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Somatic Breathwork: A Proven Path to Healing, Physical Health, Peace of Mind, & Stress Reduction

Updated: Jan 8

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Somatic breathwork is the future of therapy! Somatic breathwork, through controlled breathing and movement, we ca reduce stress, improve mood, and effectively create a path to long-term health. Specifically, when you use the breath to regulate states in the body it has the ability to heal decades old trauma, balance the nervous system, reduce stress and improve mental and physical well-being significantly. Breathwork serves as a bridge which connects the conscious mind and conscious thought processes, with the unconscious bodily experiences. In short, the body IS the unconscious mind (the nervous system) and when we can learn to access it through conscious activity, our capacity to transform our lives increases significantly. This is  the key to profound healing, well-being and living an emotionally fulfilled life. 


Here are some quick definitions for context:


  • Somatics: Somatics blends movement and mindfulness to tune into your body's wisdom, enhancing well-being from stress relief to emotional intelligence.

  • Breathwork: Breathwork harnesses controlled breathing and movement to enhance physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

In summary, for those uninitiated, what is Somatic Breathwork?


Let’s begin by exploring somatics. The term “Somatics” was coined by professor and theorist Thomas Hanna in 1976 and it has come to represent a field of movement studies and bodywork that foregrounds the internal physical sensations, perceptions, and experiences of the body. Through somatic practices, we can peel back the layers of tension, pain, and disconnection that have accumulated over time, reestablishing a harmonious mind-body connection.


“The rhythmic dance of breath control becomes a tool for channeling and harnessing the inherent energies within, promoting a sense of balance, focus, and tranquility.”

One of the primary ways somatic healing accomplishes this is by placing a keen focus on embodiment. Through somatic practices such as mindful movement, breathwork, and body scanning, individuals learn to inhabit their bodies fully and mindfully. This process unveils a wealth of physical sensations, emotions, and thoughts that may have remained buried in the unconscious. By embracing these sensations without judgment or suppression, individuals can release the emotional and physical residue of past experiences. This is a pivotal step towards emotional healing, as it allows individuals to make peace with their history and move forward with a greater sense of wholeness.


Moreover, somatic healing transcends the physical realm to touch the intellectual, emotional, and spiritual dimensions of our existence. As individuals become more in tune with their bodies, they often find that their mental and emotional states become more balanced. The simple act of deepening the breath or releasing tension in the muscles can alleviate anxiety, reduce stress, and foster a greater sense of mental clarity. This, in turn, supports intellectual growth and emotional resilience.



That is a pretty good summary of somatics, somatic therapy and somatic healing and a little bit how breathwork fits in. Research reveals that targeted breathing exercises demonstrably improve symptoms of stress, anxiety, insomnia, PTSD, OCD, depression, ADHD, and schizophrenia.


Somatic Breathwork

Somatic Breathwork Styles That Your Should Be Aware Of:


  1. Breath Sensing: Learning to Actually Feel The Breath 


Central to somatic practices centered around breath is the skill of breath awareness. Practitioners attune themselves to the nuanced rhythms and sensations accompanying every inhale and exhale. This elevated consciousness of breath nurtures a profound bond between the mind and body, enabling individuals to discern the dynamic terrain of their internal state.


2. Pindulation: Using Breathing to Feel the Natural Flows of Our Body 


Pindulation stands as a cornerstone in somatic psychology and breath-centric somatic practices, embodying the graceful dance between contraction and release experienced during mindful breathing. This rhythmic oscillation elegantly mirrors the body's inherent capacity to adapt, rejuvenate, and embark on the journey of healing. Pindulation encourages individuals to attune themselves to the profound wisdom encapsulated within their body's responses, fostering a deeply transformative and enriching sense of well-being.


3. Pranayama Breathing: Ancient Techniques for Mind-Body Healing 


Pranayama, an integral facet derived from the rich tradition of yoga, occupies a central position within these holistic practices. It represents a profound exploration of deliberate breath control, encompassing a diverse array of techniques that have been cherished through the ages. Among these techniques are the artful practices of alternate nostril breathing (Nadi Shodhana), Kapalabhati (commonly referred to as the breath of fire), and the serene Ujjayi (known as the ocean breath).


