How Power Poses Shape My Morning

I wake some mornings and intentionally TeleWonderWoman before I sit to work.

If it’s a normal human time for a chronically ill person to wake –  between 8:30 and eleven – I set the coffee to perk and walk Mitra first.

I leave the phone, and we make our short little “Pan Am” loop. Did you ever see that charming but short-lived television show a few years back? They shot a few scenes on my block during a string of years where everyone shot a few scenes on my block. In one Berlin-based scene, the team circles my hood in a way that doesn’t make sense in real life but looks good on film. Oh, look: my building is bashfully covered by trees behind them.


Mitra and I walk down the block (where Christina Ricci is in this photo), and then cut mid-street to a tiny little cluster of trees and bushes for her to do her thing. Then we cross to the opposite side and circle back towards home (the part that doesn’t make sense in the show but henceforth Mitra-walking friends have known it as the Pan Am loop). I feed her and set her up with toys (such a spoiled dog). And start my ritual.

If it’s 6:30 and I’m up in the delicious quiet and darkness of New York City before the noise and beautiful mess of street traffic begins, I leave her snoozing and go straight to the ktichen.

I set coffee brewing, and the timer on my microwave for 2 minutes and 10 seconds. I stand with my back to the room and look out of the broad paneled windows down onto the street below. I plant my feet just slightly wider than hip distance apart, and feel my body in contact with the floor below me. I place my hands on my hip bones, my elbows are wide, my arms strong. My stomach and the flat of my back straight and even. I slightly broaden my chest, opening my clavicle and lengthening my neck.

And then I breathe. For two minutes.

My heart rate starts to pick up, sometimes thumping in my chest so strongly that I have to lower my breath and relax my body just a bit so I’m not overwhelmed by the rush of energy. I feel the air around me kisisng my body, my shape taking space in it. I repeat my List of Five, sometimes settling on one whose particular force of badassery I need to utilize that day. This morning, I imagined my four women (and Mitra) standing in a circle with me in the same pose, strong and solid, a team of female grounding and grace.

I breathe. I center.

The timer goes off, and I let everything go.

That’s it. I grab my coffee, and sit to work.

When I started scheming this Challenge, I’d pondered far more physically rigorous starts to my day: hitting the yoga mat for a series of Sun Salutations before I even did the walk or reached for my coffee, or doing some qi gong to fire me up. But this is my most physically fragile time of year. And even though I wanted something to get me out of my head, I’m satisfied with the dual focus of seeing how flipping negative thought to positive can change how I look at my choices in the future, and if I can reshape my days by giving myself two minutes to refocus at a time.

Here’s what I’ve noticed so far:

Just as with qi gong, I find my energy moves extremely quickly with the power pose. Sometimes, my heart starts racing so quickly that I do feel overwhelmed. I have circulation issues and adrenal issues and whatnot, but I’m curious as to what this might say about cortisol, testosterone, and adrenaline particularly. I wonder if Amy knows. So I go gently with this, tapping into a kind of confidence that is grounded and flowing rather than overflowing and forceful.

Then, the two minutes do change the way I then sit at my desk to work. I am more focused and more confident. I don’t lag. I immediately tend to a task. Or I sit and list what I want to accomplish, and then start to work through them. Today: this blog post, finishing editing a piece for my dude at Saveur, finishing a draft for Wonderment, then going through the notes in the major big project I whinged about two days ago and needed a day away from. All that wrapped before 5pm, when I have to do a phone interview for a Plate magazine story.

I can handle these. I’m taking a day off social media. I feel clear, and focused.

I do believe just taking the two minutes, and the combination of my Amy Cuddy Power Poses and the Wonder Women List of Five is enough.

And if the feeling wanes today, I’ll do it again. Hell, power posing in the middle of the night is how #MarchingWithMe came about! If notice myself sitting at my desk and crumpling and closing off, I’ll remind myself to sit tall and broaden, and welcome more space and air. As my editor friend and mental health advocate Kat Kinsman reminds her friends, colleagues, and social media followers: sometimes we need to just stop, take a few breathes, and tend. Every single time I see this in one of her feeds, I follow the advice and am thankful.

Anyway, that’s how this Challenge has been shaping up my mornings during this whole weird, stinky month, when I’m not overwhelmed by the world and am just being a human doing work and walking a dog and writing words.

Oh, I do have another question for Amy, if I ever get her on the phone: When is it not good to Power Pose? Who doesn’t or shouldn’t boost their testosterone or cortisol, or when should you particularly not want to pop into a pose? Hmm…


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