Proper posture and breathing can make us better communicators! Dr. Nadine Kelly (YogiMD) shares breathing and posture tips, relaxation techniques (deep breathing, alternate nostril breathing, combining breathe with a mantra), differences between the parasympathetic (rest & digest) versus the sympathetic (fight or flight) phase, and why nasal breathing is healthier than mouth breathing.
References & Links
SUMMARY: Posture & Breathing
- Self-awareness is key. Breathe and use posture with intent.
- Everything is connected. Every muscle is connected and all of our internal systems are inter-connected.
- Growth is uncomfortable. Change is uncomfortable. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
- The sympathetic (“fight or flight”) response of the autonomic nervous system is triggered by stress. Cortisol is released, which prepares the body to respond to an emergency.
- The parasympathetic (“rest and digest”) phase is where we breathe properly and accrue the following benefits:
- mental clarity
- slower heart beat
- a sense of calm
- clearer speech
- Complete sentences with an exhale. Use the exhale to project your voice.
- Diaphragmatic breathing is proper breathing:
- Fully inflate our lungs and fully deflate the lungs.
- Consider a baby’s belly rising and falling.
- If you want to strengthen your core, use your core on your exhale
Nasal Breathing versus Mouth Breathing
- “Your mouth is for eating and speaking, your nose is for breathing.”
- Nasal breathing is healthier because the nasal passages:
- are the direct way to get air in and out of your lungs
- are lined with cilia (hair-like projections) that filter out particles
- humidify the air that’s going into the lungs
- adjust air to the proper temperature and warm the air being inhaled
- incorporate the nitric oxide molecule (from the respiratory tract), which relaxes blood vessels and ultimately eases the gas exchange
- Excessive mouth breathing may result in structural changes. Face shape may shift!
Breathing Techniques for Relaxation
- Place your hands on your abdomen, and feel your belly rising and falling.
- Fully inhale and fully exhale.
- Combine a mantra with breathing. (e.g. inhale the word can, exhale the word can’t.)
- Try alternate nostril breathing. Put your right hand in a peace sign with your palm facing you. Put your two finger tips in the middle of your forehead. Use your ring finger and your thumb to press on alternating nostrils. Inhale on the right, and exhale on the left. Do that five to nine times on one side, then do the other side.
- Extend the exhale to inhale ratio to a ratio of about 2 to 1. Start even, counting to 4 for both the inhale and exhale. Then extend the exhale to 5, then 6, then 7 and 8.
- The benefits of proper posture:
- Emits confidence, alertness and awareness
- Reduces muscular pain and arthritis
- Reduces fatigue
- Reduces anxiety
- Sit or stand up tall. We call it “mountain pose” because it evokes height.
- Joints are aligned or stacked on top of the other.
- Imagine your pelvis is a bucket. Don’t tilt your bucket too far forward or too far back.
- Do not lock your knees.
References & Links
Dr. Nadine Kelly
- Website – net
- Podcast – https://yogimd.net/podcast
- FB Group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/465040207766142/
Other Posture & Breathing Resources
Breathing and posture for effective speaking
Breathing and posture linked
Talk About Talk & Dr. Andrea Wojnicki
- ? Andrea’s email – [email protected]
- ? Free Coaching via the Weekly Email Newsletter – https://talkabouttalk.com/blog/#newsletter-signup
- ? Website – https://talkabouttalk.com
- ? Subscribe to the Podcast – https://talkabouttalk.com/podcast-2/#subscribe
- ? “ABCDEs of Communication” – https://talkabouttalk.com/24-abcdes-of-communication-with-dr-andrea-wojnicki/
- ? “Using your Voice with baritone opera singer Bradley Christensen” – https://talkabouttalk.com/2-using-your-voice-with-baritone-opera-singer-bradley-christensen/
- ? Private Facebook group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/2512948625658629/
Dr. Andrea’s Introduction
Well, hello there, Talk About Talk listeners. I’m your communication coach, Dr. Andrea Wojnicki. Please call me Andrea. Thanks for listening. Talk About Talk is the Communication Skills learning platform for life-long learners (like YOU!), who seek professional development and enriched relationships. In other words, when we communicate more effectively, we can do better at work and we can improve our relationships with everyone around us.
Today’s episode is focused on two related things that can help you to improve the quality of your communication immediately: proper breathing and proper posture. If you think about it, advice related to breathe and posture is so common, right? Like taking slow deep breathes to calm our nerves and standing tall when we walk on stage.
But breathing and posture are both things that we typically don’t think about enough. Queue today’s guest expert, Dr. Nadine Kelly. Dr, Kelly, or Nadine, as she likes to be called, is a retired medical doctor, who worked as a hospital pathologist for years. She is now a yoga teacher, and an American Council of Exercise certified Health Coach and Senior Exercise Specialist. AND, Nadine is also a podcaster!
