Understanding Somatic Breathwork
Somatic breathwork is an ancient practice that utilizes conscious breathing to direct more oxygen to the brain and body. This method empowers practitioners to relax, recharge, recover, and develop a deeper awareness of their bodies, including the sensation of existing in one’s own skin.
Through its calming effects, somatic breathwork helps regulate the nervous system and reduce the tendency to overreact in stressful situations. Somatic breathing helps individuals rely on mind-body intelligence, enabling thoughtful perspectives and facilitating rooted, centered responses. This effect empowers practitioners to express themselves authentically and connect to their deepest truths.
For some practitioners, somatic breathwork goes beyond relaxing the mind and aiding the body in recovering from a stressful situation. Somatic breathing also induces altered states of consciousness. Through diaphragmatic breathing, somatic practices introduce more oxygen to the brain and bloodstream, which results in a “high” sensation.
Principles and Techniques
Most people learn somatic breathwork techniques in a therapeutic environment. Others discover the practice through breathwork ceremonies led by experienced guides. The process looks something like this:
Practitioners sit or lie down, awaiting the conscious-breathing instructions.
The therapist or guide instructs the practitioners to begin inhaling and exhaling without a pause in between.
The practitioners eventually find a cyclical flow with air moving in and out of the nose, mouth, or both.
This exercise allows the body to breathe deeply through the diaphragm, reducing stress while activating relaxation. In a calmer state, diaphragmatic breathing allows people to reach deeper layers of self, release hidden emotions, and break destructive mental patterns.
Through somatic breathing, the practitioner’s body begins to generate an energetic state known as activation. This, in turn, helps individuals determine what no longer serves them and discover effective tools to manage stress or trauma.
Philosophies and Cultural Significance
Somatic breathwork has roots in many ancient cultures. Over time, these cultures have evolved and integrated practices into modern therapeutic settings. Most somatic breathing philosophies believe:
Breathing is a form of communication.
The body records the past.
Conscious breathing brings awareness.
The body knows what it needs to heal.
Breath follows awareness and awareness follows breath.
Breathing methods reflect how a person lives.
Conscious breathing is the foundation of a conscious community.
With the basic elements of somatic breathwork in mind, let’s explore the connection between somatic breathing and psychedelic experiences.