is supporting that.
As I mentioned earlier, these patterns have been active for a long time, since shortly after conception in most cases, and then they get reinforced when we’re young children.
The pathway and way of directing energy has a lot of inertia.
Furthermore, our physical tissues, our bones, our connective tissues have changed shape during that time to accommodate that posture and that way of redirecting life force energy.
So there’s a lot of momentum in our structure that supports our posture to be a certain way, as well.
This is why making the conscious effort to hold ourselves differently is one strategy for dealing with things like depression and other mental and emotional issues and certainly would help.
However, this will be hard to maintain when we’re under resourced, or when life gets stressful.
Since it takes energy to focus on it, we’ll tend to revert to what we know when life draws our focus elsewhere.
The same goes where mainstream methods for treating depression are concerned.
For example, exercise is a common prescription for improved mental and emotional health.
And it does work, but it works because it activates and moves life force energy.
You might say, exercise works because it has an effect on serotonin and dopamine.
But our physiology is a function of the movement of chi in our bodies.
Exercise gets or cardiovascular system going, it gets us breathing.
Breath is life.
Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again.Thich Nhat Hanh
If we breathe deeply like that and get our body moving, life force energy is going to get activated and start flowing up the spine.
Anything that stirs up life force energy, cultivates greater awareness and presence and gets us into our bodies is going to naturally start to transform depression—cardiovascular exercise, yoga, Pilates, tai chi, martial arts, etc…
However, as energy bound in the depression starts to rise up the spine, it will encounter the energy that has been bound behind the heart.
When that happens we’d be asked to digest, to feel through that energy that’s being sequestered there.
That would look like feelings of shame, guilt, rage and grief.
When people resist feeling those emotions they generally start to encounter anxiety, which is the fear of feeling any number of emotions.
This is often why people can’t get to the other side of depression.
They have to feel grief and anger.
Anger, for example is the leading edge of the energy that will give them the momentum to reclaim their power and claim their right to actually be well.
So when we’re dealing with bad posture and depression, we’re really stuck between a rock and a hard place.
We’re stuck between despondency, dejection and hopelessness, and shame, grief and rage.
I can see why medication is pretty popular.
Medication takes the edge off of all of those intense emotions.
Medication is never a good long term strategy for anyone, something experts on natural healing, like the well known Dr. Andrew Weil, have been saying for a long time.
It has its uses for some people in the short term because it allows people to get up and engage with their life—gives some peace to those who would injure themselves or others.
First of all, our nervous system builds a tolerance to those medications and eventually we’d need more medication to have the same effect.
Also emotions exist on a continuum and they’re all connected together.
If we dampen or limit the range of what we can feel on the negative end of the spectrum, it also limits the range of what we can feel on the positive end of the spectrum.
So if we limit our ability to feel grief or shame, it necessarily decreases our ability to really feel joy or satisfaction, or love for that matter.
Third, emotion is the spice of life.
Our Soul uses emotion to direct us.
It’s important that we can feel what lights us up because that tells us which direction to go in life.
If that emotion’s not there we can feel lost and without direction, an affliction, in my opinion, that’s worse than depression.
After we’ve tried methods that mainstream world has to offer and failed to overcome that inertia many times, we start to realize that the only solution left is to go into the pain—to let it be felt.
If enough attention and presence can be brought to the despondency, the dejection, the feelings of inadequacy and the hopelessness eventually we’d have a complete experience of the feelings, sensations and thoughts that go along with bad posture and depression.
When we have a complete experience of depression we end up being liberated from it and liberated by it.
The sense of self that was tied up in the depression dissolves.
At that point energy would start to rise up the spine to be integrated by the heart.
Spiritual teacher and author of A New Earth and The Power Of Now, Echkart Tolle is an example of someone who has followed the depression down to its roots, had a complete experience of the emotions, sensations and thoughts associated with the depression and been completely liberated as a result.
Also in A New Earth, Tolle talks about the pain-body.
It just so happens that I wrote an in-depth blog post on the pain body.
And a video:
In referring to the pain body, Tolle is speaking of a sense of self, that part of us that is getting something out of the depression; the part of us that actually feeds on the negative emotions of the depression.