Nadine and I met and became friends when we were both students in Seth Godin’s Podcasting Fellowship. We also both happen to have our black belts in taekwondo. (You might not know that; I don’t think I ever mentioned that in a podcasting episode). Anyway, breathing and posture are also critical for martial arts!
So Nadine is really the perfect person to advise us on how to use breathing and posture to optimize our communication. She knows human physiology from the perspective of BOTH a medical doctor and as a yoga instructor. And she knows communication – her podcast is called YogiMD, which is targeted to mature women, or as she calls them, Wise Women.
Whether you qualify as a Wise Woman or not, I encourage you to listen to Nadine’s advice. In this episode you’ll learn:
- the many benefits of breathing and using posture properly & HOW to use breathe & posture properly,
- Proper breathing as in diaphragmatic breathing, belly breathing, Ladies, you might want to hear Nadine’s words for us about how we tend to suck in our bellies.
- And proper posture as in alignment, length, not locking our knees, and how we can think of our pelvis as a bucket. Yes, a bucket.
- You’ll also hear several reasons why mouth breathing is not nearly as healthy as nasal breathing, as why, as Nadine says, “Your mouth is for eating and speaking, and your nose is for breathing.”
- You’ll learn the differences between the parasympathetic or rest & digest phase vs the sympathetic or fight or flight phase, that you’ve probably heard about. That sympathetic fight or flight phase is what we feel when we’re nervous or stressed, like when we are ready to give a big presentation.
- Nadine shares several relaxation techniques to help you overcome the fight or flight phase, including deep breathing, alternate nostril breathing (yes there are photos of us doing this in the shownotes) and how you can benefit from combining breathing with a mantra.
As always, there’s lots of valuable advice here, but you don’t have to take notes. I’ve summarized everything for you in the shownotes. All of the details that I just mentioned are in the shownotes, plus, several meta-learnings that Nadine mentioned thru-out our conversation. There are 3 that I want to draw your attention to:
- the fact that everything is interconnected. Our breathing and our posture, as well as our nervous system, circulatory and other systems, not to mention our thoughts, what’s going on in our heads.
- the significance of being self-aware, that is breathing and using posture with intent.
- Growth is uncomfortable. Change is uncomfortable. But it’s this discomfort that means we’re making positive change in our bodies.
And YOU can start making some positive changes for yourself right now, just by listening to this episode.
Dr. Andrea Wojnicki: Thank you so much, Nadine, for joining us here today to talk about how breathing and posture can help us with our communication.
Dr. Nadine Kelly: I am very honored to be here, Andrea, thank you for having me.
AW: I have to tell you that I’ve been thinking a lot about how this podcast topic in particular is going to make a huge impact, of course, to everybody, whether it’s professional or personal context, but also immediately.
AW: Literally, as I’m sitting here, I’m thinking about how I’m breathing and my posture.
NK: I’m a very practical girl. So that’s what I believe in. Not just esoteric information, but information that we can really use in our daily lives.
AW: Well, I think this has to be at the top of the list. We born with an innate sense of how we should breathe and how we should sit and how we should stand. But I know that there’s also all sorts of research that can inform us about how to do that even better. So let’s get into that. Why don’t we start with breathing? And so my question is, what are the benefits of breathing quote unquote, properly?
NK: You’re absolutely correct in saying that as babies – you watch a baby, they know exactly how to breathe. You watch the baby’s belly rising and falling. And that’s really the key to proper breathing. Another thing that I’d like to say is that the body is a beautiful and efficient machine. If we only treat our bodies properly and allow them to do what they naturally do, then our bodies will serve us very well. Everything is also interconnected. So it’s impossible to really isolate one aspect of our mobility or our motility and not talk about other things. Therefore, when I talk about breathing, well, it’s connected with how we use our muscles. It’s connected with the health of our lungs, the health of our hearts, it’s connected to proper posture, it’s connected to circulation, it’s connected to our stress response. It’s connected to our muscular system. So that’s how I’ll preface why we need to breathe properly and how it’s easy to get back into it. It just takes practice. Because I interact with my students. And we’ve talk about breathing so much. I tend to get a lot of feedback where people are very frustrated. And they say, I’m not breathing properly. I don’t get it. I can’t I can’t do this. What’s going on? Here’s the thing: It’s habits. We form habits, and we fall into habits because they’re easy. But once you increase your awareness of how a habit is not serving you, well, you just practice. That’s all. You practice and you take baby steps and you just keep reminding yourself, and then you can get better.
