I first learned about how creating an action with your body can change how you feel in college. I was an acting major and spent my third year immersed in the Chekhov* technique. One key element of the Chekhov technique is the Psychological Gesture. This is one movement that shows what the character wants, as well as the character’s thoughts and feelings. When I first experienced this in acting class, I remember being so surprised. How could just making one movement change how I felt? But, it worked. It was true. How I moved my body made me feel strong, weak, angry, or happy. How amazing that our emotions can be tied to physical gestures and movements.
Thinking about it, though, it makes sense. When I am angry, I grit my teeth and hold my jaw tight. I tighten my muscles and hold my breath. When I am happy, I smile, I breathe more freely, I stand a little taller with my chest lifted and my shoulders back. Our bodies are totally involved in our emotions. There is a direct relationship between how we feel and how we hold ourselves.
Moving forward to yoga. I have a pretty routine yoga practice. I do a physical practice coupled with meditation every morning. Just this morning, I noticed that my hips were quite tight. I wondered how did these hips get so sore ? But, I had been holding myself in a ball all night because my air conditioning went out and I was worried about getting it fixed. Therefore, tension in my hips! So, I breathed through my hip openers slowly and surely, taking care to not hurt myself. As I did, I felt that worry feeling lift. I was able to come back to the moment and let go of the unnecessary tension. (If you are concerned, the repair person showed up on time and now my air conditioning is working again. It is 104 degrees outside in the Los Angeles area today, but I’m staying cool inside.)
Can the opposite work, too, though? How about a smile? Can the simple act of smiling help you feel better when you are blue? I remember the first time I was in a yoga class and the teacher instructed us to lift the right corner of your mouth up, and now the left corner. She was instructing us to smile. I started laughing right there. It gave me such a kick… and it worked.
It is easy for me to get stuck in serious thought. I can get wrapped up thinking about the future, thinking about the past. Before I know it, I am frowning, my brow is furrowed, and I feel melancholy. So, I now remind myself to use this little smile technique to flip things around for myself. Then I add in a few deep breaths and I come back to myself and the moment. A bit happier, and a bit more peaceful. Let’s keep it simple… Breathe & Smile… or if you prefer, Smile & Breathe. Try this out for yourself and see how you feel.
May you have peace within,