MaryBeth Gangemi: Have You Listened To Your Breath Lately? A Guide to Holistic Wellness Via Better Breathing, Natural Movement and More Time Spent Outdoors
August 13, 2021
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On this episode we welcome MaryBeth Gangemi, who is an expert in holistic health, breathwork, strength training and natural movement. She promotes practical, real world applications of fitness and health for all levels and abilities. MaryBeth lives in Pittsboro, North Carolina, where she and her husband, Steve Gangemi (aka The Sock Doc, who you may recognize from our show) have raised their family.
Some of her certifications include:
- Certified Buteyko Breathing Method Instructor
- StrongFirst school of strength level II certified kettlebell instructor
- Certified level 2 MovNat instructor
- Original Strength level II certified coach
MaryBeth is available through computer sessions as well as in-person at her North Carolina studio. If you are inspired to learn more about movement snacks and natural movements that you can integrate into your day, and/or learn more individualized breathing exercises, you can contact MaryBeth at:
In this show we discuss:
- A mom to 3 kids, and has homeschooled all of them (oldest is now 19).
- Background in social work for kids with special needs.
- Approached it as play therapy and took a holistic approach to helping kids involving family and more.
- Expert on human develop and therapeutic interventions.
- On homeschooling: it was a natural transition to take this approach for she and her family, and her approach to educating her children.
- In the next chapter of her career she got really into natural movement and fitness as a form of self-care and stress relief, tying in her background of learning and application of different modalities.
- Got into training, involved the family, made it about playing in dynamic ways in nature.
- Became certified and slowly evolved it into a business rather than just a hobby or family activity.
- Her philosophy involved finding creative ways to start and stick with training, for all people and all athletes and all goals.
Buteyko & Oxygen Advantage breathing concepts
- On the Buteyko philosophy and Dr. Buteyko from Russia who brought his training concepts around the world
- Value of switching from habitual mouth breathing to nose breathing
- Accessing the diaphragm
- Holistic lifestyle that even involves nutrition and how we eat
- Buteyko is a series of exercises to retrain your breathing
Dysfunctional breathing patterns
- What other dysfunctional breathing patterns do people exhibit, other than mouth breathing:
- Does breathing feel calm, subtle and relaxed? You will have a feeling if it does not.
- If you notice a lot of chest movement, this is a sign.
- Is breathing more vertical (huff and puff) or horizontal?
- Excessive yawning, signing, congestion (even when not sick).
- Issues like asthma, stress, anxiety, snoring, sleep disturbance—all signs of possible breathing dysfunction.
- Congestion can actually be caused by poor breathing itself. (There are breathing exercises to decongest the nose.)
- Waking up congested—theoretically this can be tied into how you’re breathing at night during sleep, e.g. mouth breathing.
- Anxiety can be caused by poor breathing.
- Structural problems like deviated septum are common and can affect breathing but that doesn’t mean you’re destined to be stuck with poor breathing habits.
- The way you breathe during the day will influence how you breathe at night. Working on daytime breathing helps with better sleep breathing.
- What is your tongue doing?
- It should be on the roof, three-fourths of it, for its resting place.
- Focus on the tongue and what it’s doing, and what is a dysfunctional tongue doing?
- Sometimes having a tongue pressing down and open mouth is incredibly subtle and the person may not even realize he or she is doing this and breathing poorly.
- Nose breathing: Slower flow of air through nose helps with whole body oxygenation.
- “Take a deep breath”
- Why this cue doesn’t help and may actually may be contributing to stress and the underlying problem.
- Instead: breathe in slow and low, coming in from the nose.
- Tawnee shares a breathing pattern she’s noticed in herself where she does a type of breath-holding while focusing on tasks like work, cooking, etc… what does this mean?
- Could be a sign or clue of over-breathing at other times. Pattern of sporadic types of breath holds when we over-breathe.
- Even if it’s not stressful, but the focus is just enough to disrupt the breathing pattern.
- Cue into other areas—mouth breathing at night? Waking up with a dry mouth? What’s the control pause or bolt score?
- A way to check and see how you’re breathing and how your body is tolerating the CO2.
