June 07, 2021, Publisher: Breath Hub
Created in 2012 by the holistic health expert, breathing therapist and pharmacist Niraj Naik, SOMA Breath is a school based on pranayama (yogic breath) techniques.
It combines rhythmic breathing, breath retention and extended exhalation techniques with relaxation, visualization, meditation and bandha (interior body locks). In addition to yogic principles, it also uses educational music designed to influence brainwave activation.
In 2016, a team of NASA scientists and founders of Peak Neurofitness measured the brainwaves of people who were practising SOMA breath. It was proven that participants experienced emotional release, deep relaxation and awareness — AHA moments — and showed improved brain function with only one session.
According to a study by Dr Jeff Tarrant, a neuroscientist and founder of NeuroMeditation Institute, a 22-minute SOMA Breath practice was proven to produce gamma brainwave activity. Gamma brainwaves are associated with highly inspired thinking and peak flow states of consciousness and usually seen in experienced meditators. The study results showed SOMA Breath could be as effective as psychedelics in treating anxiety and depression.
You can find more on breathing exercises for alleviating panic attacks and anxiety here.
Recent scientific research has shown a direct link between heart rate, autonomic nervous system, and respiration. This phenomenon, long known intuitively in the yogic tradition, is explained by modern science as follows: Inhalation stimulates our sympathetic nervous system, and our heart rate accelerates. Exhalation stimulates our parasympathetic nervous system, and our heart rate slows down. This natural ‘gear shift’, known as heart coherence , allows us to shift between systems in the face of physical, emotional, and psychological events that we experience throughout the day.
However, stress can cause this automatic process to have breakdowns, extremities or deviations. In that case, neuroscientists point to breath control as the best thing to do. This, in theory, is pretty simple: To switch to the parasympathetic system, extend your out-breaths. To switch to the sympathetic system, extend your in-breaths. If you need a balance of these two systems, balance the duration of your inhalations and exhalations.
SOMA Breath aims to bring the autonomic nervous system to an optimum balance with a rhythmic breathing practice where you breathe in and out for a count of 4. The rhythmic breathing patterns practised daily turns into habits thanks to the neuroplasticity of the brain.
You can find more on the relationship between breath and the neuroplasticity of the brain here.
Self-healing power is an ability we all have — just like how a physical wound heals. Internal healing is active not only on a physical level but also on psychological and mental levels. This restorative, regenerative mechanism can be best utilized by breathing practices that trigger a shift to the parasympathetic nervous system.
The parasympathetic nervous system is where the body relaxes, where calmness and serenity replace stress and worry, and where healing and restoration take place. For the transition, we only need to make sure our out-breath is twice as long as our in-breath — sometimes, all it takes is a few breaths. We can, for example, breathe in for a count of 2 and breathe out for a count of 4.
By controlling our breath, we can calm ourselves at times of anxiety and stress and strengthen the internal healing process with regular practice. However, we must remember that we need both systems to function in a balanced way throughout the day. SOMA Breath aims to achieve optimum balance with a combination of rhythmic breathing, breath retention and extended exhalation.
Oxygen is vital to each and every cell in our bodies. But did you know that excess oxygen can be harmful? Too much oxygen as a result of over-breathing triggers oxidative stress and leads to many physical and psychological illnesses. The easiest way to reach the optimum balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide is by controlling our breath.
The breath retention (kumbhaka) technique temporarily lowers the oxygen levels. According to studies, brief periods of low oxygen (intermittent hypoxia) allow stem cells to move to areas where they can repair and rejuvenate healthy cells. As this stimulates the production of new muscle tissues, red blood cells and even blood veins, it improves health and stamina. It strengthens the immune system, balances the blood sugar levels and even supports the production of new brain cells. Cells absorb optimum levels of oxygen, and all functions of the body — from circulatory to digestive systems — run more effectively.
This holistic healing effect makes you more resistant to stress while decreasing the overall stress levels. As a result, we feel both physically and mentally relaxed and alive.