Mindfulness for trainers: posture as a management tool
In part four of this content series on how to become a mindful trainer, Kay Bucky, facilitator at The Development Company, explains how posture can be the key to kindness and softness when faced with stressful situations at work.
It is so easy to get overwhelmed by a stressful situation. Often, I facilitate alone, and having been in L&D for 20 years this year, I know how group energy can change in an instant.
One minute I’m a hero, and the next I’m the villain for causing discomfort. This discomfort can emerge in a number of ways behaviourally:
- Fight/flight behaviour: in ‘fight’ mode, attendees will either argue with you, or others in the room. In ‘flight’ mode, they will withdraw from the event and close down, preferring not to be there.
- Talking over you and others in the room.
- Poor body language – e.g. eye-rolling, setting their jaw, tightening their body.
- Getting louder and louder.
- Using language that reflects the fight/flight mentality, e.g. “this is hopeless, it’ll never work”, or “you’re wrong”.
- Complaining to an influencer, or the course sponsor, during break times about the course, and getting them to ‘have a word with you’.
These are just examples - I’m sure you have loads more to add.
We are part of this energy
We are also part of the energy, the dynamics, and the space. We also have feelings, thoughts, and a body that may be reacting to what is happening. We may be working alone, which can enhance the effects on the body.
It isn’t a natural state to relax whilst under any perceived attack. Poor behaviours in others can bring up feelings, sensations and thoughts, from our past. The key is to be in the moment, and to notice the effect on your body.
If, in the present moment, I am rigid, tense and taking shallow breaths, my mind will become rigid, tense, and stressed.
The resistance to the unpleasant situation is the root of suffering.
Ask yourself, ‘how does my body feel?’ If your jaw, shoulders and hands, are tense, your breathing will be tense, and your mind will contract as a result.
When we connect with our softness, we maintain an open mind and can be receptive and kind to whatever behaviour is happening around us.
Our breath is formed in the body, and we change the quality of our breath through our posture.
When I ground into the moment, I find the effect on my body, breath, and mind, is transformational. I soften into my kindness. My mind opens to the experience, whether it’s good and bad.
Getting your posture right
Our posture is key; the body needs stability, and there are three areas to focus on.
When seated, I sit on my sit bones – that way, my body can support my mind, so body and mind can settle, and be open.
Our sit bones are under the flesh on our bottom, and sometimes we sit too rigidly in a chair when fight/flight is happening. Observe people in meetings.
To find your sit bones, sit in an upright posture. Place your hands on your hips, and find your hip bones. Then slide your hands to directly under your bottom, rocking gently until you feel you are on your sit bones.
It’s a good habit to get into for life. Our sit bones are effectively our feet whilst we are seated, so posture is key to keeping the mind soft.
If I am standing, I use my feet as anchors to the ground. Position your feet hip width apart, with the weight firmly on your feet.
Be aware of your feet touching the ground – Thich Nhat Hanh calls this awareness of our feet grounding us to the earth “kissing the earth”.
Often when we are stressed, we compensate in our belly – we contract our abdomen, the area becomes rigid and hard, and we take shorter breaths.
This doesn’t help with present moment awareness. We want our abdomen to be soft, so forget about how the tummy may stick out. Holding the tummy in is for the beach!
Relax your tummy, and very quickly your mind will follow.
Our shoulders often carry the weight of our troubles, and our shoulders tighten, tense and become rigid. We then become rigid, and harsh in our thoughts.
Rolling our shoulders gently can open them, so we relax and fall into softness.
Try this, in a meeting. Practise it. Then it will be easier to use when you’re next stressed and in front of a group.
“The resistance to the unpleasant situation is the root of suffering,” according to psychologist and spiritual teacher Ram Dass. This is an important idea to bear in mind next time you’re in a stressful situation.
Want to read the rest of the series?
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Kay uses a learner driven, experiential approach in her work. She is always prepared to be challenged with unusual development requests, and often uses actors for drama workshops to embed knowledge, skills and attitudenal change.
Kay has held a variety of roles in her career - sales and marketing, office manager, HR person, Financial...