Soma Breathwork with Niraj Naik: Rational Wellness Podcast 346

Niraj Naik discusses Soma Breathwork with Dr. Ben Weitz.

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Podcast Highlights

1:45  Niraj was working as a pharmacist in the United Kingdom and he felt like a legal drug dealer.  Niraj got sick with ulcerative colitis and it was recommended that he have his colon removed. He discovered the power of breathing and he elected to trust in his culture of India, yoga, pranayama as well as using simple breathing techniques and he made a complete full miracle recovery.

4:42  Non-alcoholic Cirrhosis of the Liver is one of the rising causes of death and it is likely due to all the chemicals and drugs that we ingest these days. 

6:07  Breathwork. Breathwork emerged in its modern form from Stanislav Grof, who was treating people with LSD and psilocybin, and he needed an alternative to LSD. He discovered rhythmic breathing that would get you out of your mind and you’d have a hallucinogenic-like effect and the same kind of emotional release and processing effects that LSD has. He invented holotropic breathwork, which is the basis for holotropic breathwork that we do today. Holotropic breathwork is fast hyperventilation two, three hours with full power music that gets you really tripped out your minds and you have emotional releases and you discover your truth a little bit.


Niraj Naik is a certified UK pharmacist turned holistic wellness and breathwork expert.  Niraj runs a global breathwork community and trains hundreds of breathwork experts in his Soma Breath techniques, which is taught at numerous wellness centers in the US, Europe, and Asia, including the University of Cambridge. Niraj is working on a new book, Breath Works, which is soon to be released. His websites are NirajNaik.com and SomaBreath.com

Dr. Ben Weitz is available for Functional Nutrition consultations specializing in Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders like IBS/SIBO and Reflux and also Cardiometabolic Risk Factors like elevated lipids, high blood sugar, and high blood pressure.  Dr. Weitz has also successfully helped many patients with managing their weight and improving their athletic performance, as well as sports chiropractic work by calling his Santa Monica office 310-395-3111.


Podcast Transcript

Dr. Weitz:            Hey, this is Dr. Ben Weitz, host of the Rational Wellness Podcast. I talk to the leading health and nutrition experts and researchers in the field to bring you the latest in cutting-edge health information. Subscribe to the Rational Wellness Podcast for weekly updates, and to learn more, check out my website, drweitz.com. Thanks for joining me and let’s jump into the podcast. Hello, Rational Wellness podcasters.

Today we have an interview with Niraj Naik, the Renegade Pharmacist and breathwork expert. Niraj is a certified UK pharmacist-turned holistic wellness and breathwork expert. He’s one of the world’s most sought-after spiritual ceremony facilitators.  He leads breathwork workshops all around the world. His journey started in the midst of a burnout in his corporate career where he found himself bedridden with chronic illness for more than a year. Niraj healed himself using breathwork techniques, dietary adjustments and he felt motivated to share his knowledge with others. Today, Niraj runs a global breathwork community and trains hundreds of breathwork experts in his SOMA Breath techniques, which is also taught at wellness centers in the US, Europe, Asia and is now being studied at the University of Cambridge. And now, Niraj is hard at work on a new book, Breath Works, which is soon to be released. So welcome, Niraj.

Niraj:                   Great to be here, Ben.

Dr. Weitz:            Excellent. So tell us a little more about your personal journey, how you went from being pharmacist to being a breathwork expert.

Niraj:                   Yeah, yeah, sure. So I was a pharmacist years ago, community pharmacist, seven years, worked in a cubicle, dishing out pills. I call myself a legal drug dealer, but that’s where I got taste of my own medicine. I eventually got really sick. I got disillusioned with the whole system. People going away with shopping bags full of drugs and that wasn’t really soothing the soul and people coming back with side effects and whatnot. So in the end, I had a bit of a nervous breakdown and got an autoimmune disease called ulcerative colitis and I was shitting blood 40 times a day for almost a year.  That’s where I discovered the power of the breathing because I got two choices, either I have my colon removed or be a Guinea pig for a drug that hasn’t even tested before. And so they say gift of God is God coming to you in these desperate moments. I got gift from God and GOD, gift of desperation, and that came to me at the bright time where I made a bold choice to trust in my own culture of India, yoga, pranayama and I learned simple breathing techniques that became the catalyst for complete full miracle recovery because all the doctors who are like family friends, because in Indian culture, everyone’s a doctor or a medic of some form, right? So we have a lot of them in our family and they’re all telling me, “You’re crazy. You can’t stop taking the pills. You’ve got to do this. You’ve got to do that. You’ve got this disease for life. It’s not curable,” all this negative talk. And so I prove them all wrong. Thank God.

Dr. Weitz:            That’s great.

Niraj:                    Yeah, that’s basically … Then that inspired me to do what I’m doing now. I created … I wanted to start … Well, it’s desperation. I had to find a way to make a living, so I couldn’t go back to my pharmacy job. So I realized, by going through the healing journey that it’s a job that was killing me after all, so I had to transition to something more worthwhile. And I thought the most worthwhile thing you could possibly do is just to share what helped you heal when the pharmaceutical industry clearly is not working, because most people I saw with ulcerative colitis in the pharmacy didn’t get better. So in fact, some died and that’s what really scared me, was actually that’s a potential route I could go down is … And you know what most people die of in this? It’s not the disease, it’s the side effects of the drugs.

