Breathwork For Longevity with Niraj Naik: Rational Wellness Podcast 230
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Niraj Naik speaks about Breathwork for Longevity with Dr. Ben Weitz.
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Niraj Naik is known as the Renegade Pharmacist and he is a certified UK pharmacist turned wellness and breathwork expert. He is one of the world’s most sought-after spiritual ceremony facilitators and leads breathwork workshops around the world. His journey started in the midst of a “burnout” in his corporate career, when he found himself bedridden with chronic illness for more than a year. Healing himself using breathwork techniques and dietary adjustments, Niraj felt motivated to share his knowledge with others. Today, Niraj runs a global breathwork community and trains hundreds of breathwork experts through his SOMA Breath framework, and if you use the discount coupon Manifestation55 you will get a 55% discount. Also, if you would like to order some awesome colostrum that Niraj formulated, if you go to Shop.somabreath.com and use the Promo code RW20 you will get a 20% discount.
Dr. Ben Weitz is available for nutrition consultations specializing in Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders like IBS/SIBO and Reflux and also specializing in Cardiometabolic Risk Factors like elevated lipids, high blood sugar, and high blood pressure and also weight loss and also athletic performance, as well as sports chiropractic work by calling his Santa Monica office 310-395-3111. Dr. Weitz is also available for video or phone consultations.
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. I’m very excited today to be interviewing Niraj Naik. Naik, is that how we pronounce it?
Niraj: Perfect. That will do.
Dr. Weitz: The renegade pharmacist and breathwork expert, Niraj Naik is a certified U.K. pharmacist turned holistic wellness and breathwork expert. He’s one of the world’s most sought after spiritual ceremony facilitators, and he leads breathwork workshops around the world. His journey started in the midst of a burnout in his corporate career, when he found himself bedridden with chronic illness. Healing himself using breathwork techniques and dietary adjustments, Niraj felt motivated to share his knowledge with others. Today, Niraj runs Global Breathwork Community and trains hundreds of breathwork experts through SOMA Breath framework, which is also taught at numerous wellness centers in the U.S., Europe, and around the world. Niraj, thank you so much for joining us today.
Niraj: Absolute pleasure to be here, [Beitz 00:01:37], [inaudible 00:01:37]. How do I pronounce your name, Beitz?
Dr. Weitz: Weitz.
Dr. Weitz: Right.
Niraj: Ah, so it’s a silent B. Got it. Cool.
Dr. Weitz: Yeah, so Niraj, perhaps you can tell us how you overcame your health crisis, and how you … Tell us about the health crisis that you had and how you overcame it.
Niraj: Yeah, so I actually got a autoimmune disease years ago called ulcerative colitis, and this was after a run of a lot of stress, work-related stress. I got the symptoms of … Basically with ulcerative colitis, you get ulcers in your colon. You start bleeding from the bowels, and literally, you’re going to the toilet 40, 50 times a day. It’s horrific. A few months into it, I had lost a third of my body weight. I tried all the conventional treatments. Nothing was working. I was faced with two options, either have my colon removed, or I go on a trial for an experimental drug that hasn’t even been used before. So, these are my options, and I was like, “Screw that.” I was told also by a consultant who offered me these options that there’s no evidence that diet has any impact, and stress doesn’t have any impact. Basically, “Shut up. Take pills. That’s all we can do for you.” So, I was obviously very disappointed with that news, especially when, if you get ulcerative colitis, one of the prospects is you have to wear a bag, a colostomy bag, right?
Dr. Weitz: Yeah. That’s not a fun prospect. I know for a fact that treating quite a number of patients with digestive disorders, that ulcerative colitis can be a very, very difficult condition to treat …
Dr. Weitz: … and can be life-threatening.
Niraj: So, I’ll summarize what I did then. Luckily, I had met an amazing yoga teacher, Swami Akhandananda, who said to me, “You’ve got a great gift here. If you can change your perception around this disease and look at it as an opportunity, as a gift, if you can fix this using …” So, she taught me some basic pranayama techniques, yoga, meditation, Ayurveda, “… you’d be an amazing role model for other people, and you can help inspire other people.” So, that changed my perception, because she gave me a bit more hope.
I also previously discovered Tony Robbins, at that time, and he always have his mantra of model success. So, the first thing I did [inaudible 00:04:38] was obviously is you do what most people do, they go in the forums, and they just see all this doom and gloom really horrific stories of people suffering with no hope. They’re on all kinds of meds. They’ve had their colons removed, blah, blah, blah. I decided to stop that and start looking at actually people who have healed themselves from this disease, and to model what they did.
