Buddhism: 50% of your State of Mind is dependent on your Posture.

Via Waylon Lewis
on May 19, 2010
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Synchronizing Mind and Body in the Present Moment = Effortless Elegance.

Let us have good head and shoulders—the basic elegant posture of enlightenment.  ~ Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

Growing up, I studied Buddhism with Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche. I can’t tell you how many times he’d remind us that half our state of mind was dependent on our posture.

Rinpoche is a meditation teacher. But he’s also an athlete—and he knows the importance of posture, of yoga, of proper breath. He’d remark that, of course, you can tell when someone is depressed—they slump. Problem is, it’s self-fulfilling. It’s hard to cheer up, mentally, when, physically, you’re slumped.

I remember, too, reading that the Sakyong’s father, Chogyam Trungpa, remarked on how friends would edge to their seats and sit up bolt upright in the movie theater when they were excited. You can see a sort of peace and presence in calligraphy experts—and that physical elegance, whether manifested through art or dance or everyday life—further manifests in our inner and outer actions.

This is such a simple point that it’s easy to overlook how easy, and powerful, a tool this is to keep in mind. When you’re depressed, make an effort to sit up, and relax. When you’re excited, make an effort to breathe.

It’s an easy way to bring your state of mind into a happier place.


> In Buddhism, there’s the six points of posture for meditation. Here’s some more detailed advice.

> Here’s some basic tips for models (and everyone else).

> Stressed out after a day at the computer or at the wheel? Try simple restorative yoga—it’s easy, and heavenly, and you don’t need a mat, and your children or friends can join you.

> The Posture Guru of Silicon Valley

nytimes posture


About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now elephantjournal.com & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. elephantjournal.com | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


34 Responses to “Buddhism: 50% of your State of Mind is dependent on your Posture.”

  1. Ruthann A
    Good article on benefits of body following outward postures!

    Rick G
    at our Kasung program today I sat on a horrible cushion–so soft it was like a marshmallow. it makes a big difference.

  2. Charlotte says:

    It's so true. Setting yourself up efficiently—finding the right support (zafu, bench, meditation cushion, chair)—and then adjusting your support so that your spine is self supporting, makes all the difference in the world. Sitting meditation is challenging enough without having to fight your posture.

  3. You don't want to see how I'm sitting in my chair right now. Thanks for info!

  4. Barbara says:

    Me either…. I straightened up immediately, threw back my shoulders and "sucked in" my gut!

  5. Linda says:

    Good show!–love, mom!

  6. Brian Adler says:

    This is the gist of what Somatic Psychology is all about. Kinesthetic experience and the experience of mind are inextricably linked.

  7. Juliana says:

    So true. My state of mind definitely changes when I'm sitting upright. I connect with my dignity more easily, and emotions can move through me without getting caught. When you look at children their posture is naturally upright… It's interesting to consider at which point slouching became habitual.

  8. LasaraAllen says:

    Awesome! Love it, Way. Thanks.

  9. […] > His son, my teacher, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, has noted that posture is 50% of one’s state of mind. […]

  10. […] Posture affects consciousness. Energy is moving in and through your body in a very specific way at any given moment; changing the posture alters the flow. The delicate state of consciousness to which we hope to maintain access is necessarily dependent on how the body is positioned. […]

  11. […] I am a mother to two amazing, strong-willed, active and tremendously ornery little boys. I am aBuddhist. […]

  12. […] The communion of posture becomes apparent when you consider its control, which can be both voluntary and non-voluntary. Non-volitional control is governed by the righting reflexes. The primary job of these reflexes is to maintain the eyes and ears in an optimal position to see and hear the world around us. Body reflexes position the shoulder and elbow so that the hand can manipulate our immediate environment. Your hip, knee and foot posture are aligned for optimal mobility so that you can move around and find more things to look at and manipulate. A staggering 90% of your brain’s energetic capacity is devoted strictly to accomplishing the seemingly simple task of posture. […]

  13. James Hackney says:

    I studied some neuroscience as part of my PhD; so can attest that this makes not only intiutive but scientific sense. There is a resonence in neural circuitry between physical manifestation of emotions and the emotions themselves.

  14. As a therapist who has worked for decades and as a yogini, the idea that you can shift depression by sitting up and "relaxing" is garbage help and treats a serious disorder cavalierly. Maybe it can help shift you out of a tamasic state or a temporary low energy mood, but true depression should be treated with respect for the mind-body disorder that it is. Saying posture can treat it is like saying a bandaid can help an amputation.

