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  • Writer's pictureMatt Stewart

Breathe Through Trauma: Healing with Somatic Release Breathwork

Updated: Jun 25

Welcome to Nourish and Conquer, where I dive deep into the realm of healing from stress, releasing physical and emotional tension, and transforming pain and trauma. My mission? To help you tap into your nervous system, restore balance, and reimagine your life. Today, I’m zooming in on the magic of Somatic Release Breathwork. If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed by stress, trapped by trauma, or simply disconnected from your body, this article is for you. I’ll explore how somatic release breathwork can help you move from a state of sympathetic dominance (fight or flight) to parasympathetic dominance (rest and digest), bringing balance and homeostasis to your life.

A Journey from Chaos to Calm

My experiences in traditional therapy yielded nothing. It felt like I was simply maintaining. I mostly had days that were so-so. On paper, I looked like I was doing well, but inside I was always falling apart. Traditional therapy tries to access the rational mind. For true healing to take place, a person needs to utilize both the rational and emotional sides of the brain. Tap into the masculine and feminine sides of oneself. By working with the "psyche," you only access the storyteller/problem solver part of the brain. I logically understand I survived horrible sexual trauma and a brutal car accident, but I needed to emotionally process and discharge those emotions/energies.

Alternative healing dives into the "soma," the body, the sensations, and the emotions. When I started bringing my awareness back into my body, I was able to truly feel and process the trapped emotions. I also hated the never-ending nature of talk therapy. Every week, or month, I went in, and nothing changed for me except my medication dosages.

This topic is near and dear to my heart because my own road to recovery from addictions and mental health struggles began with discovering mindfulness-based meditation and breath meditation. I read the Sattipathana Sutta (The Foundations of Mindfulness), and became fascinated with "witnessing" my breath. At first, I sucked at it. I couldn’t "figure" it out. But the more I stuck with it, the better I became, and the easier it became to relax into my body.

Before this, I had struggled with anxiety and depression for most of my adult life. One day, before work, I had an epic panic attack—racing heart, shaking body, tingling fingers and face. A voice inside me told me to sit down and breathe through it. I did just that. I witnessed my breath, felt the emotions surge, began to shake, breathed extremely fast and loudly, and sweat started pouring off me. I rode the wave of sheer panic as high as it would go, and then something amazing happened. It peaked, my breath slowed, the shaking stopped, the sweating disappeared, and I felt a sense of profound peace and calm. I had no idea what had just happened. This was the first time I discovered "somatic" style breathwork.

After that, my anxiety and depression dissipated. I kept breathing into my body, through the anxiety, panic, and fear. After six months, I was able to come off all my anxiety and depression medication and have been off it for over six years.

I learned to regulate my emotional and mental state by understanding the language of my nervous system. That language was my breath. By tuning into the rhythms and patterns of my breathing, I could better manage my stress responses and emotional fluctuations. It was like unlocking a hidden code that allowed me to communicate directly with my body and mind, leading to deeper healing and self-awareness.

In the words of Hunter S. Thompson, "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." My healing journey has been anything but "normal." Traditional methods didn't work for me, so I turned to alternative healing styles like somatic breathwork, myofascial release massage, and shadow work. Embracing these unconventional approaches helped me find profound healing when nothing else worked.

A Client's Transformation

One specific client story stands out. I was working with a young woman who struggled with emotional regulation, self-sabotage, and abandonment. Physically, she had areas of tingling and numbness due to previous injuries. When I met her, she was very quiet and reserved, and physically looked closed off from the world (concaved chest, shoulders pulled forward, head down).

Working with her using my "soma-psyche" approach, she realized how much emotional stress she was putting herself under by assuming everyone would be mad at her if she spoke her mind. She became able to have honest and direct conversations without feeling responsible for other people’s emotions. After just one breathwork session, she stood up and said, "Oh my god, I can feel my right side again." She was able to stand up tall and be fully embodied.

What Does "Somatic" Mean?

The term "somatic" comes from the Greek word "soma," meaning "body." In the context of healing and therapy, somatic practices focus on the body's sensations, movements, and experiences rather than just the mind's thoughts and narratives. Somatic work involves tuning into the physical body to access and release stored trauma, stress, and emotional tension. It’s about creating a deeper connection between the mind and body, recognizing that our physical experiences profoundly impact our emotional and mental well-being.

The Role of Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide

Oxygen and carbon dioxide play crucial roles in our physical, mental, and emotional health. Oxygen is essential for cellular metabolism and energy production, while carbon dioxide helps regulate the pH balance in our blood and tissues. During somatic release breathwork, the careful manipulation of breathing patterns helps optimize the levels of these gases in the body, promoting a state of homeostasis. This balance is vital for reducing stress, enhancing emotional regulation, and improving overall well-being.

How Somatic Release Breathwork Works

Somatic release breathwork is a circular breathing practice that combines deep rapid breathing and deep relaxed breathing. It uses NLP imaging, leading, and pacing to guide a client through the experiences that come up. The process is broken into two phases: the clearing phase and the repatterning phase.

Phase 1: Clearing Phase This involves rapid circular breathing in through the mouth and out through the mouth for various lengths of time. It is paired with a breath hold that helps you connect deeper to your soma while regulating oxygen and carbon dioxide in your body. The clearing phase stimulates the sympathetic nervous system and brings up and clears out excess stress and nervous system energy.

Phase 2: Repatterning Phase In this phase, we slow things down and feel things more. The breathing is still circular (no pause between inhale and exhale), but you breathe in through your nose and elongate your exhales through your mouth. This is also paired with breath holds. During this process, energy may come up, and the best way to express that energy is through sound, movement, or any type of expression you feel called to make and heal from. Every session is different and unique.

The Benefits of Somatic Release Breathwork

  • Reduces Stress and Anxiety: By engaging the parasympathetic nervous system, somatic release breathwork helps reduce the physical and emotional symptoms of stress and anxiety.

  • Releases Stored Trauma: This practice helps release trauma stored in the body, allowing for profound healing and emotional release.

  • Improves Emotional Regulation: Regular practice can enhance your ability to regulate emotions, leading to more balanced and harmonious emotional health.

  • Increases Self-Awareness: Through breathwork, you become more in tune with your body and emotions, fostering greater self-awareness and self-understanding.

  • Enhances Physical Health: Improved breathing patterns can lead to better overall physical health, including increased energy levels and improved immune function.

Final Thoughts

Somatic release breathwork is a powerful tool for healing and transformation. It’s about more than just breathing; it’s about connecting with your body, releasing what no longer serves you, and stepping into a place of balance and peace. Ready to experience the benefits of somatic release breathwork for yourself? Try your first session today and start your journey towards a healthier, more balanced life.

Take the first step to reclaim your well-being. Contact us to book a session or learn more about our services.

Stay weird, stay grounded and keep breathing,

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