The concept of the pain-body in Tolle’s book would be good to check out if you’re experiencing depression, anxiety or any mental and emotional health struggles.
All of that being said, someone pointed out to me that Eckhart Tolle’s posture isn’t that great.
There’s an old saying that comes out of the world of architecture, which is “form follows function.”
There’s something about Eckhart Tolle’s posture that allows him to accomplish what he came here to accomplish.
The ultimate goal is to live our purpose on the planet and give our gifts.
If we’re doing that and our posture isn’t perfect, so be it.
Body centered psychotherapies would be of huge benefit in conjunction with the above healing modalities and physical activity—somatic psychotherapy, Authentic Movement, EMDR, Brainspotting, Dance Movement Therapy, etc…
I feel like I’ve got to mention the work I do.
I call it BioSoul Integration.
BioSoul Integration takes advantage of our nervous systems ability to self-observe and self-organize itself.
For instance, your nervous system is making a billion decision right now that you don’t have to think about.
If we can create some safety in the system and then amplify that, the nervous system will start to observe itself from that safe place and reprogram the parts of it that have been running according to a survival program.
This means that our nervous systems become able to look at the energy that it previously thought was unsafe to feel.
BioSoul Integration allows the bound up, sequestered energy in the system to be integrated into the whole.
When that happens, since tension is basically bound up energy, it starts to dissipate and posture starts to improve.
Like a bent hose when you turn the water on, the pressure of the moving water straightens the hose.
Since we’re talking about posture, here are some before and after pictures of postural changes after 12 to 24 BioSoul Integration sessions.
In a few of the cases you’ll also see that I’ve noted some of the mental/emotional changes that they reported on a “quality of life” questionnaire that they filled out.
A reminder, the green line is coming up from between their feet, which represents center of gravity.
The vertical red line should ideally line up with the green line.
The lateral red lines across the eyes, shoulders, ribs and hips should be level.
Observe how their posture moves more toward center and the eyes and shoulders, especially get more level.
In the picture where we see the woman from the side, in the “after” picture her head comes to red more on top of her body instead of being thrust forward as it is in the “before” picture.
In the following video I talk about the connection between bad posture and depression and how to heal both:
And if you’re on the go, here’s the same video in podcast format:
On that note if we give ourselves permission to feel more grief, shame, anger, etc…, it also increases the range and depth of joy, compassion, love and gratitude that we can feel, as well.
Many are looking for a more holistic, long term solution.
What happens is we don’t have to the power to let our thoughts and energy go to any other place than the crappy place that it’s been trained to go into since we were in the womb.
Unfortunately, these old survival patterns have a lot of momentum in us.
It’s like a kind of muscle in us has gone limp or never got a chance to develop at all.
That muscle is our concentration and attention muscle.
The solution lies in building up that concentration muscle so that we can put our attention on the sensations involved with a certain mental/emotional state without being drawn into the thoughts and stories.
And then once we’ve gotten good at that, we can choose to focus on thoughts and stories that are more productive and choose sensations that are more helpful, like those associated with gratitude and appreciation.
As we do that the energy from around the heart is unpacked.
We’ll start to give ourselves permission to feel the feelings that are in there and the posture changes, as well.
The changes that happen as a result represent a permanent, sustainable transformation in a person’s body and life.
Feel free to leave your comments or questions in the comments below.
I promise to respond.
I look forward to helping you express more life.
I've been supporting people through the ups and downs of their healing journeys for almost two decades now, mostly from my office in Louisville, Colorado. However, I do have online offerings, as well. I've worked with 90 year olds, day old babies and everyone in between. But those who seem to be most drawn to my work tend to be those who have felt the strong calling to consciously do the work of leaning into their growth and evolution as human beings. Often these people are practitioners themselves of some sort, whether professionally or otherwise. They may be yoga teachers, meditators, acupuncturists, chiropractors, energy workers, shamanic practitioners, healers, spiritual seekers and others, and they feel called to give their gifts and share what they’ve learned with others. Discovering our soul's gifts, embodying them and then serving others with them is where true life satisfaction lies. Life will keep nudging us in that direction, anyway. BioSoul Integration can help speed up the process and smooth out the rough spots created by our innocent and unconscious resistance. Take my BioSoul Integration Quiz to get started.