Last week I found myself standing outside with hands on hips, shoulders and elbows spread wide, feet splayed shoulder-width apart, admiring the view down the coulee, and I asked myself a profound question: How long has it been since I last stood around in this Wonder Woman pose?
It’s an important life question, but I’ll back up about 20 years or so to the beginning of the story.
I had “dinged” my back slinging around some hefty hay bales. And by hefty I mean to say that they were just marginally smaller than a Volkswagen Beetle, so yeah, about 80 percent of my total body weight.
The trouble with the “ding” was that it wasn’t getting better. It, apparently, required special medical treatment: I had to stop lifting things and start taking care of myself. Weird, right? As if posts were going to dig their own holes and set themselves into the ground, or the horses were just going to trim their own feet or train themselves, or weeds were going to keel over and die because it was the polite thing to do.
That’s just crazy talk.
But eventually, I succumbed to my misery and started taking careful walks and doing gentle (gentle for crying out loud!) stretches and lying around putting endless rounds of ice packs and heating pads on the affected area, agonizing over everything that wasn’t getting done.
Normally, I’m all for lazing around. I could finally rock at a sport if someone ever started a pro-am tour for laze-abouts. But tell me I have to not work and all of a sudden the oppositional defiance disorder starts squealing like a little sissy and all I want to do is work, work, work.
I’m contrary, so sue me. But I digress from the point.
As I got healthier and could do more, I realized that I constantly needed to work at keeping myself in excellent posture since the ideal stance for lazy people is slouching.
It’s just so hard to keep one’s own body upright. I had to lean on walls, slump into chairs and lean forward onto my elbows to keep my giant Irish-German potato head propped up on my fists.
However, all those postures are bad, bad and bad for your spine. I’m telling you: bad.
Somewhere along the line, though, I figured out that, if I stood in a classic Wonder Woman pose, that alone would help my back feel better and not get fatigued so fast in a day. It was awesome.
With feet spread shoulder-width apart, it’s uncomfortable to slouch into a hip-cocked or wall-supporting stance, and I could stay pretty balanced, even in a stiff wind. Hands on hips kept my shoulders back and hips forward, for proper alignment with my heels. Shoulders back kept my upper spine erect, and it sort of led by example for my neck.
I felt good. Like really good. And I even sat more correctly because of this.
More crazy talk, right?
Flash forward about 20 years to me wondering about my old Wonder Woman pose.
Now flash forward another two days to Netflix — yes, the online movie and and TV program provider — which suggested, out of the blue, that I would like to watch some different programs. On a whim I picked a presentation by social psychologist Amy Cuddy at TEDGlobal 2012 in Edinburgh, Scotland.
The presentation was, in short, about Cuddy’s discovery that adopting power poses — like leaning back in a chair with your feet on the desk and hands behind your head like you own a Fortune 500 business and a yacht, or throwing your fists up in the air with your arms in a V for victory stance like you just sprinted a gold medal-winning race, or yes, the classic Wonder Woman pose — for only two minutes a day helps people feel more powerful, more confident throughout the day.
It actually tricks the brain into, immediately and measurably, producing more good hormones, power hormones, and decreasing production of bad hormones, confidence-killing hormones.
No wonder my back felt so strong, I thought while watching Cuddy. My spine was buoyed by confidence and hopped up on superpowers.
Wonder Woman had it right.
So if you ever walk into a room where I’m standing in a Wonder Woman pose, just wait two minutes for my little me-time to get over
Or you could take that time to jog laps around me with your arms stretched up into a victory pose.
Feel free to make that sound like 10,000 screaming sports fans are celebrating your victory. I won’t judge.
(Find out more about Cuddy’s presentation at http://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are.html or just chat me up at email@example.com.)