AW: Your point about it being easy and taking the stress away or the anxiety away from trying to breathe properly, really resonates because personally and then also with my kids, I know that when I’m in a yoga class, and I’m trying to control my breathing, and sometimes I’ll actually feel adrenaline. The other thing is when I’m talking to my kids and they’re feeling anxious. And I’m giving them a backrub and I’m talking to them about how they’re breathing. They’ll say, Mom, that just makes it worse because now I’m aware of the fact that I’m not breathing. So can you just say expand a little bit more on how to go from awareness to practice?
NK: So what I’ll say is the adrenaline and the making it worse, makes a lot of sense, because that’s discomfort. Another layer that I’d like to add to that idea is getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. So you’re increasing your awareness about something it was comfortable before not to pay attention to your breathing, and now you decide, I would like to feel better. I would like to increase my energy or be able to get to sleep better, whatever your reasons are for wanting to focus on your breathing. Just now, before the interview, I was doing a very hard cardio workout and the breathing has to change with that. And so yes, I was aware of using my breath properly for my muscles so I could increase the stamina and get through my workout. When you start to raise your awareness of something that used to be comfortable, because you didn’t have to think about it, that’s where the adrenaline and the discomfort comes in. And so then I just invite you to be patient with yourself and recognize, okay, this is going to feel terrible right now, because I’m increasing my awareness. But as I keep practicing, then that starts to go away. And here’s another thing and I’ve noticed this myself, when I fall into old patterns, because I’ve been feeling better with practice in a given situation with my breathing, it doesn’t feel good anymore to fall into that old pattern. So then you start to correct.
AW: well, that point is actually really empowering. Thank you. The next time I feel that a little bit of adrenaline and try to breathe I’ll realize that’s my senses waking up and saying something’s new and different and as you said, it might be uncomfortable, but that means you’re preparing yourself to change because you heighten your awareness.
NK: That’s a perfect way to put it. Growth is uncomfortable. Change is uncomfortable.
AW: Love it. So what happens when we’re not breathing properly?
NK: When we’re not breathing properly, we’re not using the correct muscles. A domino effect happens because, again, everything is connected in our bodies. So certain muscles start to hurt. Certain joints start to ache, because they’re feeling pressure or the you’re stressing certain muscle groups more than others balance each other. And so then that’s where the pain starts to come in. That’s where the headaches come in. That’s where the neck pain comes in, then the shoulder pain. So then when you’re in pain, too, then you’re also increasing stress, right? Stress levels go up. Cortisol is increasing your bloodstream. Cortisol has a cascade of effects when we’re secreting cortisol on a chronic basis, such as decreasing your immunity, even making your bones weaker.
AW: Wow, yeah, that’s another thing that we don’t necessarily think about.
NK: But yes, cortisol does weaken bones, again, it’s a chain effect,
AW: what about in terms of our communication as the cortisol pumping through? What could happen to our ability to communicate effectively. And again, this could be physical or something that’s going on inside our brain.
NK: So let’s start breaking down the parasympathetic and the sympathetic response. When we are breathing properly, which I’ll talk about in a moment, we are oxygenating our muscles and our circulation correctly. And we are in the parasympathetic aspect of the autonomic nervous system, which is also the rest and digest phase. That’s where we’re supposed to be most of the time. Think about back in early times when we didn’t have the things that we take for granted now, like shelter and food. Food and safety. Those things for which your sympathetic nervous system is going into the fight or flight response. And that’s an emergency response. I’m in danger. I’m starving, I have to protect my family. Nowadays in our society, it’s much easier to be chronically stressed because of our lifestyle. Because we’re stimulated all the time. It’s very, very easy to be stressed. So we find ourselves in the fight or flight response, more the fight or flight response, then it releases the physiological responses, which makes sense because you’re preparing yourself for an emergency. So you’re ready to run, you’re ready to flee, you’re ready to fight. So that means that your heart starts to pump faster, your respiratory rates, you start breathing faster. Yeah, so that’s fight or flight. When you’re in the parasympathetic, rest and digest phase, that’s where you have more mental clarity where your heart is relaxed. It doesn’t have to pump as much as you can breathe at a slower pace. You’re calmer. Now you can think more clearly . You can speak more clearly. You can use your breath more effectively, to speak clearly, to project your voice, to pause to emit confidence. All of those things.
AW: So for many of us who are thinking about a communication context, the epitome of when the sympathetic nervous system is really in the fight or flight syndrome would be public speaking, getting up on stage with a mic. Do you have advice for us in terms of how we can manage our breathing to help us in that situation?
