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amy novotny diaphragmatic breathing

How to Breathe Properly So You Can Stay Calm and Engage with Dr. Amy Novotny

I don’t know about you, but if I were asked to list the various ways the body is involved in public speaking, I would include stance, movement, gestures, heart rate, and even sweating. And to be honest, the rib cage would be far down on that list, if it were on it at all. In this episode, Dr. Amy Novotny shares why the often-neglected rib cage should be higher on that list and how it helps you when you deliver presentations in meetings and on stage.

 

Podcast Transcript

 

Peter
I don’t know about you. But if I were asked the various ways that the body is involved in public speaking, I would include stance, movement, gestures, heart rate, and even sweating. And to be honest, the ribcage would be far down that list if it were on it at all. In this episode, Dr. Amy Nevada is going to share why the often neglected rib cage should be higher on that list, and how it helps you when you deliver presentations and meetings and onstage. Amy founded the power Institute with the mission to provide pain, stress, and anxiety relief to those who seek a naturalistic form of treatment when other treatment methods have fallen short. She’s co-author to Amazon number one best-selling books don’t quit. Stories of persistence, courage and faith in success habits of super achievers speaking of super achievers, Amy speaks three languages has run more than 40 marathons. 10 ultra marathons in an Ironman Triathlon. She has also photographed wildlife and landscapes all over the world and has been recognized by many organizations, most notably National Geographic. Join us and discover how your ribcage helps you breathe, and how breathing helps you present in a more compelling and engaging manner. Hi, Amy, it’s great to have you with us.

Amy
Hi, Peter, thank you so much for having me on. It’s such a pleasure to be here with you today.

Peter
Amy much more goes into delivering a compelling presentation than meets the eye and maybe even surprisingly, so. And one of those things is our nervous system. How does this influence our ability to speak in public?

Amy
Our nervous system, we have this basic nervous system called our autonomic nervous system. And I’m gonna just go through the basics of it, I won’t get too technical, but there are two almost opposing nervous systems, your parasympathetic nervous system, which is rest, digest relaxation, sleep, and then your fight or flight nervous system, that sympathetic nervous system. Now those are related to public speaking because we when we get to speak in public, our body often kicks into that sympathetic fight or flight nervous system, you may feel the sweaty hands, your armpits get a little bit sweaty, you may miss a word or two, your mind may go blank. All of those are reactions based on our fight or flight nervous system, perceiving public speaking as somewhat of a threat or something that we’re not comfortable with, so our body responds accordingly. Now, we can change that. And that’s one of the most powerful things is we can shift how we control our nervous system and bring ourselves back down into that parasympathetic nervous system where we can speak with clarity, we can speak with Melody, we can speak with different speeds or pace and we can change the way we speak. If we can get ourselves to come out of that fight or flight nervous system, and shift our body so our body doesn’t recognize public speaking, as something that’s attacking us. So the nervous system plays a very important role in how we speak, how we project ourselves, and even the manner in which we’re speaking.

Peter
Now, can we use breathing to help calm our nervous system?

Amy
Yes, because they’re very closely related. So we know that when we’re breathing that it allows us to speak so as we’re exhaling, we’re taking air out of our lungs, it goes over our vocal cords, and then that produces sound. Now breathing is very closely related to that fight or flight nervous system that we’re talking about, and the parasympathetic relaxation nervous system. The two are connected in several ways. Actually, when we use our diaphragm, as we’re breathing, we can stimulate a nerve called your vagus nerve, which gets us out of that fight or flight nervous system into parasympathetic relaxation. So that obviously means we want to use our diaphragm as much as possible. The other thing that happens is if we’re breathing shallow, and we’re not getting in a lot of air and we’re not using our or whole respiratory system well, that tells our brainstem that we’re in fight or flight mode. So when we’re breathing more shallow, our brainstem recognizes it, which then says, Okay, we’re in fight or flight mode. So our body then responds, again, we’re in fight or flight mode, sweaty palms, you know, sweaty armpits, all of those things that happen. Sometimes that means we start to speak faster. Or we start to do other things in the way that we speak that reflect that fight or flight mode. So the thing is, we can shift the way we breathe, to help us calm down our nervous system, which is really powerful. If we can change the way we breathe, especially when we’re on stage, we can shift the way our nervous system behaves, we can shift the way our body responds. And then we have more clarity, in our voice, more clarity in our thoughts that allows us to present it changes our focus, it changes our attention, and it changes the way we can perform. So we can really work on the way we breathe, and we hear about breathwork out there. There’s a lot of different times types of ways to breathe. There’s box breathing, Wim Hof, there are all these different people who have studied breathing. And one of the things that I do that’s differently than a lot of breath work out there is I pair, how your breathing and your technique of breathing with your body position because that’s where the magic happens is the combination of the two, to shift the way you breathe and hold yourself, which allows you to calm yourself down, and then allows you to speak differently.