Dr. Weitz:            Right.

Niraj:                   In fact, adverse drug reactions is the number four killer in the world, right? And there’s another-

Dr. Weitz:            Not to mention the adverse reactions to having your colon removed.

Niraj:                   Yeah. Yeah, but then also, one of the rising causes of death is a new phenomenon that we’ve had in this day and age. It didn’t happen before. Nonalcoholic cirrhosis of the liver. Because when you consume a prescription with a chemical, that drug goes into the body and the body freaks out, right? It knows it’s not natural. So it processes straight away in the liver. So it’s called the first pass effect. Every chemical you put into your body, whether it’s on food or medicines, drugs, they go into your liver to be processed.

Dr. Weitz:            Yeah, no, absolutely. As well as related to eating ultra-processed foods and too much sugar and on and on and on.

Niraj:                   First pass effect. Anything foreign to the body goes to the liver for processing first.

Dr. Weitz:            Yeah, including ultra-processed foods.

Niraj:                   Yeah, exactly because it’s not natural. It’s foreign to the body.

Dr. Weitz:            Right, and then they-

Niraj:                   As long as there’s ingredients on the packet … Well, my rule is the no factory diet because anything that comes from a factory, guaranteed, you look on the label, there’s ingredients you can’t pronounce.

Dr. Weitz:            Right.

Niraj:                   That’s not what your body recognizes as food.

Dr. Weitz:            Right.

Niraj:                   So you’re going to toxify your liver. And toxic liver, over a long periods of time, will ruin your life. You’ll feel like shit.

Dr. Weitz:            Absolutely. No doubt about it. So breathwork, now it’s often related to meditation. How should we think of that? Is breathwork part of meditation? Are they two separate modalities that are related?

Niraj:                   So let’s go through, if you want, I can talk a little bit of history of breathwork.

Dr. Weitz:            Sure. Let’s talk about breathwork.

Niraj:                   So a definition of it. So let’s talk about what breathwork these days as people are familiar with because breathwork has become more popular recently, but it was around the time of Stanislav Grof when he was treating people with psilocybin, where breathwork emerged that we recognize today, we’re more familiar to, holotropic breathing, right? What Stanislav Grof needed was an alternative to psilocybin, sorry, LSD, to treat his psychiatric patients because that got made illegal. So what happened, he discovered this rhythmic breathing, fast rhythmic breathing for long periods, I think he got it from tantric yoga, would get you out of your mind and you’d have a hallucinogenic-like effect and the same kind of emotional release and processing effects that LSD has.  So he invented holotropic breathwork and that became the foundation of a lot of what we know about breathwork today. Then there was Leonard Orr around the same time. Leonard Orr created.

Dr. Weitz:            So what does holotropic breathwork mean?

Niraj:                   Just, I don’t know, this is what he called it, but it’s just fast hyperventilation for two, three hours with full power music that gets you really tripped out your minds and you have emotional releases and you discover your truth a little bit. Then there’s rebirthing. So rebirthing, Leonard Orr invented. He said he got it from Babaji in the Himalayas who told him this was a secret to immortality and he created his own Immortality Club, Leonard Orr. He was quite a wacky guy, but I quite like him. But anyway, so he came up with this thing. Again, it’s very similar to holotropic.  So then this became what we know breathwork for quite a long time until Wim Hof came along and he blew up the importance of breathing around the world, right? Wim’s a good friend of mine and I made all the music to the Wim Hof Method and we work very close together. Anyway, Wim Hof is a superhuman dude and he uses these tantric yogic breathing exercises. Well, he claims that he made them up, but for sure, he got inspired, right? So anyway, these are different types of breathing techniques. They’re not like holotropic where you’re breathing for two hours and getting completely out of your minds. These are involving breath retentions where you’re holding your breath.

                                While doing rhythmic breathing for 20 to 30 reps, then holding your breath to create a physiological state called intermittent hypoxia. And this low-oxygen state that you get your blood into for a brief period triggers a strengthening response and adaptation to oxygen in the body that makes you more efficient using oxygen. So over time, you get better body tissue oxygenation. You need less oxygen to breathe, to live longer, right? And you live longer as a result. But here’s the thing, this breathing stuff isn’t new news. It’s been around since ancient times. So let’s go way back in time.

                                In the Vedic tradition, there was a time, the Rigveda, where it’s detailed in this ancient manuscript that’s a thousand years old. No one knows how old it is. There’s a golden age where the rishis, the gods on the planet would consume this concoction called soma. Nobody knows quite what it was, but it would give them immortality, it would give them divine bliss, ecstasy. It would give them everything. It was a pharmacy of everything, right? So like the ultimate drug, all right? But what happens if soma runs out? So all of the rishis freak out because they’re so addicted to this stuff that they’re like, “Wow, we have to figure out to make the soma from within.” Boom, that becomes the origin of tantric yoga and all the spiritual practices.

