Updated: Aug 21
Breathwork is one of the fastest ways to change your state moment to moment. It is increasingly being recognised as a way to create rapid and lasting changes in your health and wellbeing.
Breath practices aren't new. They have been used for thousands of years and for a vast range of purposes. As noted by James Nestor in his latest book 'Breathe', the practices (re)appear and are forgotten before being (re)discovered again.
I've noticed over the years that breathing techniques are hidden in plain sight in leadership modules as opposed to Yoga where it is a direct teaching; and it is taught and used in many different healing modalities that I have studied. The act of conscious breathing is so fundamental to these practices I noticed it as the thread running through all of my work - as a leader, coach, healer and yogi.
It was only natural, therefore, that the day would come for me to learn how to share powerful breathwork techniques with others.
I chose SOMA Breath over other breathwork modalities because it already combined a number of practices I was familiar with in a completely new and exciting way. Also, I can combine SOMA Breath with my other work in new and exciting ways that aren't available through other modalities.
I started teaching SOMA Breath when the pandemic lockdown started which was perfect timing for those who suffer from stress and anxiety.
SOMA Breath Lowers Stress and Anxiety
SOMA Breath uses different evidence-based breathing techniques that have a positive impact on your wellbeing.
Rhythmic breathing using a 2:4 or 4:8 rhythm help to activate the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) which puts you into a state of relaxation and ease. The healing journeys are particularly helpful for people who suffer from anxiety.
SOMA Breath can also help to rewrite the programming around anxiety so that people can let go of the causes and create a new way of navigating their reality. This done using guided meditation and visualisation throughout the SOMA Breath session.
Mantra chanting / AUM Toning is also helpful for relieving anxiety in the moment by stimulating the vagus nerve and turning off the sympathetic nervous system.
How SOMA Breath Balances Our Breathing & Our Mood
We use Rhythmic Breathing, or breathing in a circular rhythm as a way to harmonise and bring everything in our body back into balance. We need to understand that everything in our bodies responds to the rhythm of our breath (in a very complex way) and by becoming consciously aware of our breathing and breathing in a consistent rhythm we can bring our bodies natural rhythms back into balance.
Rhythmic Breathing happens when we eliminate the pause between our breaths which is responsible for creating a variation in our heart rate. There’s a lot of research and many wearables checking our heart rate variance because the research is showing us that when the heart rate variance is high, we are in states of irritability, anxiety, worry or irritation (stress).
Coherence is when your heart rate variance is low and the research shows that a low HRV promotes optimum performance along with elevations in our mood, optimism and outlook on life. The HeartMath Institute has done a lot of research into coherence and their work showed that the fastest and most effective way to reach coherence is through rhythmic breathing. Heart coherence specifically relies on an intention of gratitude and a focus on the area of the heart along with smooth, rhythmic breathing. Bringing these things together enables us to change state in the moment.
SOMA Breath Helps Rest & Relaxation
The Rhythmic Breathing in SOMA Breath, along with the optimum rate of breathing that we use in SOMA journeys helps to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous systems (PNS).
When you stimulate the PNS by extending your exhale to be longer than your inhale, and this has a relaxing effect on the body.
The optimum rate of breathing is where the inhale:exhale ratio is 1:2. SOMA uses this ratio along with rhythmic breathing to create these optimum conditions.
SOMA also uses other pranayama techniques which have different effects on the nervous system:
Rest/Relax allows us to come into coherence and calms the nervous system by inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth.
Balance Breathing involves alternate nostril breathing which helps to bring balance in the left and right hemispheres of the brain and reduces stress and anxiety.
Another element within SOMA Breath sessions that help to stimulate the PNS is AUM chanting.
Chanting AUM has been shown to switch off the sympathetic nervous system which becomes activated during times of stress, and activate the PNS.
SOMA Breath Improves Creativity
SOMA awakens dormant parts of the brain using a combination of rhythmic breathwork, chanting/toning and breath holds.
AUM/OM – Toning with AUM helps to extend the exhale of the breath and stimulates the cerebral cortex. AUM also stimulates the pineal gland. For many people, their pineal gland has become calcified
The rhythmic breathing combined with the Nisshesha Rechaka Pranayama (holding your breath beyond your comfort zone) leads to a positive stress response and your body adapts to its new low-oxygen environment. It leads to new blood cells being generated and dormant parts of the brain being activated.
Finally, by working with the SOMA FIT routine you are able to engage both hemispheres of the brain simultaneously which helps you become more creative, feel universally connected, learn new concepts much faster, feel more relaxed and become less reactivey.
Can Everyone Do SOMA Breath?
There are specific contraindications that may prevent someone from doing a full SOMA Breath session. If someone has a contraindication, they need to be cautious about doing any sort of vigorous breathing and should speak to their Dr before doing breathwork.
Assuming that the person is clear to participate, they can do a healing journey or slow down the breathing so that they stay in rhythmic breathing (no force) 2:4 or 4:8 rhythm. The important thing is to avoid the breathing styles that will raise the blood pressure, and if necessary avoid the breath holds.
What do people say?
Each session provides new insights for participants. Whether I am leading a session for a small corporate team as part of their corporate wellness initiatives or working with my community, the feedback is overwhelmingly positive and people keep coming back week after week. Direct feedback can be read here.
Tim Snell is a Coach, Consultant and Licensed Breathwork Instructor & Breath Coach.
He specialises in helping people create rapid change in their life through a unique combination of life, leadership and breath coaching.
He incorporates breathwork and universal wisdom into his work to deliver lasting change in people's lives.
He leads 3 virtual events per week and delivers virtual (and live) sessions to corporations that are committed to improved health and creativity.