SEL Tip: Strike a Powerful Pose

Using a “power pose” can help young people and adults increase their confidence before anxiety-producing activities. Here's a step by step process to help students develop the practice.

Power pose
Power pose by juhansonin.


Taking an assertive and expansive stance for even a minute or two can help people feel more capable of taking on a challenge. (Although initial research on the effectiveness of the "power pose" was flawed, current evidence shows that it can be effective.) 

Here is a step by step process to help your students develop and practice their own "power pose."


1. Introduce the power pose.

Share with students that in times of stress, it’s especially important to find stress-reduction strategies that will work for you.

Today we’ll have a chance to learn and try out one simple strategy that works for many people – especially to reduce anxiety at certain moments (like before a test or a presentation).  It’s called a “power pose.”

Explain that although using a power pose takes only two minutes, it can be effective in helping people feel more powerful and capable.


2.  Think of your power pose.

Invite students to think of their favorite superhero or heroine. Is it Wonder Woman? Superman? Zena the Princess Warrior?

Think about how they stand. Their bodies are usually held in an open position where they take up more space than we mere humans. Their heads are held high, their legs and feet are apart, and their body position is expanded. Maybe their hands are on their hips or their arms are up in the air in a show of victory or they are even flying.

When a superhero or heroine takes a pose like this, they feel calm, powerful, confident, and not inhibited. They make themselves bigger, not smaller. They do not cross their legs, or arms, or make themselves take up less space. If they are sitting, they do not cross their legs or their ankles or fold their bodies in any way.

Their arms would not be in their laps, for example, but would rest on the arms of the chair so that they are as big as the chair. Many animals puff themselves up in this way, as well. Think of a peacock spreading its feathers.

Once you’ve found a power pose, you can use it as you see fit. When something anxiety-producing comes up, take a quick timeout to adopt your pose. The feelings of calm, confidence, power, and enthusiasm will follow.  Then, dig into the task you’ve been anxious about.


3.  Try it out.

Tell students that now they’ll have a few minutes to find their own power pose.

If your class is remote, tell students to turn off their video or find some space in their homes where they can be alone for two minutes (such as the bathroom). They will need a space where they will feel completely free to open up and spread out.

You will set the timer for two minutes. During those two minutes, students should adopt a superhero pose that makes them feel confident, and hold that pose.

If your class is in person, demonstrate a power pose yourself, and have the students try out some poses.

4.  Regroup.

Ask students:

  • Did you find a pose that works for you?  Invite a few volunteers to share their power pose. 
  • What did it feel like when you were in your power pose?
  • When do you think you might benefit from doing this pose?
  • Are there certain times when we as a class want to take a 2-minute power pose pause? (For instance, before a test?)


5. Using the Power Pose.

This exercise is recommended for any stressful situation you know you will be facing. It is best to do it as close to the beginning of the stressful event as possible.  Some examples of times that it might be useful are below. But feel free to use it whenever you find it helpful.

  • Right before taking an exam
  • Right before making an oral presentation
  • Right before a job interview
  • Right before an audition
  • Right before a competition