- How to do it:
- Do not do any prep or deep breaths to get ready. Take a normal breath in, normal breath out. On the out: pinch nose and time it until you feel the first definite urge to breathe again; it’s not stressful nor a max breath hold, just a subtle “it’s time to breathe again.” Resume breathing through your nose. Are you gasping or does it feel normal? It should feel very normal as you breathe again.
- Troubleshooting the control pause.
- Getting the control pause to increase is the goal.
- Anything under 25 seconds for your control pause is a sign of breathing pattern disorder. (Symptoms of asthma have been reduced when patients got control pause consistently over 25 seconds.)
- We want it to be more like 40 seconds.
- Keep testing yourself, noting subtle changes.
- Don’t be competitive. Be honest.
- One of the best times to do this is first thing in the morning. Tends to be lower, but also more accurate.
Breathing exercises for different populations
- Asthma and kids:
- How to approach breathwork with asthmatic kids for healing, with exercises and building your team to get children relief from this condition.
- Exercise that simulates altitude training:
- From Oxygen Advantage, this Sprinting and breath-holding exercise is easy to work into your routine.
- Control pause should be over 20 seconds. Not pregnant. No major health concerns.
- Breathe in, breathe out. Pinch nose. Walk… go faster… jog… run… let go of nose, and breathe in a reduced way for 5-6 breaths, then 12 regular breaths.
- It is a stress, so functional breathing needs to be in place.
- Helps improve aerobic base, use less energy/oxygen (better performance), increase tolerance to breathlessness, improved anaerobic capacity… with more research needed.
Are 6 breaths per minute optimal?
- Great goal to strive for and an exercise to get closer to it:
- Set aside 4 minutes for cadence breathing: 4 sec inhale, 6 sec exhale.
- Also helps with HRV, stress, etc.
- Usually harder to do the longer exhale.
- On Getting these new habits to stick and setting a new tone.
- They talk a lot about breathing and “pressing reset.”
- For example, when phone isn’t working your turn it off and restart it. We can do the same things with ourselves by giving our body a reset to move and feel better.
- Resets as needed to breathe better. Awareness.
Holistic living & natural movement
- Integrating more natural movement into our lives and becoming more connected to nature.
- MaryBeth’s philosophy:
- You need to be enjoying it.
- If you’re not enjoying it, shake it up; mix it up. Don’t force it. Move in ways that lift you up and that you like.
- A new awareness. Giving yourself space and time to explore new things outside of your average pace and heart rate on the last workout.
- Floor play
- Get on the floor and move around all the time… Tawnee shares a story of she and MaryBeth doing some fun movements when she was visiting her home, in this case it was high butt bear crawls and butt scooching across the floor.
- Check out Original Strength for a bunch of ideas.
- Flow. Play. Feel.
- Not set positions like yoga. This is exploration of movement.
- Being on the floor and tactical input is nourishing for nervous system.
- KEY POINT: keep it different and mixed up. Do a little at a time. Remove seriousness. Benefits and results are real.
- Try skipping, you can’t be in a bad mood while skipping. Not about doing a certain number of sets and reps, just go for however long it feels right to you.
- Don’t lose sight of PLAY.
- It doesn’t have to take away from a structured training program, it complements it.
- As you dive into this don’t forget about the breath & breath awareness. Be mindful of breathing patterns when you try something new, breathe through nose. Tongue on roof of mouth. Intentional approach to breath (e.g. only hold breath if it’s for a purpose).
- Being outside adds to your resiliency.
- The gym is great for a specific purpose, but make sure you can apply it in more dynamic and real-life situations.
- Health is both emotional and physical, and there is so much that is gained from immersion in nature. (E.g. forest bathing)
- Also with resiliency comes with learning about your environment and overcoming some of the fears of “what is out there.”
- Have respect and knowledge for the outdoor environment but don’t hide away and avoid it. Pay attention, learn and be smart about it.
- We are nature.
- Nature calms breathing (almost always).
- If you’re stuck inside, at the very least, commit to movement breaks.
- Small things add up.
Takeaways for holistic wellness
- Breathe through your nose.
- Get outside each day (and find your very own “sit spot” to visit each day).