                                So then that turned into these breathwork cults, like original breathing cults who did a lot of breathing exercises, African shamans and whatnot. They all use a lot of breathing exercises. Siberian shamans, a lot of Mayan culture, there’s breathing associated with those practices. And then you’ve got yoga, tantric yoga. Then you’ve got Qigong. Qigong literally translates as breathwork, right? Qigong. So Qigong came from yoga and so on, Tai chi and all of these breathing exercises. So in yoga, we have pranayama. Pranayama means energy control, which is really like a pharmacy of different breeding techniques. If you master all of this and master asana and go through all of the eight branches of yoga, if you really understand it, really go deep into it, you will produce the soma from within and you will have a method for fixing all of the things you’d normally go to a pharmacy for, but through your own body, okay?

                                And then you’ll only ever need to go to a doctor in a serious emergency like if some asshole ran you over with his car or something and you might need to fix your broken leg or whatever or some bones, right? But otherwise, you should be pretty self-sufficient. So what I’ve done, because I went back to tantric yoga, is I have translated that into a language and a methodology that is accessible to this day and age. So I’ve put music to it, and in fact, music is a core part of the Vedic tradition. There’s a whole chapter of the, or actually a whole book in the Vedas dedicated to music with samayoga or natya yoga, all right? It’s completely all about the music, the power of the notes, intonations between notes and how to invoke different states and different mantras.

                                And mantra is simply breathing. Because when you recite a mantra, you are exhaling for a period of time, inhaling for a period of time That changes your breathing pattern and influences your state. So basically, what I’ve created is a pharmacy of breathing techniques based on this original literature, but also passed down from generation to generation. I have amazing teachers from the Himalayas, yogis, even Wim Hof, I’ve met so many amazing people. My own self-study by going through my own healing journey, curing myself, I put together the system and now science is starting to catch up with us. So there’s a lot of evidence backing up everything I teach. Cambridge University is studying us now and so on.  So what breathwork really is no one single modality anymore. It’s really all of the breathing exercises that exist on the planet, and therefore, it’s a pharmacy, right? So some techniques get you out of your mind and trip you out and make you feel like you’re having acid and others can help you go to sleep and do the opposite, make you go into a deep restful sleep. So others are for strengthening your body, initiating healing, but not all techniques are equal. So each-

Dr. Weitz:            Right, like tantric yoga and Wim Hof is more energetic and changing your mental state, but-

Niraj:                   No, no, no, no. They’re all in tantric yoga. Tantric yoga has all of these techniques, [inaudible 00:14:17], different things. So holotropic breathwork is in tantric yoga. Rebirthing, as I said, rebirthing, he got it from Babaji in the mountains, right? So rebirthing is a yoga technique, so on, so forth.

Dr. Weitz:            So some breathing is faster breathing, some is slower breathing, some is holding the breath, some is longer on the inhale, longer on the exhale.

Niraj:                     Yup. There’s an amazing study, the physiological health benefits of slow breathing in a healthy human. That’s it. Look it up. That study has so much evidence for all the various forms of breathing, for slow breathing, slow diaphragmatic breathing. So we have slow breathing, fast breathing and we have holds, breath holds. So each one has now numerous studies. The breath holding techniques, Buteyko was the famous guy behind this.

Dr. Weitz:            Right.

Niraj:                     Dr. Buteyko, in my opinion, he’s the ultimate guru who I wish he was still alive today, but he translated yogic text, the pranayama, similar to how I did, but he could put a lot of evidence to it. He’s a medical doctor and he made it for improving oxygen efficiency and getting oxygen to your body tissue cells. Because he believes that hyperventilation is the cause of most chronic diseases, people breathing harder and heavier than they need to. So he was all about slowing breathing down and improving oxygen efficiency and using controlled pauses, controlled breath holding to I improve your oxygen efficiency, because there’s a science why that works. I can go into that if you want.  But Buteyko has incredible success stories and I’m very much the Buteyko advocate and everything we do in so and breath has a lot of Buteyko method and inspiration, but I make it fun. I put the music into it, I make it cooler for this day and age. The kids want to do it.

Dr. Weitz:            Yeah, no, it’s interesting. I’ve taken some Buteyko training sessions and it’s also important to learn to breathe through your nose, whereas a lot of us breathe through our mouth.

Niraj:                     Yeah, totally. He’s all about trying to chain us how to breathe, how we should normally. Because when we are stressed out, we don’t breathe normally. We breathe like we’re reptiles on high alert, danger because our reptilian brain is the one controlling the breathing because breathing is the thing that runs on autopilot, but we also consciously control. So with conscious breath control, we can control the autonomic nervous system. But when we’re on high alert and we’re sensing danger at all times because we got a boss that’s a dickhead, we got a wife or a husband who’s annoying and pisses us off and then we’ve got an alarm clock that wakes us up every morning to do a shitty job that you don’t want to do and so on and so forth, we are basically wallowing in a sea of stress hormones all day long. So we’re in high alerts all the time. So what that does is-

Dr. Weitz:            And by the way, in a functional medicine world, the concept is the cell danger response.