NK: Yes, it makes a lot of sense. We do need stress in our lives. I don’t want anybody to get that confused. We do need to be energized, a little bit of stress to motivate us to prepare to care about something right. Before I got to you for this podcast interview. I was a little bit nervous. I will fully admit that but that’s because I care. So I was in the sympathetic, ready to go mode, but then your parasympathetic nervous system should kick in so that you can calmly address and be present for your performance. So how would good breathing look in that situation? Well, starting to use the breath, which is diaphragmatic breathing. This is proper breathing, and I’ll break that down – what that means. Our diaphragm is our primary breathing muscle. The diaphragm is attached to your spine, your rib cage and your sternum. And the way we use it for proper breathing is to fully inflate our lungs and fully to deflate the lungs. When we fully inflate the lungs. On the inhale, we are taught as Americans, especially American women, this is where I am, right here in America, to flatten the stomach and squeeze the stomach at all times. But that’s actually counter to the breathing – that’s counter to diaphragmatic (or it’s also known as belly breathing), to inhale that diaphragm that’s attached to the bottom of the rib cages. It’s a cylindrical muscle. So when we take a good inhale, we’re supposed to let our bellies rise if you’re on your back, or in, if you’re sitting or standing, so that your diaphragm can descend a little bit into the abdomen, to make room for the lungs to fully inflate from the apex, which is the very top of the lungs. So the base of the lungs, when we’re doing shallow breathing, and we’re sucking in that stomach, we’re not allowing for the lungs that have room to inflate fully. It’s again, so beautiful because it’s a mechanical thing as well. Air moves from a place of higher to lower pressure. So when we the diaphragm descends, and we make room for the lungs to move down a little bit, that’s creating lower pressure in the lungs so that the air outside can come in more easily.
AW: As you’re saying that I’m pushing my belly out as I’m inhaling and I’m feeling that. It’s exactly what you described when you observe a baby sleeping on its back and you can see the belly rising and going down. Exactly.
NK: Exactly. Because as you said, it feels good, it’s natural. And then when you exhale, the diaphragm relaxes. And so then the lungs can diminish their capacity, there are other muscles that come into play too, your intercostals. Those are the muscles between your ribs also do help with inhalation and exhalation. So when all those muscles relax, then the volume within the lung goes down. So there’s more pressure inside the lungs than outside. So the exhale is easier.
AW: You made an interesting comment about how women are taught or they observe others pulling their stomach in. So I when I think about taking a deep breath, I don’t necessarily think about expanding my belly. I do you think about expanding my chest and maybe even pulling my belly in? What do you say to that?
NK: That’s just not the proper mechanics, right? And the reason why we’re taught to do that is for aesthetics. And the aesthetics are – at the end of the day – are not supporting good health, really. So the inhale is supposed to have an expansion widening of the abdomen. And then if you’re doing an active exhale, for instance, as I mentioned earlier, when you need to use your breath with more intensity, with purpose, cardio activity, a walk, lifting things, pushing things, that’s the phase where you draw your navel in towards your side, that’s when you squeeze your belly at the end of the exhale. What is that doing providing core stability. So ladies, if you want to strengthen your core, use your core on your exhale. In classes. I know I keep mentioning this, but in my classes, we practice picking things up or simulating a pushing motion like maybe with a wall push up and it’s at that exhale, when you squeeze your navel with the effort and you push it, then your core is able to remain stable so that your limbs can do their work. Core stabilization supports the movement of your arms and your legs, your hands and your feet.
AW: So it’s not that we’re letting our bellies go. It’s just that we’re not bringing them in unless we’re exhaling.
AW: Got it. You will be quoted on that. I promise you.
NK: Good. I hope to make some lives better.
AW: Yes, you already have! Back to going on stage then. I’m hearing that we need to be consciously inhaling through our bellies.
NK: Whatever you find relaxing to do beforehand, however you help yourself. Health is very personal and taking care of yourself I think is a very personal thing. Not everything works for one person versus the other, really. So what do you find relaxing – to relax you – to get you into that parasympathetic state. Here’s another piece of advice. Using a mantra, some people like mantras. What’s mantra? A word or phrase that’s empowering. I did a very simple one today. I inhaled the word can. And I exhaled the word can’t. The way we talk to ourselves, impacts our well being as well.
AW: I really love your idea of combining breathing and a mantra! I brought up (and my other guest experts have brought up) mantras a few times in different contexts. And I think they’re incredibly powerful, but combining a mantra with breathing, that that could be really powerful, I think, especially when you’re walking out on stage.
NK: Oh, sure. There are other breathing techniques that you can use to before a performance, not just diaphragmatic breathing. Another way you can practice that diaphragmatic breathing if you’re not sure about it? If you’re not in a sitting or standing position, is to lie down on your back or your bed or wherever and place your hands on your abdomen. Let yourself feel your hands lifting towards the ceiling on the inhale and descending on the exhale. You can also move a hand to the chest and one to the belly, so that you can really feel the belly moving under the one hand and make sure you don’t feel as much movement or it’s not focused on your chest. So that’s one breath technique. There are other breath techniques, like alternate nostril breathing, where you breathe through one nostril at a time. It’s very relaxing.