Beyond its primary function of regulating the breath, Pranayama unfolds as a gateway to a more profound realm of self-awareness and holistic well-being. By engaging in these intentional breath control techniques, practitioners embark on a journey that transcends the mere physical act of breathing. Instead, Pranayama becomes a transformative exploration of one's own vital life force, known as prana.


This heightened awareness of prana cultivates a synergistic harmony between body and mind, fostering not only physical vitality but also mental clarity. The rhythmic dance of breath control becomes a tool for channeling and harnessing the inherent energies within, promoting a sense of balance, focus, and tranquility. Thus, Pranayama emerges as a holistic practice, weaving threads of ancient wisdom into the fabric of contemporary well-being, encouraging individuals to embark on a journey towards a more conscious and vibrant life.


Conscious Connected Breathwork: Deep Breathing for Trauma and Emotional Release  


Somatic Breathwork
Breathwork balances the nervous system

Conscious connected breathing, often referred to as "breathwork" or "conscious breathing," is a practice that involves deliberate and continuous control of one's breath to enhance physical, mental, and emotional well-being. It is a dynamic and intentional form of breathing that focuses on deep, connected inhalations and exhalations without any pauses in between. This technique is often employed for its potential therapeutic benefits. Key features of conscious connected breathing include:


  1. Rhythmic and Uninterrupted: Practitioners engage in a rhythmic and uninterrupted pattern of breathing, typically without holding the breath at any point. The goal is to create a continuous flow of breath.

  2. Mindful Awareness: The practice encourages individuals to maintain mindful awareness of their breath, bringing attention to the inhalation and exhalation. This heightened awareness can lead to a deeper connection with the present moment.

  3. Release of Tension: Conscious connected breathing aims to release physical and emotional tension stored in the body. The rhythmic breathwork can help individuals access and release trapped energy, promoting relaxation and stress reduction.

  4. Increased Oxygenation: The technique often involves taking in more oxygen than usual, which can lead to improved oxygenation of the body's tissues and organs. This, in turn, may contribute to increased vitality and a sense of well-being.

  5. Emotional Processing: Some practitioners use conscious connected breathing as a tool for emotional processing. The practice may bring up and release repressed emotions, providing a cathartic experience.

  6. Spiritual Exploration: For some, conscious connected breathing is a spiritual practice, allowing for introspection, self-discovery, and a sense of connection to a higher consciousness.


It's important to note that while many people find conscious connected breathing beneficial, individuals with certain medical conditions or those who are pregnant should consult with a healthcare professional before engaging in breathwork practices. Additionally, it's advisable to learn and practice conscious connected breathing under the guidance of a qualified instructor who can provide proper guidance and support.


So, Who is Somatic Breathwork For?


The short answer is anyone looking for short-term and long-term improvements in their mental and physical health. Techniques can be applied with substantial effect within minutes and can consistently create changes in our state of being. When practiced regularly, our nervous system quite literally changes to allow for improved quality of life. 


  • Are a busy professional who needs effective methods to relax 

  • Are looking to expand your toolkit to improve psychological and physical well-being 

  • Require a new approach to healing

  • Are ired of traditional talk therapy 

  • Are exploring ways to improve performance in a natural way 

  • Would prefer alternative and holistic approaches 

  • Need something that works fast 

  • Are looking to heal past trauma and release trapped emotions 


Ultimately, somatic breathwork is a set of techniques using controlled breathing and body movement which improves physical, emotional and psychological well-being. It is efficient, practical and easy to learn. In the short term, it reduces stress, relaxes the body, increases focus and energy. In the long run it improves immune function, performance, mood, emotional intelligence and quality of life.  


Breathwork is a holistic practice that embraces the interconnectedness of the body, mind and spirit. It offers a pathway to self-discovery, emotional healing and enhanced well-being. By consciously engaging with the breath, individuals can unlock the transformative power within, leading to a more authentic and embodied experience of life. In short, this is somatic breathwork. 


Practical Applications of Somatic Breathwork 


How can you use somatic breathwork in your day-to-day life? This is unique to everyone and depending on your goals and other practices, it might fit in differently for different people. Here is a basic list of some of the ways it can be applied practically. 