Peter
Now I know you talk a lot about the ribcage when it comes to breathing and presenting and I have to admit, I for many years didn’t know anything about the ribcage. Can you tell us more about why it’s so important to us?

Amy
Absolutely. So we’re gonna go over a little bit of mechanics here, I want you to get into your mind the image of a cylinder. Our ribcage is a cage like structure, it’s like a cylinder. A cylinder is most stable. When it’s upright, they have that flat bottom, it’s sitting on something that’s most stable. The same thing that goes with our ribcage. It is most stable when it’s upright and in neutral. Now often though, what happens is we are taught chest out, shoulders back, suck up your gut, we’re taught that by our parents, gym instructors, if you do anything in terms of athletics, or sports, anything in the military, anything in performing arts, and in speech, we’re often taught chest out, shoulders back, so we don’t appear like a slouch. And we appear that we have confidence. Now when we do that, I want you to come back to the image of the cylinder. If you take the front of your ribcage and lift it up and pull your shoulders back, now you’re lifting up the front of that cylinder. What happens then is you start to hinge off of your low back, you go on the edge of that cylinder and it becomes unstable. And what happens then is your back muscles start to kick in into overdrive, because you’re hinging off your low back and that and you’re lifting up the front of your ribs. Now that’s changed the orientation of your whole speaking system, your respiratory system, and that fight or flight nervous system that I was talking about because that fight or flight nervous system lies along your spine. And so what happens is when you kick in those back muscles, and you make them start to work overdrive, they are going to crush on that fight or flight nervous system that lies along the spine. And they tell that nervous system to work, work, work, work, work. And so then your body starts to tense up. And we do this innately. If you think about it, when you’re tired and sleepy and you go to stretch, you throw your chest out even more you reach behind you, you kick in those back muscles to help wake you up. So we do this without our brain even realizing it. But we also do this to the extreme, because we’ve been taught to do this by all those things I’ve listed before military sports parents, yada yada yadi and so what happens then is if your body structure your ribcage position is set to have you in fight or flight mode, now your body is on edge. So anything that you do this is perceived as slightly stressful, now your body’s going to respond even quicker. And there’s another reason why the ribcage is important because the ribcage position besides affecting the nervous system that we just talked about, it also affects your breathing technique. So if I lift up the front of my ribs, like we’re just talking about In that Superman perfect posture that we’re all taught, now my diaphragm is not supported. Because the support for the diaphragm to get that to work efficiently and effectively, we need the front of the ribs down, and the side abdominal muscles helping hold those ribs down. Because that provides support for the walls of the diaphragm. So the diaphragm can drop down when you inhale, and then go up as you exhale to produce sound. So if the front of our lower ribs are elevated, now our diaphragm is going to be elevated, and it’s not going to have the wall of support. And when that happens, then it can’t drop down, to get a lot of air in. So that when you speak, you can’t get a lot of air out. And so that affects your ability to speak. And so what happens then, is you speak in shorter sentences or you speak faster, you lose your breath in the middle of speaking, you can’t change your melody, you can’t change your pitch, your tone, all of those things that are important to public speaking to capture an audience, it’s really hard to achieve that. Because your ribcage is high, because we’ve put it there, our diaphragm is high, so it can’t work as well. So you can’t get the airflow as well over your vocal cords. So that ribcage position this is very technical explanation. I know. It affects your nervous system, but it also affects your breathing. And your breathing affects your nervous system, all of which affect how well you speak.

