Sit Tall And Smile


There’s a beautiful scene from the movie Eat, Pray, Love when Ketut (the Balinese healer) instructs Liz (the main character of the story)…

“In morning, you do meditation from India: serious, very serious. In day, you enjoy body. Then in afternoon, come see me. You do new meditation. Very simple, sit in silence and smile… smile with face, smile with mind, even smile in liver.”

It was this simple idea of smiling during meditation that changed my practice entirely. Have you ever done this, smiled while meditating? Sometimes we get into that lotus position, we try to straighten our backs and sit tall but our shoulders fall forward, our back starts to round and even our bellies push outward. Our minds are quick to follow our body language so as we fall out of posture, so too, our minds drift out of awareness. See, “just as our emotions affect our muscles, so our muscles affect our emotions. It’s a two-way street. It’s called a ‘Bi-directional’ relationship.” (Dr. David R Hamilton) And when we smile or sit tall we can find ourselves experiencing courage, delight and even self-worth. 

Dr. David Hamilton shares with us a Harvard Study conducted by Amy Cuddy. He says…

Volunteers were asked to stand in either a ‘Power Pose’ or a ‘weak pose’ for two minutes. A power pose is regarded as an open body posture. Think ‘Wonder Woman’ – hands on hips, legs apart, spine erect, shoulders relaxed, head straight and eyes fixed straight ahead. A weak pose, on the other hand, is a closed posture – perhaps arms folded, shoulders a little slumped, spine not quite straight, eyes looking down.

The volunteers in the study had saliva samples taken before and immediately after the two minutes was up and the scientists measured testosterone (women have it too) and cortisol. Testosterone, in both males and females, is related to feelings of self-confidence. Cortisol is a stress hormone.

After just two minutes, testosterone was up by 20% in those who did the power poses and cortisol dropped by 25%. It was the opposite in those who did the weak poses. They experienced elevation in cortisol levels and drops in testosterone. In other words, a two minute power pose was enough to actually boost a person’s confidence and reduce their stress.

Power Pose creates confidence and reduces stress 

Weak pose reduces confidence and creates stress

Isn’t that neat? 

Now, although there are definitely times for serious meditation, smiling can add a certain “Je ne sais quoi” to your practice. Sometimes if you sit still with awareness you can actually smile and feel your body react. :-) Try it next time you’re meditating and then… KEEP SMILING because the world feels better that way!