AW: Do you put a finger over your other nostril ?
NK: Do you want to practice?
NK: So what you’re going to do is you’re going to take your right hand and make a peace sign.
NK: Turn those two fingers in towards you and place them right in the center slightly above your eyebrows on your forehead. Your thumb will close off your right nostril and your ring finger will close off your left nostril, obviously one at a time. So we begin the breath, alternate nostril breath by closing off the right nostril with the thumb. Then you exhale. Then inhale only on the left, close it off with the ring finger, open up the right nostril, exhale through the right, only inhale on the right, and switch back. So that’s one round.
NK: Exhale first and inhale. And you can do that five to nine times. That’s alternate nostril breathing. Another relaxing technique, breath technique, is extending the exhale to a ratio of about two to one. So you would count and I always like to begin equal. So if I pick a number like four, which is easy, inhale on four and exhale on four. Then you can work your way into keeping the inhale at four and extending it to eight.
AW: Got it. So your two examples that you gave us there of breathing exercises to help us relax more… it reminded me of something that I heard, when I was doing a little bit of research. There are some people who say we shouldn’t be focusing on breathing, because a lot of people will end up holding their breath. So the real lesson there is :don’t hold your breath, really?
NK: Exactly. But you do have to be aware of your breathing because in one article I read, it was written by an opera singer, and he said that on your exhales, is where you want to be able to complete a sentence. So as you’re working on your exhale, you’re talking, and then when you’re done with that sentence, you inhale. With that exhale, you’re using your breath, so that you can project your voice to the audience. And he said that gets rid of the question at the end of the sentence. That doesn’t sound very confident. Also, it gets rid of the vocal fry, because he said, that’s not enough breath at the end. I thought that, that opened my eyes to learn that, right? So do use your breath again effectively to present yourself in a particular situation, whether it’s speaking or as I mentioned, whether it’s in yoga. That’s why we do so much breath work, so that we can make our way through range of motion or transitioning to another pose. And then in a cardio situation, you still need to have a rhythm to your breath in order to provide proper oxygenation to your muscles to improve stamina. So again, you’re using your breath in a different situation right?
AW: Right. That makes that makes a lot of sense. When I read this article, I thought they were just being sensationalist. The real point there is just don’t hold your breath and nowhere when you were talking about how to relax your breathing to help with your performance. You didn’t say anything about holding your breath, right? So it was all inhaling and exhaling. So let me move on then to a few different types of breathing. So my first question is about mouth breathing versus nasal breathing. So I’m curious whether there are different effects of them. And I say, anecdotally, I’ve heard people make fun of quote, unquote, mouth breathers, but then recently, I’ve been hearing and reading things about how reading through your mouth in some context may actually be advised.
NK: Anyone who knows me knows I love simplicity. One of my teachers said, this is the most simple and elegant way, and she said, this is how she talks to kids, “Your mouth is for eating and speaking, your nose is for breathing.” So now we have an easy way to start the discussion. Right?
AW: That’s easy to remember.
NK: It is. There are reasons why it’s healthier to breathe in and out through your nose and they are your nasal passages. That’s the direct way to inhale and exhale to get in and out of your lungs directly. Period. There are also – almost like tunnels – flowing in to the nasal passages and into the respiratory system. Because the air is coming in and you want a little bit of turbulence because there are mechanics that are going on to make what gets into your lungs the healthiest, the breath that gets into your lung the healthiest. So your nasal passages are engineered to because of the lining the cilia in there. The cilia are hair like projections that filter out particles that are in the environment. The nasal passages also humidify the air that’s going into the lungs. To adjust proper temperature for what’s getting into your lungs as well. The nasal passages also warm the air that’s coming into the lungs. And then there’s a molecule nitric oxide that’s only made in the respiratory tract so you don’t get that if you open your mouth and breathe in and out. Get that into your nose and nitric oxide is powerful because and necessary because it’s a vasodilator. I’m going to repeat this again, I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but our bodies are engineered to just beautiful things when we use them, right. So the nitric oxide is there to help the vessels dilate. It relaxes the lining of the vessels in your lungs. So that the alveoli which are the – they’re grape-like clusters at the very end, the smallest possible unit in your lungs, where the oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange takes place. That has to take place over a membrane. So think about it. If you have an agent like nitric oxide, which relaxes those vessels, then the blood flows easier. And so the gas exchange is going to be easier. That’s why breathing through your nose is more effective than breathing through your mouth.