Daily Routines - Integrated breathwork and body movement into your daily routine is always a healthy choice. Using various kinds of breathing in the morning, in addition to yoga and gentle body movements helps get you into your body early so you can more easily generate and access states of balance. This provides solid grounding for the rest of your day. 


Daily Practices -  One thing I have found very useful and advise my clients to do is couple together breathwork exercises and regular, daily activities. For example, if you consistently have a morning meeting at 11:00 a.m. then right before the meeting you can apply a somatic breathwork exercise and move into the meeting. Perhaps you can find time to stretch or work on various exercises in your car before driving home.  


Timed Breaks - Making intentional space (even for only 3 minutes) has been proven to create substantial physiological changes in the body. This requires discipline but importantly, it’s more beneficial to be consistent vs. intense. Pick a time and habit that you can be consistent with. 


Releasing Trapped Emotions - Sometimes in order to release trapped emotions and trauma you need to be intense with certain practices. This is generally best done with a trained somatic therapist or practitioner and requires a physical space and some processing time. If you’d like to unravel deeper levels of clarity, healing and authenticity this is a great practice. 


Alternative to Therapy - Conventional talk therapy is very limited in its capacity to effectively heal people. Using the mind alone, we simply cannot access the parts of our body that we need in order to begin creating new internal experiences and re-building neural pathways which is the result of meaningful change. Somatic breathwork is a great way to do this. 


Fitness - The techniques can be used to create substantial improvements in an athletes (or regular person’s) physical health. Increasing oxygen uptake, producing nitric oxide and increasing metabolism are all health side-effects of somatic breathwork. With consistent application, those wishing can see marled improvements in a range of physical activities. 


Somatic Breathwork Techniques 


Belly Breathing or Diaphragmatic Breathing


When we are stressed, we breathe in a shallow way and through the chest. Shallow breathing can limit the diaphragm’s range of motion, which can make you feel short of breath or anxious. Shallow breathing can also push your nervous system into a “fight or flight” response, making you feel tense and anxious which will further compound any negative feelings or reactions you are having.


Diaphragmatic breathing is easy to practice:


  1. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach. Begin by breathing in through the nose. The point is to make sure your stomach (diaphragm) is expanding first as opposed to your chest.


  1. Your inhale should be easy and light. There should be a natural rise upwards in the chest, all the way up to the clavicle bones as you continue to bring in the air into your lungs.


  1. Once your chest is ‘full’ slowly breathe out, exhaling from the diaphragm again. You should be feeling minimal movement in the chest and deliberately using your diaphragm to exhale the air from your body.



Yogic Breathing


Yogic breathing is  also referred to as pranayama breathing. This is a powerful & ancient breathing technique which is best practiced over time. Similar to the 1-3 breath, pranayama is a consciously controlled breath cycle which increases the time between inhalation and exhalation. A great beginner sequence for pranayama is:


  1. Breathe in for 4 seconds

  2. Pause for 4 seconds

  3. Breathe out for 6 seconds

  4. Pause for 2 seconds


Repeat this daily for 15-20 minutes and as often as you can throughout the day. It’s a great way to improve physical and mental health and help your body learn to be in a more relaxed state more often. You can actively feel different parts of your body and feel into the areas that are more calm and notice how your body naturally shifts into a more relaxed state of being. 


Conclusion


Somatic breathwork offers a holistic approach to enhancing physical, mental, and emotional well-being, emphasizing mindfulness and embodiment. It utilizes techniques like breath sensing, pendulation, and Pranayama breathing for stress reduction and emotional release. Importantly, this practice provides a natural, efficient healing method without relying on harmful pharmaceuticals often prescribed in Western medicine, making it accessible and beneficial for those seeking non-medical approaches to a balanced and fulfilling life.


 

About Me & Repurpose-you


I am an expert in somatic healing, breathwork and performance for leaders, influencers, and high-performers. After rejecting a Ph.D. offer and corporate life in Canada, I embarked on an enlightening journey through Asia, engaging with Zen masters and healers. Overcoming deep personal and professional challenges, I discovered my true calling in spiritual practices and transformational coaching. My experiences in Guatemala, Asia, and Canada have culminated in effective training and coaching systems, helping individuals reconnect with their deepest selves for a more fulfilling, meaningful and purpose-driven life. Book a free exploratory call with me today. 





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