Niraj:                   Yes. So we are always in high alertness, so we’re breathing harder than we need to and that means we over-breathe and we let go of actually the most important gas CO2, carbon dioxide, which is what’s needed to get oxygen off your blood cells into your body tissue cells. So if you hyperventilate, you breathe out too much of this gas and we need an element of it, a balance of it in the body for oxygenation of your body tissue cells.

Dr. Weitz:            So wait a minute, how does carbon dioxide help us?

Niraj:                   So C02 is one of the miracle models. We have nitric oxide as well, but CO2 is the byproduct of respiration. Oxygen plus glucose …

Dr. Weitz:            Right.

Niraj:                   It’s internal combustion reaction by the way, just like a car engine. Oxygen burns fuel. You produce ATP energy that drives the function of life, but we also produce CO2 and water vapor.

Dr. Weitz:            But we normally think oxygen good, CO2 bad, but that’s not exactly the case, right?

Niraj:                   We’ve also been conditioned into believing that CO2 is what’s going to kill us all because of global warming, right?

Dr. Weitz:            Right.

Niraj:                   But here’s the thing, that’s very debatable. CO2 is plant food. By reducing CO2, we will get rid of plants and trees and we need those, right? So it’s all very convoluted bullocks. Clever bullocks, I call it. Anyway, so let’s get back to our human body though. We need CO2. It’s the Bohr effect. So your red blood cells binds oxygen and it transports it, but there’s a signal that tells your blood where to drop off oxygen in your cells. There’s a signal. That’s CO2. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be very efficient at breathing because you breathe in oxygen, oxygen will flood into all the cells and there’d be constant oxygenation needed, right?   But when you just do a little sniff of air, like that, you’re fully saturated oxygen. We have an abundance of oxygen. But unless you have the right balance of CO2 in your bloodstream, the oxygen is bound to the red blood cells because it’s the affinity of oxygen to blood cells. That is what keeps it stuck. And the CO2 is what reduces the affinity of oxygen for blood cells and that is what allows the oxygen to flood into body tissue cells. So the CO2 is the gatekeeper. So if you hyperventilate, you get lightheaded actually. We could do it now if you want to get lightheaded.

Dr. Weitz:            Yeah, sure.

Niraj:                   So for 20 seconds, we’re going to breathe like you are having a panic attack, like this, all right? So keep going, keep going, keep breathing. Good. Keep going, keep going, keep going, keep going, keep going. All right, 10 more seconds. 10, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, stop. Okay, how’d you feel?

Dr. Weitz:            I guess a little lightheaded.

Niraj:                   Yeah, so not great. You probably don’t feel great though, right? Nice.

Dr. Weitz:            Right.

Niraj:                   Yeah. So now let’s do the opposite. So now I want to do is a normal breathing pattern, a healthy breathing pattern. So you’re going to breathe into your nose, out through your nose with a very relaxed inhale and exhale. So your inhale, silent, subtle, relaxed exhale, then you’re going to hold your breath for around four seconds after the exhale and then repeat, okay?

Dr. Weitz:            Okay.

Niraj:                   So in silent, subtle into your diaphragm. Exhale relax. Hold, three, two, one. Inhale silent, subtle. Exhale relax. Hold, three, two, one. Inhale silent, subtle. Exhale relax. Hold, three, two, one. Inhale silent, subtle. Exhale relax. It hardly looks like you’re breathing. Hold, three, two, one. Now how does that feel in comparison?

Dr. Weitz:            I feel more mellow and relaxed.

Niraj:                   There we go. So that’s how we should feel. We want to be feeling grounded, relaxed, clear. You’ll be more focused as well. You’ll be able to perform better and so on. Hyperventilation really affects performance. Really does because it cuts off blood supplies of the brain, oxygenation of the brain-

Dr. Weitz:            Right. That’s what happens when we breathe too fast, when we breathe through our mouth, when we don’t hold our breath at all.

Niraj:                   That’s it. That’s it. That’s it. Some of my breath is all about improving your default state. It’s all about, “How do I bring my breathing into the perfect quality it can be?” because I know that your breath is a reflection of what’s going on the inside, your thoughts, your emotions, right? Your breath is the mirror of that. So you are on your default state, the time when you’re not doing any techniques to be the best it can be, right?

Dr. Weitz:            What do we mean by default state?

Niraj:                     So this is when you’re not doing any techniques, when you’re at rest, right? Just normal, calm, relax, not working, not doing anything, just sitting. How would you breathe? If you’re heavy breathing, wheezing, stuffed sinuses, breathing into your chest, frantic, erratic, breathing, that’s a sign you’re stressed out. That’s a sign there’s a lot of stuff going on inside. Your mind’s probably very racing with thoughts. However, if your breath is calm, relax, you have an automatic pause, you hardly look like you’re breathing, then you are like Lao Tzu. Lao Tzu said, “The perfect human breathes like you don’t breathe at all.” He was a famous Chinese philosopher from ancient times. So we’re all about improving default state.

Dr. Weitz:            So what are some of the benefits of this breathing in terms of health?

Niraj:                     So most diseases are caused by low body tissue ox oxygenation and oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is what makes us age. Oxidative stress is the stress that creates the wear and tear on our internal engines, the mitochondria.

