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April 08, 2017 7 min read

Power Pose - Show Your Strength

power pose hormones posture

It may seem quite a stretch, the connection between your posture and hormone levels. Recent studies, however, show there IS a connection. Hopefully we will sort this out for you.


We know glands produce hormones. There are 8 primary glands in our bodies. Each has a specific job, but they all work together and sometimes they are antagonistic toward each other. Many experts believe all body functions are pushed by hormones. Hummmm….

For this discussion we will look at two glandular systems: reproductive (including the ovaries and testes) and the adrenals.

Female hormones, specifically estrogen and progesterone, and the male hormone testosterone, we are familiar with. But what role do the adrenal glands play?

It may surprise you that women also produce testosterone. Testosterone helps to maintain lean muscle, good bone mass density, and assist in the sense of well-being. Testosterone is a derivative or by-product of progesterone. Progesterone among other duties play a most important in maintaining pregnancy.

But did you know men also produce estrogen?

Testosterone is at its highest level in teenage boys, but as men age, levels of testosterone begin to decrease while their levels of estrogen start to increase. Progesterone is also produced by males and is very important in preserving masculine traits as men age.

Higher levels of testosterone are associated with aggression, over-confidence, increased risk taking behavior and pleasure seeking. It also relates to anxiety or energy leading to poor concentration.

Higher levels of estrogen are associated with a sense of increased cognition (smarter), both the feeling of being emotionally balanced as well as moodiness.

If the ovaries or testes are removed both estrogen and testosterone will continue to be produced by another system: The adrenal glands. Yes, a backup plan!

The adrenal glands are located at the top of each kidney. Their primary function is to help your body control blood sugar, burn protein and fat, regulate blood pressure, with help other glands function better.

Here is a factoid: When testosterone is produced, it begins to convert to estrogen due to a biochemical reaction called aromatase. Aromatase is found in fat cells. The higher the body fat, especially in the belly area, the greater the level of estrogen produced. 

The Adrenal Glands

Known as 'The adrenals', they are fundamental in stressful situations. They trigger the sympathetic nervous system, fight or flight, to kick into high gear during anxious situation.

Back in the day, this translates to: slay the lion and possibly get eaten (fight), or run and hide (flight). Humans survived through evolution in a great part to the sympathetic nervous system.

A modern-day example of this system at work can be experienced when sliding down a hill on a snowy road, out of control and ready for a crash. Yikes!

The adrenal glands also produce three very important hormones: cortisol, adrenaline (yes, adrenaline is a hormone) and noradrenaline. The adrenals produce other hormones and affect other glands.

When you are in a “fight or flight” situation the first hormone to rush in is adrenaline. We have all experienced an adrenaline rush.

Adrenaline immediately causes the air passages to open up providing muscles with the additional oxygen needed to quickly move. Adrenaline triggers the blood vessels to shrink so blood is re-directed toward the heart and lungs. Adrenaline also causes a noticeable increase in strength and performance.

At exactly the same time noradrenaline is also secreted. Noradrenaline increases our alertness, and immediately retrieves important information from our memory banks warning us of DANGER.

Between adrenaline and noradrenaline we have what we need to deal with life-or-death situations: Strength, Agility, heightened Awareness and amazing Focus.

Many daredevils and some competitive athletes love the adrenaline high. Others have a big problem with it. These hormones increase heartbeat, and induce dry mouth, the feeling of being overwhelmed, over stimulated. Speaking in front of an audience can provoke an unwanted adrenaline flush.

Testosterone and adrenaline are often associated together, though they work differently. Body builders, runners, endurance athletes and other sports participants experience an increase in both of these hormones during and after workouts, but the adrenaline fades quickly while testosterone levels return to normal levels more slowly.

Cortisol, another hormone, is also produced and released by the adrenals during stressful situations.Cortisol has a slower process time, it takes about 30 minutes to fully kick in. Cortisol balances out an adrenaline rush: it lowers blood pressure, creates fatigue while at the same time disrupts sleep, lowers blood sugar regulation, increases brain fog and is a mild depressant.

Cortisol functions in basically the opposite direction of what adrenaline and noradrenaline do.

In chronically stressed people, cortisol levels are elevated and remain high. It is considered by many to be one of the top health issues today. The list of unwanted side effects of increased cortisol levels include: inflammation, decreased immunity to disease, a dampening of blood sugar regulation (possible diabetes connection), depressive mood.

