Brain Controls Body Controls Brain

I was catching up on some light reading this morning – reading The Economist (the funniest magazine I know), when I came across this article, which points out that physical displays of pride & shame are hardwired at an evolutionary level. Ie, they’re not learned behaviours. This was discovered by watching athletes that were blind from birth – and thus had no chance to watch others & learn patterns.

So, when shamed in loss, their posture slumps, they hide their faces & narrow their chests.

In victory, they raise their arms, expand their chests, & tilt their heads back. Like this:

(although I suspect the shirts off & veiny thing is optional)

I found this interesting because one of the subtle things we learn at Aikido is to expand our chests & keep our heads up. I’d always figured this was just a posture thing – if you look down, it pulls tension into the shoulders & you go off balance. Expanding the chest leads to a more opening feeling, expansive rather than contracting energy, and so on.

But perhaps there’s more to it than that?

There have been many studies, going back to Riskind (1984) and perhaps earlier that link posture & depression. It’s common knowledge that you can cheer yourself the hell up just by adjusting your posture (eg, this,or this)

but just how far can you take this?

So I thought hey – let’s give this a shot. I went for a walk in full on victory pose. Chest opened & puffed out (almost), head tilted slightly back – although not so far I fell over. Umm, no, I kept my arms down. Don’t need to get arrested for being a complete loony (it’s supposed to be a secret – don’t tell anyone)

The funny thing is, I was already feeling pretty incredibly good this morning. Confident, happy, on top of the world. The sun was definitely shining on planet Si.

Now, when I walk I have a real tendency to get thoughtful, and thus look down. And yet after a 20 minute walk around town, consciously adjusting my posture anytime I felt it slip back ..I felt.. how could it be.. even more incredible?

I don’t know how that’s possible, but I highly recommend giving it a go – particularly if you’re already feeling a bit beneath the weather to start with.

I’m also beginning to think that part of the reason for doing it in Aikido is a combination of these two quotes from the founder, Morihei Ueshiba:

“A good stance and posture reflect a proper state of mind.”


“Aikido can be summed up like this: True victory is self-victory”

Ie, perhaps it’s internal, not external victory that really matters in the end – and by adjusting your physical posture, you ensure mental & spiritual victory.

This whole brain/mind/body connection really is an incredibly interesting thing.