Dr. Weitz:            But I thought oxidative stress was too much oxygen.

Niraj:                   Oxygen stress, exactly. So the less you need to breathe, the longer you live. Does that make sense? So when your natural default breathing pattern is below 10 breaths per minute, you’re going to live much longer. If your default breathing pattern is 15 or more, which is above average, 20 breaths per a minute above average, then you’ll live shorter length of time. In yoga, you measure someone’s lifespan by how many breaths they take or need to take.

Dr. Weitz:            It’s interesting, when I went to school as part of doing a physical exam, as a doctor, you learn about measuring people’s breathing. And yet in practice, we measure blood pressure, we measure all these other things, but rarely do we measure how rapidly people are breathing.

Niraj:                   Well, Buteyko really tried to drill home this message that all the doctors need to do is look at the breath, observe the breath, adjust the breath when symptoms start and then the disease goes before it’s too late. He got persecuted like mad. He got really into a lot of trouble for that.

Dr. Weitz:            Right.

Niraj:                   He got kicked out basically, he got ostracized from the medical community. Why?

Dr. Weitz:            Right.

Niraj:                   Because breath is free, it has no side effects and it’s not patentable.

Dr. Weitz:            Right, exactly. So talk about the impact of breathwork on longevity.

Niraj:                   Yeah, so as I said, breathing rates, well, breathing volume is more accurate, the amount you need to breathe is linked to breathing rates. So I’ll give you a little an example from the mammal world because a lot of yoga practices were developed by studying mammals in nature. So the mammals that live a very long time like elephants, turtles, and whales, they breathe very slow, like one to two breaths a minute. Whales hold their breath for two hours at a time. They live 200 years plus. Now on the other end of spectrum, rats and mice, they breathe very fast, 150-300 breaths a minute. They don’t hold their breath. They’re very fast breathing rates.  But there’s a very strange anomaly to this. The naked mole rat. The naked mole rat is a rodent, but it lives primarily underground and hypoxic environment. It holds its breath for 18 minutes a time and it lives 30 times longer than a normal rats. So humans have conscious control of our breath. We can choose to breathe like whales or like rats in the rat race. But I’m not saying you need to be like a naked mole rat and live underground. Also, yogis go and live also where oxygen’s low. They go to the tops of the Himalayas and they’re immortal like the one that taught Leonard Orr rebirthing, right?

                                So why do they do that? Why do they do that? Because oxygen is stress, right? You’ve seen what happens to an apple, right? It goes brown. What happens to your car? It rusts. So we are also rusting inside because of oxygen stress. We have a constant battle going on against oxygen stress. Helmut Sies is the pioneer of this kind of science. He says that it’s impossible to live without oxygen and it’s very difficult to live with it because of oxygen stress. So we have this toxic codependent relationship with oxygen. We have to make it our friend, right?

Dr. Weitz:            And when we exercise, we’re forcing a lot of oxygen through. We’re creating a lot of oxidative stress, but that’s actually good for longevity.

Niraj:                     So any positive stress response for a brief period, intermittent stress is beneficial to the body. The body adapts and becomes stronger as a result. We need a little bit of controlled positive stress responses to fuel our life. Also, exercise has other benefits because there’s a wrong way to exercise too, we should talk about, but exercise has benefit because it moves the lymphatic system, which doesn’t have a pump. It clears the junk from the brain, right? You need to move. If you don’t move it, you lose it, right? That’s the whole classic expression.

Dr. Weitz:            And when you exercise regularly, you have a lower heart rate, you have a lower breathing rate.

Niraj:                     Yeah, but there’s two types of exercise. Anaerobic, aerobic. Anaerobic, in my opinion, is the best, okay? Aerobic is good too, but anaerobic is the best. High-intensity interval training is anaerobic. Exercise where you’re holding your breath or slowing your breathing with each pose. My favorite anaerobic exercise, I call it the Hindu squat. Do you want me to show you how to do it?

Dr. Weitz:            To do a squat?

Niraj:                   The Hindu squat.

Dr. Weitz:            A Hindu squat.

Niraj:                   Do you want to see it?

Dr. Weitz:            Yeah, I’ll watch.

Niraj:                   Okay. Do you want to do it?

Dr. Weitz:            I don’t know if I can. I fractured my femur 10 weeks ago.

Niraj:                   Oh, no, then don’t do it. Yeah, this is the Hindu squat. It’s a different … This comes from the ancient martial arts system in India, which was originated around the time yoga was, right? It was normally only taught to the kings and the warriors and suppressed to everyday people because this is a secret of longevity and strength. So this is a very cool technique. So what you do is you put your hands out like a zombie pose. You breathe in. So a full yogic breath of air and then you descend into a squat like this. You go down and you breathe out through your nose as you go down. Breathing out, breathing out, breathing out, breathing out for 10 to 15 seconds to start with and you start increasing the time.