AW: Wow, thank you so much. I ‘ve learned so much! Honestly, I thought it was just a social thing. I had no idea that there were all these physiological reasons. I knew there were some physiological reasons why nasal or nose breathing might be preferred… But thank you.
NK: I think part of that derogatory way of looking at mouth breathers comes about too is because there are mechanical things that happen when you breathe through your mouth predominantly. The shape of your face shifts.
NK: Yeah, because that’s not what we’re supposed to be doing when we breathe.
AW: That makes sense. And I am so self conscious now of how I’m breathing. Let’s move on to posture then. Can you start with the benefits of proper posture?
NK: Let’s think about it just from what other see. Think about someone… And this is really important for women to think about this for safety reasons. Picture one person walking in a parking lot slouching. Picture another woman walking in the parking lot erect. She’s looking around, she’s alert. A person who is likely to approach either one is going to choose the easiest target, the one who keeps looking down at the floor. So, I like to tell women – I have two daughters – So I like to tell them: nice tall posture so that you emit confidence. You emit being alert and aware. So that’s one thing from a psychological standpoint. The other thing is from a physical standpoint, good posture means that your muscles are working in cohesion. Your core muscles in the front of your abdominal muscles, all the layers of your abdominal muscles, your obliques on the sides, and all of the deep layers of your back muscles which all help support your core are all working together. If you slouch, then you’re putting pressure on your back muscles and your abdominal muscles are getting weak. So there’s an imbalance here. When you have muscular imbalance. Your muscles are not supporting your skeleton. You’re going to get misaligned. People with arthritis may worsen their pain, or you may even create arthritis – arthritis is because of the space between the joints wearing. So if you’re not aligning your bones properly, you’re increasing the chances of developing arthritis in those joints. As I said, muscular pain, you’re not breathing properly, because again, you’re not able to really access your diaphragm as well. Your ribcage is misaligned when you’re slouching and your energy levels, all that stuff that I just said, is going on. How can you be energetic when you’re in pain? It’s going to be more fatiguing.
NK: So I can go on and on. You have more anxiety, it increases anxiety.
NK: everything’s connected. Yes.
AW: Okay. So why don’t you take me and the listeners through what proper posture looks like and feels like?
NK: Oh, I’d love to. Okay. Let’s start with sitting, because that’s what a lot of people find themselves doing. Although I would encourage you to get up every hour for a few minutes. But when you are sitting, it’s very important because it’s very easy to let ourselves develop a habit of slouching, and then gravity doesn’t help, because then it’s encouraging you to slouch further. And if you’re like us doing a lot of work in our computer, just keep reminding yourself to sit up nice and tall.
AW: How do we sit nice and tall?
NK: First of all, having your feet flat on the floor.
NK: …and making sure that the feet are positioned properly. So there’s positioning and then there’s muscular engagement, they go hand in hand. So here, let’s go through positioning first, feet flat on the floor, and when you look down at your feet, you make sure that they are parallel to one another. Another way to think of this – I’m a visual person – is the number 11. So your toes point straight ahead. Other alignment: you’re stacking your joints properly, ankles are underneath knees. And then let’s think about the positioning of our pelvis. So you’re not tilting your pelvis forward or tilting it too far back, it has to be like Goldilocks: just right. So if you think about your sits bones, which are the clinical term is ischial, tuberosities.
NK: You should be balancing on those two points. Okay. So, another way to think about this is that your pelvis is a bucket. You don’t want your bucket tilted to forward or too far back. You can touch the front of your pelvis, your hip bones and make sure they are pointing straight ahead.
NK: Those are called your anterior superior iliac crests. Then you stack shoulders over your hips. Your shoulders are a little bit back. And how do you do that? Think about your shoulder blades. slide them down away from your ears, and slowIy squeeze towards one another until you feel your shoulders lined up in their sockets.
AW: got it.
NK: Then there are a few ways to think about head position, let’s use a couple of cues. The crown of your head touches the ceiling so that you can create length and space in your neck. And then think about the position of your head. If you take a line and draw it directly down the center of your ear, that line should intersect or bisect your shoulder in half. Okay, so ear over shoulder. You can also think of back of the head lining up with the back of the pelvis. That’s another cue. And then your hands are relaxed in your lap, either palms down or palms up.
AW: Got it.
NK: So that’s a proper sitting mountain pose in terms of alignment. Now, muscle engagement was the second part. You’re using your muscles in your everything together. In order to maintain a proper posture. You’re using your muscles in your feet. You’re using the leg and thigh. To keep your knees stacked over your ankles, you’re using all of the muscles in your torso to keep your shoulders over your hips. You’re using your neck muscles all together to keep your neck nice and long. Front, sides and back. And you’re relaxing your face. That’s always the last part. So that’s a seated Mountain Pose. And we call it mountain because what does that evoke? That evokes height.