  15. Miles Kessler says:

    "The Mind is the fore runner of all things" – The Buddha. This piece makes it sound as though it is the opposite. Sorry folks but I have to disagree here. An energized and balanced mental state will be reflected in the posture, and like wise a mental state of "dukkha" will also be reflected in the body. The fact is that on the progressive path of meditation (mindfulness based) a yogi will pass through all sorts of mental states from the highest heaven to the lowest hell, and the body posture will follow. So the reason I have a problem with the author here is because the reader will inevitably hold the concept that good meditation is good posture. Some of the deepest insights on the path of meditation are the dukkha states where the yogi sees the truth of suffering. The body postures in theses states can very from being heavy, slumped, falling back, constricted chest and breath, backbone turned to jelly, gut contracted, and so on. Not exactly the posture of our favorite Buddha statue. In these states if the yogi manipulates the natural process and forces ad straight posture then they will actually be preventing the natural unfolding of insight. This is a classic pitfall of the practice. However, if the yogi simple stays mindful of what is arising in the practice, regardless of some concept of the ideal meditative posture, then they will indeed pass through these stages and naturally move into a state of equinimity where the posture is perfectly balanced, straight, light, upright and effortless. In the vipassana world, there any teacher that is worth his salt would never instruct the yogi to manipulate their posture.

  16. Lauren says:

    Very true. 🙂

  17. […] though, you konw, when we want to cheer up—that’s (50%) easy, too. […]

  18. elephantjournal says:

    I'll give you an upvote for barely being able to disagree respectfully. Being able to work with depression through a 2,500 year old tradition that's been tested by time and thousands upon thousands of practitioners, after all, would put you out of a job! ~ Waylon

  19. elephantjournal says:

    It's not one or the other–perhaps you missed the quote about body, speech and mind needing to be aligned. But thanks for playing!

  20. @tom_zorro says:

    so what happens if you suffer from chronic connective tissue problems ( EDS, cranial settling , HMS ) and cant even support yourself sitting , kneeling etc ?

  21. […] tendence when things are hard is to get sloppy. Go the opposite direction, and uplift yourself. Posture is key, here, too). 9. Get away from everything. Go on a hike. Nothing will save you…but Nature will […]

  22. […] up our environment. Cleaning up our room. Sitting up, and […]

  23. […] Buddhism: 50% of your State of Mind is dependent on your Posture. | elephant journal […]

  24. […] messy house, full of love, can be delightful, our environments reinforce our mental states, just as our physical posture can enlighten or depress us. So let’s practice keeping things relatively clean not out of a sense of uptightness, but out […]

  25. […] that would be glorious, wonderful, amazing. If simultaneously, newer students could enjoy the Sakyong‘s new teachings, his new books (which deserve devoted, professional campaigns behind […]

  26. Diana Moll says:

    Gokhale Method is all about posture, it's not a forced thing it's a correctly relaxed thing. Check it out. http://gokhalemethod.com/

  27. Joe Sparks says:

    Try smiling with a rounded back! It is very difficult when you compressing your spine all day.,making it difficult to move your rib cage and breath. Try it! Could our lifestyle, culture , hours of sitting everyday contribute to feeling depressed? 95% of back pain is posture related, plus adding exercises like crunches and forwarding bending poses in yoga can contribute to feeling bad, try breathing in those exercises, you can't! Our spines were not designed to sit all day. We need to open and lengthen the front of the body and shorten and strengthen the back of the body, a balance of flexibility and tension. If you want to learn how to do this checkout Michaelle Edwards and her innovative method of Yoga called YogAlign. She is a contributor on Ellephant Journal.

  28. Lindsey says:

    Love this! Thank you for posting. Also, off topic and just a little heads up, it might be just me but the 6 points link has been flagged as an "attack page?" I don't really know what the means, but I get scary graphics and a button that says "get me outta here!" when I go to it. Just thought I'd pass that along. Thanks again!

  29. DomesticGoddess says:

    Posture also relates to the energy body – proper alignment of the spine and therefore also the chakras creates a better flow.

  30. Guest says:

    What about kyphosis and scoliosis?

  31. Velislava says:

    I have both since I was a child, now 31. I am slim and tall, and it is very visible 🙁
    I found a chiropractor and was going for therapy every day, now traveling for 3 months, but will continue next week again. The most important thing though is the exercises every day – simple stretching, I also add some asanas to those and feel really good. I am a beginner in the real breathing and meditation but feel it is the best!