Did you know that holding Cobra pose (Bhujangasana) for several breath cycles brings down your cortisol (the stress hormone) and increases your testosterone (the “oumph” hormone)? The study published in Human Physiology in 2004 examined healthy subjects who had some experience with yoga. The blood samples taken before and after holding Bhujangasana revealed that the level of cortisol decreased by 11% (with slight variability) in all subjects, while testosterone increased by 16% (1).
This is significant because the relative balance between those hormones demonstrates how powerful (or powerless) we feel. “Testosterone (the assertiveness hormone) and cortisol (the stress hormone) fluctuate in response to changes in an individual’s feelings of power and status. As power increases, testosterone rises and cortisol drops. This hormone profile is associated with high assertiveness and low anxiety, the ideal combination for facilitating presence in challenging moments.”(2)
Why did this hormonal change happen in Cobra pose? Amy Cuddy and colleagues were wondering if it could be explained by the expansiveness and openness of the body position in Bhujangasana. They posed a question: “Since we naturally expand our bodies when we feel powerful, do we also naturally feel powerful when we expand our bodies?”
Their studies confirmed it to be true. They “provided strong evidence that adopting expansive, open postures—bodily displays of power—caused not just psychological and behavioral changes but also alterations in our subjects’ physiological states.” They concluded that “by adopting expansive, open postures, we make ourselves feel better and more effective in several ways. We feel more powerful, confident, and assertive, less stressed and anxious, and happier and more optimistic.”(2)
In the course of the yoga practice we have many opportunities to expand our bodies. Usually it ends up being a balance between open, expansive poses and folding, closed poses (which have a different effect on the system). But we can design entire practices with the idea of increasing a sense of assertiveness and personal power. And we have other tools at our disposal that are just as effective. The yoga practice below uses expansive, open body positions, “tidal wave” breathing pattern with emphasis on inhalation, and “removing the obstacles” meditation to help you cultivate a sense of powerful presence. Give it a try and see if it can help you meet life’s everyday challenges!
- Presence by Amy Cuddy
This practice has been added to Sequence Wiz home yoga practice app. You can find it under Mental-emotional state > Anxious/fearful > 40-60 minutes. Learn more about the app >