NK: Yeah, so you want to sit nice and tall. And it’s a practice. Sometimes I find myself getting really engrossed in what I’m doing at the computer, and I start to lean. But because I’ve been practicing, it starts to hurt. And so I bring myself back to that nice seated posture or just stand up. You know, the standing desks to me are good because it reminds you not to slouch forward as well. Now, standing mountain pose is very similar to what I just described, except now you’re on your feet. So you’re stacking your ankles under knees under hips under shoulders. Now because we’re not sitting, we’re using the feet and the leg and the thigh muscles a little bit differently. Here’s something to watch out for. Okay? Don’t lock your knees. Don’t stiffen and lock your knees .Soften them just a touch so that you can start to feel your thigh muscles – front and back and sides and your buttocks also help. We forget that our buttocks are part of our core.
AW: Makes sense. It’s at the core of our body. That is very helpful. I’m going to be aware now. You know, I thanked my mother recently for sticking her fingernail in my spine whenever I slouched and I think I have pretty good posture and I’m the same as you. When I’m feeling tired or a little uncomfortable when I’m working. I often realize it is my posture, but going through that alignment, literally from your toes up to the top of your head. I found it incredibly helpful and I’m going to be even more aware and informed now about my posture.
NK: So yes, it’s good to remind yourself to sit up nice and tall. But why was I doing that? It can be very simple as I just forgot, and I’m falling into a bad habit. But if you find yourself having a difficult conversation, or you want to talk about a difficult subject with someone you really care about, what is your posture, saying? What are you setting yourself up for success? is some of the things that I’ve really learned myself thinking about. This idea of everything being connected,… if I can breathe, I just had a difficult conversation with some family members. everyone listening I’m sure knows that’s the worst. You go into something and you really care about someone. You do want to listen with empathy, but you know, it’s going to be a difficult talk. And emotions are going to run high. What can you do? Think about your breathing. Pay attention to your posture as you’re talking so that you can think. And you don’t let yourself go into fight or flight response because you’re hyperventilating. Or you find yourself holding your breath because you’re giving into feelings of powerlessness or anger. If you’re able to just bring yourself back to the breath, then sit nice and tall and listen. I had a much better time with that talk.
AW: That’s amazing. That’s a really really powerful message. I think.
NK: When I went into that situation last weekend, it was with intent.
AW: You gave me an incredible testimonial once about the ABCDE’s of Communication. I don’t know if you remember that? So A is ASKING questions. B is BREATHING. C is acting CONFIDENT, D is no DISTRACTIONS – focusing. And E is using your EARS and listening. And you just …
NK: We did all five things. And listen, I talked to my girls about it. And one of my girls used it to talk to her dad about something which he was not going to be happy about. But how else can you really maintain healthy relationships with people you really care about? If you don’t have the intent to go in there with the ABCDEs? They work. So you’ve got another testimonial. I used it again without even thinking about it. It worked. So now you understand a little bit more about the breathing component and the confidence component, right?
AW: Before we move on to the five rapid fire questions, is there anything else you want to add about posture or breathing?
NK: It’s cheap, it’s easy. It’s just a habit that you can do. All you have to do is practice so that you can feel better, to breathe better, to stand better, to sit better to be better in the world – to project the person you want to be in the world, rather than having life happen to you. So that’s the simplest piece of advice I would give to why you should care about improving your breathing and your posture.
AW: Beautiful. Thank you. Okay, we’re going to move on to the five rapid fire questions now if you don’t mind. First question, what are your pet peeves?
NK: It just, it’s silly, but Okay, I’ll just say it. Those people who don’t eat with their mouths closed. And lately as I’m getting older, being okay with being ignorant. When I encounter a person who doesn’t mind being ignorant, who doesn’t want to learn anything, or thinks that the world is just black and white? It’s hard for me to practice empathy. I’m working on it, but it is a pet peeve. Just people who are okay with ignorance.
AW: Oh, wow. Question number two, what type of learner are you? Visual, auditory or kinesthetic or some other kind of learner?
NK: I am definitely solidly kinesthetic, and visual. Oh my goodness, yes, I am not an auditory learner,
AW: which makes the fact that you’re a podcaster even more fascinating!
NK: Yes, but remember what I said about the ignorance. It was an opportunity for me to learn to strengthen that weak muscle. So I said, Okay, let’s do this.
AW: This is one thing that is very, very apparent about you is that you are very engaged in self improvement and education and knowledge.
NK: It’s a very important to me, and very important. Yeah.
AW: Okay, question number three introvert or extrovert?
