The Power of a Bow: Priming All Parts of Your Brain for Meaningful Action

Gesture and posture are often forgotten as fundamentally impactful ways of working with and transforming our reality fully and quickly.

To explore this idea a little more, let’s look at one of the most powerful gestures in the human lexicon: ‘the bow’.

The history of this gesture extends not only through a rich, human, cultural history but also as an observable phenomenon in the animal kingdom. There is something both culturally and biological compelling about the bow, making it a very potent tool of communication.

We then understand that it is not coincidence that performers bow at the end of their performance and that full-body bows are a part of many religious and spiritual practices (for example the ‘prostration’ in Buddhist practices). There is power in gesture and perhaps especially so in this gesture.

For me, as a performer, the bow is a part of the performance that I hold precious. It is the time I have to be present with the audience outside of any role and my opportunity to express my gratitude. As I lower my head to those in the room, I get to honour those present, my heart connecting and appreciating the humanity in each person present. The part of them, that has seen a part of me, and in turn hopefully more deeply seen a part of themselves. There is no feeling quite like getting to pay respect to a room full of people who have just made time to witness what I have worked hard to bring them.

When was the last time you bowed or you experienced a bow? Was it impactful? Often we take it for granted as simply an inculcated (even outdated?) aspect of cultural convention. Though this may be true, when we have this view we sometimes fail to notice the power of the gesture to communicate. Not only to others, but inwardly within ourselves as we either receive or give a bow.

Here is a way for you to try on bowing, both as experiential proof of the power of gesture and also as a powerful, fast and emotionally connecting way to prime for your day.

Begin by taking several deep breaths as you reflect on three aspects of life that have the great value and importance to you. For example – your family and the principles of generosity and compassion. Next, in your imagination, picture these things – with a representational image, or imagining the word - in front of you. Then, make three bows to these objects. As you bow, hold that sense of what they represent and your aspirations in relation to them in your heart. Strive for a genuine sense of honouring and paying respect, of gratitude and appreciation. After your bows pause for a few breaths and notice what you are feeling in and through your body.

The wonder of movement is that it connects with and impacts both our limbic and reptilian brains. In this practice, when you connect the movement with your intention, you are allowing the impact of your intention to resonate through not just your thinking mind but the whole of your human self.

Photo by Vlad Braga on Unsplash