Peter
So how should we stand? Or for that matter? How should we sit?

Amy
Sure, so let’s go over sitting first, because we sit a lot. And it’s great to practice your speaking when you’re sitting for this reason. So if you’re going to sit in a chair, you want to get your low back all the way to the chair back, you want to relax a back, tuck your tailbone under and have your feet flat on the ground with your knees at the height of your hips are slightly higher. And this position will help us start to shift our breathing to get more access to our diaphragm and get our ribcage down. And the reason you want to start like this is because you want to learn how to control your ribcage position. So when you do need to get more animated and you want to put yourself in more fight or flight mode, you can still control your ribcage position. And you don’t go to the full extreme where you get the sweaty hands, sweaty armpits, all of that. So with the sitting position, we’re sitting all the way back or tailbone is curled underneath us feet are flat on the ground. And these higher than our hips or at our hip level, we are in this position and then we can start to change the way we breathe. Are you okay? If we go through this breathing technique and do a little bit of a demonstration so people can experience it? Sure. So as we’re sitting here, in that position that I just described, we’re going to breathe four steps in through the nose, pause the second, blow out through the mouse, and then pause and hold our breath for three seconds. If this is something new for you, you might have to pause and hold your breath for only one or two seconds. Because it can be a little bit challenging at first as you’re getting into this to switch from a fight or flight breathing to a relaxation, breathing, parasympathetic, reading where you have control and can use this for public speaking. So let’s get into that seated position. We’re going to go through a little bit of an exercise to help you guys feel and shift your breathing to a more relaxed state. As we go through this, I’m going to coach you through it. Let’s put one hand on your chest one hand on your belly, you’re going to use your hands to help you feel what it is that you can use to help you with speaking. So get back into that position.

Amy
Sit back in your chair, let your tailbone curl under you let your low back relax. One hand on your chest, one hand on your belly. If you want you can close your eyes get rid of any other distractions. Okay, so we’re going to gently breathe in our nose. let the air go in passively pause and blow out through your mouth. Hear the whoosh of air coming out of your mouth as you blow out. Then hold your breath. Hold your breath and breathe in. Gently breathe in your nose pause and blow out through your mouth. Hear the whoosh coming out of your mouth as you blow out. Hold. Hold and breathe in. Gently breathe in your nose to your throat. Pause. Now blow out and feel your chest drop under your hand, feel it sink in, feel your belly spill out. Hold, hold and breathe in. Gently breathe in, feel the air go in your nose to your throat without effort. Pause and blow out. Let your chest melt in away from your hand. Let your ribcage drop down as your belly spills out. Hold. Hold and breathe in gently breathe in, feel the air go in your nose to your throat without effort. Pause and blow out. Feel your collarbones drop down. Your chest melts in ribs drop down, belly spills out. Hold, hold and breathe in gently breathe in, feel the air go in without effort. Pause and blow out. Feel your armpits relax as your ribs drop down, your belly spills out. Hold on, hold and breathe in, feel the air go in your nose towards your throat without lifting, pause and blowout, chest mounts in ribs drop down, your belly spills out and take a break. So that’s just the little snippet of how you can start to change your breathing. There’s a lot more that goes into it. But I wanted to give you just a little bit of an idea of how to start to shift your ribcage down. And as you get better at it and with some more techniques, you learn how to keep your ribcage down so that your ribs are not lifting up constantly as you breathe in, which kicks in that fight or flight nervous system that lies along your spine.

Peter
Now, is it the same for standing or is it a different technique.

Amy
So with the breathing, there is a little bit of a difference with standing. You want to make sure that when you’re standing your way is towards your heels and the arches of your feet. We want to get you off of your toes if possible to help calm you down. And there is more of a process. So depending on a person and their body structure, and this is what I do with people one on one is looking at their body structure where the ribcage is, we may have to shift their pelvis forward or backwards or rotated a little bit. Depending on their body structure. Everyone stands differently and how they stand really makes a difference in terms of are they kicking in their fight or flight nervous system? Are their ribcage is a ribcage in a correct position or not? And how well they’re using their diaphragm to be able to produce sound?

