Breathing practices are central to yogic, tantric and shamanic cultures.
Did you know that the Latin root of the word spiritual comes from the verb to breathe? In fact, the ancient rituals of modern organized religions often have a long-forgotten breathwork component to them as it was believed to lead you closer to your deity of choice.
But this can make pranayama appear archaic and outdated, which is a terrible shame. After all, your breath is the key to your physical, emotional, energetic and spiritual well-being.
There is something about a regular pranayama practice that changes our mindset; we notice more mental stillness and clarity, and better emotional regulation as a result. We can deal more effectively with stress. We feel happier and we start to see the best in the world and in others. We may even find improved blood pressure, a stronger immune system and better hormonal regulation.
How can an outdated system of breathing practices become part of an enjoyable and beneficial daily practice? Enter SOMA Breath, the breathwork and wellness movement founded by a former pharmacist in search of a more holistic way to improve his patients’ physical and mental health.
Breathing In Beats
The key to SOMA Breath’s success is “breathing in beats” and allowing the rhythm of the music to guide you.
Using a combination of pranayama techniques (with scientific evidence for their health benefits), rhythmic music, guided meditation and visualisation techniques, SOMA Breath is a remarkable process for reaching heightened states of consciousness and elevating your pranayama practice.
The techniques used in SOMA Breath are ancient, but they are also a representation of the founder’s curious background. As an 18-year-old pharmacy student in the United Kingdom, Niraj Naik was running some of the country’s largest raves of the time! He found a great sense of fulfilment in bringing people together with his music, which became a driving force in his life and a key component of SOMA Breath.
A certified pharmacist at just 24, Niraj noticed that his patients were relying heavily on prescription medications to feel “normal,” some leaving with more and more prescriptions with every visit. He became disillusioned with the pharmaceutical industry and realized that this is not how to help people heal. The stress and overwhelm of his career saw Niraj housebound and diagnosed with a severe case of Ulcerative Colitis.
By a stroke of luck and a touch of magic, Niraj embarked on a spiritual journey that introduced him to pranayama. Combined with other holistic and integrative lifestyle changes, Niraj totally cured himself of his condition and now lives symptom free. The pranayama techniques he incorporated in his healing journey became the foundation of the SOMA Breath curriculum.
Niraj has combined his extensive knowledge of human biology and modern medicine with his expertise as a professional musician to make Pranayama accessible and incredibly enjoyable for everyone.
SOMA Breath can be used as a meditative technique either alone or as a group, or SOMA Breath can be a dance party! Like-minded people gather together around the world to dance their hearts out to the euphoric and uplifting SOMA Breath music, while using the breathwork techniques to raise their emotional energy and create heart coherence — the ideal condition for the body to heal and connect with others. It fosters a warm sense of community and so far has made its way to the United States, Brazil, France, Thailand, Indonesia and more.
One of the biggest causes of illness in modern society is stress and our inability to effectively manage it. Sometimes when we suffer from stress, we know what we should be doing to better manage it, but we tend to hold it off for later. We make our excuses and say we are too busy and we’ll do it when things calm down, but the continued stress escalates, and there is a real risk of developing a chronic condition later on.
The average individual is over-stimulated every single day. Stress hormones flood our bodies, our heart rate rises, we clench our jaw, tense our shoulder muscles and exacerbate that by staring down at our phones, hunched over. Our breathing changes, too. Pay attention to how often people sigh while they’re at their office desk. Notice how you clench your jaw when you catch up with the news.
Our bodies are beautiful and intelligent systems designed to self-heal. When we learn how to harness the power of our breath using pranayama techniques, we encourage our body’s natural healing, balancing and restorative functions. They cost nothing and they have no negative side effects as long as they’re practiced safely.
The pranayama techniques used in SOMA Breath all have an array of scientific research to back up their effectiveness in improving health. They can be used as a highly beneficial preventative measure to maintain good health, or they can be used to reduce (or even remove) side effects of a variety of health issues that are triggered by chronic and emotional stress, autoimmune diseases and metabolic diseases such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
Reduce Stress With This Technique
Usually the SOMA Breath techniques are used in succession accompanied by inspiring and upbeat music, but they can also be used separately and in their original form.
Rechaka, which means exhale in Sanskrit, is one of the key techniques used in SOMA Breath. It offers a multitude of health benefits like relieving symptoms of depression and anxiety, improving asthma, increased mental clarity and, of course, that all-important stress reduction. Here’s how it is done:
- Sit in a comfortable position with your back straight.
- Inhale through your nose.
- Purse your lips and gently breathe the air out of your mouth very slowly as though you are breathing out through a straw. At the same time, deeply relax all of the muscles in your body.
- As you exhale, imagine a wave of relaxation flowing down your body from the top of your head to the soles of your feet.
- Repeat the process for 5-10 minutes, several times a day if you like.
- Once you have exhaled, you can also hold your breath for a few seconds before inhaling and repeating.
You will likely feel instant effects of relaxation and a slowing of your heart rate. With regular practice, the more effective it can be for stabilizing your blood pressure and heart rate as well as helping you respond better to stress. For a more advanced practice, you can gradually increase the breath hold time with every repetition and you may enter a deeply meditative state.
Your Breath Can Set You Free
Pranayama is a beautiful practice for its profound meditative effects; our breath is also central to our physical health. Thankfully, pranayama is experiencing its renaissance thanks to visionaries like Niraj Naik who is making these techniques more accessible and enjoyable for a wider audience by founding SOMA Breath and facilitating communities of like-minded people to come together and enjoy breathing in beats.