Lowering cortisol levels is not as easy as other hormones. Many people resort to medication, many prefer to exercise.

Another factoid: Chronically high levels of cortisol is blamed for Cushing's Disease. One characteristic of Cushing's is a fatty deposit at the base of the neck where it meets the upper back. The fat has it's own name: Buffalo Hump and you can see it below. I recently wrote a blog about it and you can read it here.

buffalo hump dowagers hump cortisol posture

This is what fatty deposition looks like.

How Posture Plays A Role In Hormone Regulation

An important study by Amy Cuddy, et al, from Harvard University shows clear evidence that posture influences our hormones, specifically testosterone and cortisol. Posture also can affect to a lesser degree estrogen, progesterone, adrenaline and noradrenaline levels.

This study, in a nutshell, analyzed hormone levels in a group of volunteers prior to and following 2 minutes of 'POWER POSING" The link to Amy Cuddy's famous TED Talks is HERE.

For the study, participants were orally swabbed to assess their base levels of testosterone and cortisol. They were divided into two groups. One group relaxed in the lounge, while the other group, sequestered in another room, were shown how to 'power pose'. Essentially a 'power pose' is standing tall, head level, hands on hips, like superman/woman. They were asked to hold the pose for two minutes. Then they were re-swabbed.

Both groups were brought together again and asked to participate in games of chance (gambling). What they found was the "power posing" group shown more risk taking tendencies, were more confident in their opportunity to win and experienced a greater feeling of wellness.

According to Amy Cuddy, the “results of this study confirmed our prediction that posing in high-power nonverbal displays (as opposed to low-power nonverbal displays) would cause neuroendocrine and behavioral changes for both male and female participants: High-power posers experienced elevations in testosterone, decreases in cortisol, and increased feelings of power and tolerance for risk; low-power posers exhibited the opposite pattern.”

The 'power pose' group showed HIGHER levels of testosterone and LOWER levels of cortisol.

Amy cuddy power pose posture

Amy Cuddy in her TED Talk

Recently, some questions regarding the statistical analysis of her original work have been raised, but as a result of this first study, nearly 50 other ones have been conducted. These experiments were cross-cultural to eliminate cultural bias. The current body of literature “supports the existence and robustness of power posing effects.”

There is now a large study underway asking whether or not upright power posture can influence the emotional state of people who suffer from depression and considered important because of the large number of people suffering with it.

CBS news has reported: “Today's teenagers are 38 percent more likely to report problems with memory compared with their 1980's counterparts”. Depression and memory go hand-in-hand. Use of electronic devices, and poor postural habits, has been suggested to play a role in adolescent depression.

What does this mean to you?

It’s not always the most beautiful person in the room getting all the attention. Most people are attracted to calm, confident body language that sends a message. “I’m in control of myself, I am competent to complete the task, I have confidence in myself.”

Could it be these people practice power posing (aka, perfect posture), and what other people sense is both an increase in testosterone and lower levels of cortisol? Is this instinctual?

Possibly, 'power posing' increases and decreases the respective hormone levels and makes us feel better. The best way to start implementing the power pose, is through using the right tools for realigning your spine, such as lower back posture correctors.

Like it or not we are always being judged.

There are thousands of articles written about body language and first impressions. It is believed that over 90% of people’s judgments are based on non-verbal communication. Body language is many times more relevant than verbal communication.

Eighty to 90 percent of a person’s trustworthiness is evaluated within 30 seconds of the first impression. Very important if you are looking for a job or a mate.  

It all boils down to whether you would rather present power and confidence or disappear into the crowd.

Fearless Girl

The artist Kristen Visba got a lot of attention with her sensational sculpture on Wall Street in lower Manhattan. This young girl is power posing exhibiting confidence, and defiance, facing down The Wall Street Bull ( it has been recently moved a block away).

People are drawn to the sculpture, she is inspiring. Maybe it’s a David and Goliath thing but certainly, in part, it is her pose. Fearless.

fearless girl power pose posture Kristen Visbal

How 'Power Posing' Can Help You

Why not try "power posing' for a couple of minutes before making a speech or asking your boss for a raise or vacation?

Your posture certainly plays an important role in how others perceive you. Everyone does have at least some level of control in this. If you could push that impression, even a little bit, in your direction, what do you have to lose?

To help jump start your 'power pose' try PurePosture. This one-of-a-kind device aligns the spine, increases flexibility and solves neck and back pain. It is easy to use, fast and safe. Most important, its effective. Check it out today!