                                You go all the way down, all the way down, all the way down into a squat, right? Then you hold this pose for five seconds right down in the bottom of the squat and then you start to breathe in. So you hold your breath at this point and then you start to breathe in, breathe in, breathe in, breathe in, breathe in, breathe in on the way up, right? And you do that for around 10-15 seconds. So the idea is you add on a few seconds every time you are practicing and you see an improvement. I can do it … My time now is getting to a minute, 30 for the complete sequence, which is pretty insane, but it takes time. You have to gradually build up, but you can apply that to any technique, any body weight exercise, right?

                                Slowing the breathing down on the contraction and the relaxation, right? And what was I going to say? So what this creates is a state called intermittent hypoxia, right? And the Hindu squat I love is because it’s working with the psoas muscles, the biggest muscle group in the body. So if we can make these muscles as strong and efficiently [inaudible 00:31:53] as possible, it has a strong effect over the rest of the body, right? It is like the first muscles we really should adapt to make strong and we carry a lot of stress and tension there. So what’s going to happen when you do this, you’re going to increase CO2, nitric oxide dramatically.

                                Nitric oxide is the miracle molecule for the body. It’s antiviral, antimicrobial, antibacterial, vasodilator, bronchodilator, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and so on. It’s the most potent one, nitric oxide. We get abundance of that and we get strengthening over the whole physiology where your breathing over time become more efficient. So do this five times in a row, right? Do it to 80% of your maximum effort because you don’t want to burn yourself out and then you’ll be put off doing it and start doing this and then watch what happens to your wellbeing as a result.

Dr. Weitz:            It’s interesting, there’s a technique of exercise now where you put a mask on and you control your oxygen and you switch between higher oxygen state and in a lower oxygen state. So you learn this exercise with intermittent hypoxia and there’s data actually showing it decreases Alzheimer’s disease, improves brain function.

Niraj:                   There you go. You got it. So this is the philosophy of everything we do at SOMA Breath.

Dr. Weitz:            Yeah, I know.

Niraj:                   Little bit of controlled stress goes a long way.

Dr. Weitz:            Right. That’s it. Controlled stress. That’s it. For a short period of time as opposed to the long prolonged stress that people see in their everyday lives with work stress and everything else.

Niraj:                   So controlled stress, self-directed neurogenesis, because we can go into the more reprogramming techniques, the mindset stuff. So controlled stress, self-directed neurogenesis or neurosomatic programming is what I call it and the third one is control bliss or pleasure. Because once you know how to use feelings and how to control your emotions, you can map those emotions and feelings to what you want to call in more of. And this can turn into a very powerful productivity, efficiency, manifesting’s cool, but in terms of science, not some woo-woo shit.

Dr. Weitz:            Control your emotions, that’s not an easy thing to do.

Niraj:                   You could turn on bliss. Imagine being able to make yourself feel orgasmic on command. How cool would that be?

Dr. Weitz:            Yeah, I remember the Woody Allen movie where they had the Orgasmatron.

Niraj:                   Oh, yeah, there we go. Everything you needed to know about sex but you’re afraid to ask or something like that, I think. Is it [inaudible 00:34:49]?

Dr. Weitz:            Yeah, something like that. Yeah.

Niraj:                   Amazing. Cool.

Dr. Weitz:            So let’s see. What else haven’t we covered about breathwork? Let’s see. What are some of the experiences you’ve had with people being able to turn around their health with the proper breathwork?

Niraj:                   Oh, yeah. So a lot. We’ve had amazing studies. So we’ve had people who’ve been almost in a wheelchair, spending time in wheelchairs because they’ve lost their mobility with crazy fibromyalgia and colitis like symptoms I had. We had this one lady who just did my signature technique, is this breath meditation called Limitless and she used this neurosomatic programming method with the breathwork modality, controlled stress. And she, within a few months, went from taking 40 pills a day to zero and now she’s become one of our instructors and she’s spreading the mission. So that’s just one story. We have tons of stories.

                                We had a guy who had a very rare form of muscular dystrophy who did our technique. He just did our 21-day course and he wasn’t able to pick up his grandkid, right? He couldn’t throw a ball over his head and he was able to do all that and he went back to get his x-rays done because the doctors are freaking out about what’s going on. And they said, “Your muscles have stopped wasting away.”

Dr. Weitz:            Wow.

Niraj:                     “So keep doing what you’re doing.” So I’ve got loads of stories like that. We have athletes who have significantly improved their game, professional stars who are using our techniques now and so on.

Dr. Weitz:            That’s great. So I think that’s pretty much all the questions I had. Any other topics that you wanted to bring up?

Niraj:                     I think what would be interesting is to talk about the mind programming stuff.

Dr. Weitz:            Mind programming, okay.

Niraj:                     How you use the breath to change your awareness of consciousness.

Dr. Weitz:            Cool.

Niraj:                     So everything we do as human beings is a result of a feeling, either going towards feeling more of what we want or going away from what we don’t want, right? So moving towards pleasure and away from pain, right?

Dr. Weitz:            Okay.

Niraj:                     So if I asked you, “What do you want to feel more of?” is there anything you could say?

Dr. Weitz:            I don’t think anybody would not want to have more pleasure and less pain, right?