Amy
Are you ready to work directly with Peter and develop your public speaking skills? Then schedule your free call with Peter at Peter George public speaking.com/callagain. That’s Peter George public speaking.com/callforyourpersonalcoachingandsupportnowbacktopeterandhisguestsnowiknow. You’ve

Peter
worked with public speakers, what type of results have you seen when working with them?

Amy
Many different things, a lot of it. One, they get rid of the sweaty armpits, the clammy hands, too. They’re able to think through their process before. So I worked with a gentleman he’s a sportscaster for the Dallas Cowboys and the football team. So he speaks all the time gives snippets and that and so one of the problems that he was having was he was he would speak very fast. And he would get very excited and he couldn’t slow himself down enough to be able to think through what he wanted to say. And so we worked on this breathing. We worked on calming him down. And he does it in between sportscast now, and it calms him down and he can speak more eloquently. And he can grab people’s attention better, because he can use emotion. He can use melody, he can use pitch, he can change this pace of his speaking all to draw people in and we know that emotion is such an important part of public speaking because we have to capture people’s emotion, to get them to really grab on what we’re saying. And so these are some of the things that have helped people, as well as just calming down nerves helping with stutter, and those types of other aspects of public speaking.

Peter
Okay, this is a two part question. Sure. I believe that most techniques to be done well anyway, need to be practiced. How often should I listen as practice? And number two, how should they implement this when they’re speaking should it be before they’re speaking just before they’re speaking while they’re speaking.

Amy
So as you’re learning to change the way that you hold your ribcage and breathe, I suggest that people practice it for short periods of time throughout the day, maybe about five minutes. When I took you guys through that exercise. It was maybe three, four minutes, but I say something short, like that three to five minutes, where you’re practicing when you first wake up before lunch, before dinner. And before you go to bed. You can even do it when you’re sitting at a stoplight. If there’s no cars around, you can practice breathing in and implemented. Now for speaking, you typically say right before you go onstage, I would do some of the breathing to help calm you down. And then when you’re up on stage, the thing that you want to focus on, you’re not going to be practicing the breathing, obviously, in the middle of your public speaking, because you want to be focusing on your content. But the thing that you want to focus on that I really use in the middle of a speech is keeping my breastbone, my sternum, down and under control. I want to keep that soft down as close to my tailbone as possible, which obviously it’s very far from it. But I want to imagine that I’m pulling it down towards my tailbone. Because when I do that, that helps me control my ribcage, which is going to help me control my nervous system, which will help me control my diaphragm, which controls the way I speak. So if I can focus on my breastbone staying down when I speak, I can have more control over the way sound comes out and the different mechanisms melody and all those things that I was talking about, I can have more control over those in the middle of my speech. So those are the biggest tips I would give to all of your listeners, and how to shift and speak differently.

Peter
I’m a huge believer that breathing is key to delivering a great presentation. And I’ve never heard it put the way you’re saying I know I’m going to practice it and I’m sure our listeners will as well. If they want to learn more about you to do that, where can they connect with you?

Amy
I offer people to send me an email. I love to connect with people one on one. I do offer free 15 minute consultation. So I say send me an email. It’s Amy am y at power institute.com P A br Institute calm and power is a name I use it stands for pain, awareness, breathing relief. So I take people out of whatever pain they’re in, whether it’s physical pain, public speaking, pain, stress, anxiety, we get them to relief using awareness and breathing and shifting the way that they perform.

Peter
Any last tips for our listeners?

Amy
I would just say, go through your day. And check is your belly button relaxed, or are you sucking it up in in, the more you catch yourself sucking up in in the more you know that you’re in fight or flight mode. And this is something that you can control. You can change the way that your nervous system is either on or off. Based on your awareness of your body position and your breathing. You have much more control over your body and how it responds and how it performs and you realize, so if you can start examining yourself, see how many times you can release your belly button, let your ribcage drop down to get you out of fight or flight mode. It can do wonders for your body in so many ways.

Peter
Amy, thanks for being with us today. I appreciate it. And you’ve given me a lot to think about and I’m sure my listeners as well.

Amy
I appreciate you having me on thank you so much for your time. Thank you so much for having me on. It was an honor.

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