Refreshed and rested after a holiday week off, I picked up the New York Times Book Review last Sunday to find a positive piece on Amy Cuddy’s new book, “Presence.” The author, a clinical psychologist and TED talk star, has some intriguing things to say about the power of posture and physical bearing in changing lives and affecting outcomes.
After my first day back on the job, I headed to my weekly Monday evening yoga class, where I was reminded that, as helpful as Cuddy’s “fake-it-until-you-become-it” motivation can be, it skims the surface of something deeper.
My yoga instructor, Barbara Burgess-Camardella (who I love), agrees with Cuddy’s findings, but, physically and spiritually, she takes things further. While Cuddy points to the confidence-building power of the classic arms-outspread victory pose (think of a victorious track star crossing the finish line), Burgess-Camardella goes for a full backbend, overcoming some primal fears and boldly opening the heart to build strength and confidence and gain clarity, along with an entirely new perspective.
“Fear is based on lack of knowledge,” Burgess-Camardella says. “I used to hate backbends, but I’ve come to love them. You have to unfurl your body in the opposite direction and look behind you. Everything is upside down. It’s good to look back and to look at the present from a completely different angle. That’s what we do when we’re doing things like backbends and heart openers and chest openers.”
As we packed up our mats to head home, Burgess-Camardella made one final observation, and I’m going to keep it with me as we open our hearts and bend our way confidently into a new year.
“It’s really about letting go of what’s familiar and normal,” she said, “and then creating a brand new familiar and normal.”