NK: I think a good solid mix of both. I used to think I wasn’t extroverted but I don’t think you can be a podcaster and not be extroverted to a certain extent. I know that I couldn’t be the good teacher that I am. I don’t think that I could be the excellent teacher that I am, without being an extrovert. It’s about relationships. I think introvert because I do need alone time. I do need those times where I have no stimulation from anyone or anything.
AW: Question number five, your communication preference for personal conversations.
NK: I’m still old fashioned. I really like face to face. I like to see body language I like to there’s so much you miss in written communication, or it’s easy to miscommunicate because you don’t have those emotional or those tactile cues. So I still like to look a person and his or her eyes. I like to see how the shoulders are. I like to hear the tone in the voice. And quite frankly, I think it takes courage. I’m not a cop-out. So, and I know this sounds judgmental, but I feel like it’s easy to sit back and write something in a text. Think about it, shorten it, not send it, reword it. Versus, in real time when you have to look at a person and really think about what you’re saying, really control yourself and use those ABCDEs. I think, I think you’ve just gained more… We’re people – at the end of the day. We need to connect, we need to communicate, we need each other. And that happens to me most beautifully in person.
AW: Last question, not including your podcast or mine. Is there a podcast or a blog or email newsletter that you find yourself recommending the most?
NK: I read Seth Godin’s blog religiously. And in terms of a podcast, one of my favorite podcasts is Dissect. I love music and the way he combines all the things that I love about being a person. He doesn’t take the easy road and just do kind of expected music. He’ll take one album, most of the time by hip hop artists, who it’s easy to, to write off. Oh, that’s just this type of music. I don’t listen to this type of music, all of these preconceived notions. And he says, I want you to challenge that. He goes through every song on the album, and he dissects it, why they make certain musical choices, why they picked certain instruments, the lyrics, the history, what was going on socially, as a contextual element around that particular song. What it means what some of the slang means, and at the end of it, if you didn’t have empathy or thought you you’re a black and white idea, a way of thinking made sense. You come up new learning so much about this person and why he made these choices, why the music is intelligent, why it’s so beautiful. And how music is such a universal language, that you’re just a better human being, I think listening to his show.
AW: Wow. Wow, what a heartfelt recommendation that is. I mean, I haven’t even heard the podcast and already I’m thinking about people I’m going to be recommending it to. It’s called Dissect?
AW: Okay, I’ll put a link to it in the show notes. Is there anything else you want to add about posture, about communication, about breathing, about yoga, anything?
NK: I think underlying the messages we’ve been talking about today is just not being afraid to increase your self-awareness. It’s uncomfortable. And sometimes you do look in the mirror and you learn something about yourself through a yoga class or in a situation where you didn’t do your best or it didn’t go the way you wanted it to go. You let yourself overreact. But it’s just an opportunity to learn more about yourself. Be uncomfortable with that. Maybe you had a preconceived notion. I’m not the type of person who says x or does x. Well, given a particularly stressful situation, maybe you did revert to that. Maybe you did learn something about yourself, but it’s an opportunity for growth. And so I always love to encourage everyone to do the work of increasing self-awareness. To be the best person you can in this world.
AW: Very, very nicely put, I think we will leave it at that. Thank you very much Nadine!
NK: Thank you.
Dr. Andrea’s CONCLUSION
Wow. What an amazing and wise woman. Am I right? THANK YOU, Nadine! And if you want to learn more about Dr. Nadine Kelly and her Yogi MD podcast, just go to yogimd.net.
As you were listening, I hope you were able to try a few of the things Nadine suggested. As I mentioned at the beginning, everything is summarized in the shownotes, so you can easily access the instructions Nadine shared for how to breathe and use posture properly. I also included links in the shownotes to two related Talk A bout Talk podcast episodes: there’s the ABCDEs of communication episode that Nadine and I discussed, as well as the :using your voice” episode, where I interviewed baritone opera singer Bradley Christensen. Bradley talks a lot about breathing and posture in that episode as well, so you might find that helpful too.
OK – as always, I’d love to hear what you think about this episode, any ideas you have for future episodes, or anything else. You can email me anytime at [email protected],com. We have several amazing communication-related topics coming soon, including networking, interviewing, giving presentations, and even communicating in a competitive environment.
Last thing. I hope you’ll signup for free communication coaching through the Talk About Talk email newsletter. Every week, you‘ll learn new communication skills from me and the experts I interview, all in one, simple-to-digest email. I also provide updates on newly released podcast episodes and even some behind the scenes stuff. So if you’re only listening to the podcast and not getting the newsletter, you’re missing out on half the learnings! You can sign up easily on the website or email me directly and I’ll add you to the list. Again, I’m at [email protected].
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