Most people who choose massage careers are enthusiastic healers, passionate about relieving others’ pain through healing touch. But in addition to changing a person’s physical experience, did you know that massage therapy can also change the way the brain works? Fascinating new research from across the country shows that physical posture has a direct impact on brain functioning. Let’s review some of the research:

A Straight Spine Brings a Positive Outlook and Increased Confidence. San Francisco State University professor Erik Pepper has found that people can more easily think of positive thoughts and memories when they are sitting up straight.

A Ohio State study published in 2009 found that sitting up straight reinforced confidence.

Change Your Posture to Change Your Mental Outlook. Dana Carney, social psychologist at UC Berkeley has found something even more shocking: Standing in a “power pose” for two minutes can make a person feel less stressed and more confident. In this study, researchers showed that posture actually changes brain and body chemistry, resulting in increased testosterone and decreased testosterone. (You may have heard of this research through Ann Cuddy’s Ted Talk.) Power postures include the classic Superman pose, with hands on hips, as well as the laid-back pose with feet kicked up and hands behind head that we so often see CEOs adopt. In the study, even those who didn’t naturally feel confident had the same results—their brains were bathed in the chemicals signaling, “I feel powerful and confident!”

How Getting a Massage Improves Your Posture

A habitual posture, such as that of sitting at a desk, tends to load strain unevenly on the body, so that some muscles are overworked while others become weak with lack of use. By relieving muscle tension and pain, massage allows the body to settle more naturally into a stacked, evenly distributed posture. Massage can also improve joint mobility, another contributor to proper posture.

Consistent, ongoing massage tends to bring more consistent results as far as improving posture goes, so if you’d like to see the physical and mental benefits of good posture, we recommend getting massages regularly—our student and alumni massage clinic is a great resource for Portlanders looking to relax their way to better posture. And if the fact that massage can improve brain functioning only makes you more enamored of the idea of earning a massage therapist certification, call us. East West College of the Healing Arts is a leading massage school in Portland, and one of only four schools on the West Coast to boast COMTA accreditation.