Niraj:                     Yeah. So if I was to ask you, “What is your highest excitement? What is your …” You don’t have to share that because that might be X-rated, but just if you were to think about that, you’ll get a feeling somewhere in your body, right? Okay, and if we can reverse engineer feelings where they come from and actually be more successful getting more of them, if you understand this process. So feelings have meanings and thoughts become things. Okay, so what comes before … Let’s say you want a result. There’s a result. You have this movie playing in your mind’s eye. It might be X-rated, it might be something else where you are feeling a lot of pleasure, you’re living and breathing something that you want to call in more of, right? Okay, and it’s a result.  Maybe it’s a business aspiration you’ve got, a goal. It’s going to give you loads of pleasure. What result will give you that feeling? So if you could see that as a movie, what comes before a successful result? You have to do something, right? You have to take action.

Dr. Weitz:            Right.

Niraj:                     So most people work on the area of action to get results. This is your outer world. So you’ll get a coach who’ll teach you more techniques, more strategies, more tools.

Dr. Weitz:            Right.

Niraj:                     But quite often, your results get to a plateau or they diminish because there’s more to it than just learning the new technique or strategy because what comes before an action, a quality action? What do you think?

Dr. Weitz:            Well, I guess your thoughts about what you’re trying to accomplish.

Niraj:                     Yeah, well, decisions. So your decisions, your quality of your decision will determine the quality of your action. So now we’re going to the inner world, right? We’re going into this inner world. So on the inside, there’s a whole load of chemistry going on and neurology and nerves and synapses firing that produces ultimately thoughts of different qualities and then decisions. So the quality of how you think is based upon what?

Dr. Weitz:            I guess your prior experience, right?

Niraj:                     Previous … That’s partly, but it’s actually, if you think about this, think about … Have you ever been really hungover before?

Dr. Weitz:            Sure.

Niraj:                     How did that affect your decision-making abilities?

Dr. Weitz:            Definitely blunted them.

Niraj:                     Yeah, exactly. All the stupidest shits I’ve ever done was under the influence of alcohol, right? So we are messing with the nervous system when we drink loads of alcohol and hangovers carries on. So how you feel actually is what determines everything, the feeling. So if you don’t feel high vibe, you’re not going to be at your best every single day. You’re going to make bad decisions sometimes, right? The worst decisions most people make are when they’re pissed off, in rage or angry, right? Yeah?

Dr. Weitz:            Sure.

Niraj:                     So how you feel is so important and this is now the realms of your neurochemistry, your nerves, hormones, transmitters, right? So the breath is the bridge between the body and the mind because the breath is what you can consciously control. You can control your breath consciously as well as let it run on autopilot. So this gives us conscious control of the autonomic nervous system. So we can change our state instantly with our breath. That’s the power of the breath.

Dr. Weitz:            Right.

Niraj:                     It’s the code. It’s the remote control for the inner world, the autonomic nervous system and states. So with breathwork techniques, we can raise our vibe, and in this heightened state, we can reprogram your consciousness. But with heightened more powerful breathing techniques like holotropic, rebirthing and what we call kevala, which is the original centric breath way, we can invoke a higher frequency of thoughts where we go into beyond ordinary levels of thinking. We go into collective consciousness and non-local, universal consciousness where we suddenly start to get aha moments, inspirations. Inspire means to breathe in, by the way, right? That’s where the word inspire comes from.

                                But you go into inspired realms of thought and you start to get divine downloads and it also is called the metaprogramming state. This gives you ability to see all of your patterns, experiences, conditions with a new perception. As a powerful therapeutic tool, I can take someone through a breath journey to revisit moments where blocks to success came from, blocks to taking action, because ultimately, procrastination is a block to take an action and action is the keyword in law of attraction. You’ve got to do something to attract what you want, right? So the difference between lucky and successful people are the level of action they take.

                                So there will be a story associated with blocks that have happened at some point, usually in the first seven years of life. With breathing techniques, we can take somebody back into that time and we can make them aware of this and retell the story in a new way under this heightened vibrational state, which then reformats the hardware and the operating system, the mind. And with that, you clear the blocks and people start to get more successful.

Dr. Weitz:            Amazing.

Niraj:                     That’s neurosomatic programming.

Dr. Weitz:            Neuro somatic programming.

Niraj:                     That’s it.

Dr. Weitz:            So people claim the same sorts of benefits from meditation. What exactly is the difference between meditation and breathing and breathwork?

Niraj:                     The easiest way to meditate is to observe your breath, just close your eyes, [inaudible 00:44:12] breath in and out.

Dr. Weitz:            So it’s actually part of the same process.

Niraj:                     Well, yeah, it’s a technique, right? But meditation, its purpose, is to train you to have single focus attention, right? With absolute conviction of concentration, you will steal the mind to a single point and there’s many things you can do with that skill. You can learn and master new skills by being able to channel and go deep on one thing and disregard the noise. It trains you to have ultra focus. But also with that advanced meditation techniques, we can, as I said, have self-awareness. We can reprogram. We can also actually program, I call it self-directed neurogenesis. We can program ourselves to grow certain cells in certain areas of body to invoke healing or direct stem cells to the brain to create neurogenesis on command to match the things we want to call into our life. Do you understand? Brain change according to will.  That’s the real what the Tibetan tantrics were trying to do, to change the brain according to will, to create superpowers, superhuman powers, but also to release all the karmic imprint that they had, so they can finally break free from this cycle of birth and rebirth.

Dr. Weitz:            Interesting. I always thought the concept of meditation was more about not to have any conscious activity, to have no focus.

Niraj:                     There’s many, many types of meditation, but ultimately, you’re focusing on something other than the conscious mind. You’re trying to focus on something beyond the conscious mind, the voice in your head, because the verbal part of the brain is what creates tension in the body.

Dr. Weitz:            Right.

Niraj:                     All the words going on in your mind …

Dr. Weitz:            Right.

Niraj:                     … creates tension, which creates resistance, which stops blood flows to your muscle, tissues, joints. So when you can’t quiet that voice in the head through bringing your awareness of something other than that voice in the head like your breath or a sound or a fricking candle, what happens is you steal the mind and you go into a very relaxed state of meditation where you suddenly get blood flow to areas of the body that haven’t had blood flow for years. You might even get an erection. That’d be a great side effect.

Dr. Weitz:            Yeah, I know people who do these intense meditation retreats and very reaching a higher state of consciousness from doing it intensely for longer periods of time.

Niraj:                     Amazing.

Dr. Weitz:            Yeah, I heard you say that breathwork gives you a similar effect that you can get from doing psilocybin.

Niraj:                     Yeah. Certain breathwork techniques and LSD and DMT.

Dr. Weitz:            How is-

Niraj:                     We do these in our retreats. We do very advanced breathwork techniques that get people into very psychedelic experiences.

Dr. Weitz:            Interesting.

Niraj:                     And you can even do the combination of the two, like a lower dose of psilocybin or LSD and you can have very powerful psychedelic journeys.

Dr. Weitz:            Oh, interesting.

Niraj:                     Yeah. We work with some centers that do this clinically with doctors, certified doctors.

Dr. Weitz:            Right. It’s being used for patients with resistant depression and certain other conditions that haven’t able to be conquered.

Niraj:                     But it’s all this, what I just described to you, neurosomatic programming is the real method of doing it. So we get you into a state where you can see yourself with a new lens and change that perception, change the story.

Dr. Weitz:            That’s great. Okay, so how can listeners find out more about your SOMA Breathwork techniques?

Niraj:                     Yeah, so the best thing to do, go to my Instagram, nirajnaikofficial. DM me the word breath on there, direct message breath and you’ll get through the jiggery pokery a link to my masterclass. You can sign up. And then when my book comes out and … You get loads of free stuff, if you sign up for free with your email and then you can follow me as well. I have this thing where I say, “A Reel a day keeps the doctor away,” on my Instagram. Every technique you’re going to learn is going to help get push the doctor away a little bit, right? So go and check that out.  And my book’s coming out soon. It’s called Breath Works. So there’s a whole complete like bible of breathing exercises in the evidence and science and supports everything I’ve been talking about today.

Dr. Weitz:            And I’m assuming that’s going to be available, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, everywhere.

Niraj:                   Yeah.

Dr. Weitz:            And then what’s your website that people should go to?

Niraj:                   Yeah, the website is somabreath.com. We have various courses. We also train instructors. So if you want to build a career doing this stuff, what a lot of people do is they do our stuff, they fall in love with it and they want to build a career and they’re going to share it. So we train instructors and we also work with people already certified in other modalities to add what we do as a modality to what they do and we get crazy amazing results.

Dr. Weitz:            And I practice functional medicine as part of my chiropractic practice and I can see where breathwork is a great addition to helping patients with all these chronic health conditions.

Niraj:                   I want to tap into more chiropractors, so if you know them, let’s get this stuff to them because this is the very powerful stuff.

Dr. Weitz:            Yeah. Everybody’s coming in with pain and they’re stressed out and-

Niraj:                   Exactly.

Dr. Weitz:            Yeah, there’s a great modality. Okay. Thank you so much for bringing this to us.

Niraj:                   Cheers, my friend. Thanks for the interview. It’s been a lot of fun.



Dr. Weitz:            Thank you for making it all the way through this episode of the Rational Wellness Podcast. For those of you who enjoy listening to the Rational Wellness Podcast, I would certainly appreciate it if you could go to Apple Podcasts or Spotify and give us a five-star ratings and review. That way more people will discover the Rational Wellness Podcast. And I wanted to let everybody know that I do have some openings for new patients, so I can see you for a functional medicine consultation for specific health issues like gut problems, autoimmune diseases, cardiometabolic conditions or for an executive health screen and to help you promote longevity and take a deeper dive into some of those factors that can lead to chronic diseases along the way.  And that usually means we’re going to do some more detailed lab work, stool testing, sometimes urine testing and we’re going to look at a lot more details to get a better picture of your overall health from a preventative functional medicine perspective. So if you’re interested, please call my Santa Monica Weitz Sports Chiropractic and Nutrition office at (310) 395-3111 and we can set you up for a new consultation for functional medicine. I’ll talk to everybody next week.


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