I found there were some similarities. Through the Ayurvedic approach which I learned, you can actually find out a lot about yourself, and there’s no one size fits all, because we all have a unique energy blueprint, basically. Through this energy type that we all have, that’s different and individual, which you can find out through a series of special questions, I realized actually the diets that I was trying to use to solve this, which was raw vegan, because that was a big thing blasted all over the media at that time, was actually the worst thing for my health and made me much worse. Also, fruit-based stuff, as well, like fruitarian-type stuff.
Dr. Weitz: So, were you following a raw vegan diet before you got ulcerative colitis, or you [crosstalk 00:05:46]-
Niraj: I had already made that transition to very vegetarian, very heavy on grains and things like that. That’s usually what happens when you go down that path. Not everybody does that, but when you’re first getting into this, get some carbs in there, you start doing that.
But then, I tried to use that same approach for healing, and I went really heavy on things like raw vegan diet, and lots of smoothies, and fruits, and things like that. None of that was working, and actually made me much worse. I checked in the Ayurvedic system that actually, people with ulcerative colitis, as my constitution, should have more grounding, warm, nourishing foods, and actually things like meats can actually be very beneficial. Actually, it was going to a completely paleo diet that solved the problem … well, a big part of the problem.
Also, I just started colostrum, which is an amazing medicine actually from … This is also an Ayurvedic treatment that’s been forgotten. It’s now becoming more popular these days. But colostrum is basically the first milk you consume when you’re born. It gives you your immune system, and it helps you create the gut lining that allows you to digest normal food.
So, if you’re deprived of colostrum as a baby, or if you go through a lot of wear and tear, like through life basically, drinking alcohol, and eating loads of processed foods, and taking prescription meds even, you destroy this gut lining. Children who don’t have enough colostrum get more often childhood diseases, and adults who destroy their gut lining, that means that all the toxins start seeping back through into the bowels, and they start getting leaky gut syndrome and things like that, which was what was happening to me, which then leads to autoimmune and all these other issues.
So, colostrum is an amazing substance, because actually, we can take bovine colostrum, which is a thousand times more potent than human colostrum, and it is actually, the cow produces four times the amount that the calf needs. So, the excess is used for human production, not … There’s no deprivation to the cow, to the calf, at all. Only the excess is used for humans. So, it means it’s done in an ethic way, which I knew that I wouldn’t go down that road if it wasn’t.
Actually, I started to test this out when I realized actually, this is actually one of the reasons why cows are considered holy in India. The Indian holy sweets were made from colostrum. So, in the monasteries and stuff, they would use colostrum quite often to make the sweets, which they give at the end of ceremonies and things.
So, I saw all of this amazing history behind it, which has all been [inaudible 00:08:55] about, and I started to use it. I’m not joking. Within a couple of weeks, the bleeding had stopped. But what was the real catalyst to getting really back to normal was that plus the breathing techniques. Pranayama is like a pharmacy of different breathing techniques, and there’s certain breathing techniques in there which just switch off stress like that, also helps you to change your conscious state so you can actually speak directly to the unconscious mind and change your operating system, which is our mind, which gets corrupted over time by life. So, it’s the first [inaudible 00:09:37] a lot of programming happens, and this can lean to an over-exaggerated sense of fear and hostility from the environment.
I was working in an environment that was already stressful, and there was a lot of fear and negativity in my environment, which is the pharmacy. Then, I ended up working in a corporation where you’re in kind of a room full of sharks, basically. Everyone’s gunning for your job, right? Everyone sees you as a threat. They’re so competitive in the environment. So, I had to deal with all of that, and what you have to do with autoimmune issues is, in my opinion, re-pattern, reframe fear and how we deal with fear.
So, a big part of the plan that I went through was basically rewiring, re-patterning the unconscious mind, and then restoring balance in those system, and using then colostrum as the foundation for healing the gut. So that, plus a few other things, which I created a system for with our SOMA Breath training, is what got me back to normal within a few months, but it has now been tried and tested through our community for many years now. We have so many success stories, countless amounts of success stories. People have had much worse cases than me who have recovered since, so it’s really … That was my driving motivational reason for doing this.
But actually, before that, I always wanted to be a music producer, a DJ. That was my thing, and I ran these big events and all this, so I always thought I was going to do that, go down that line. But strangely, it’s all gone full circle, because during that process of self-healing, I went back into making music, getting creative again, and I found that with music, you can actually make the whole breathing practices a lot more fun, but also effective, altering the brainwave states and getting into these deep physiological states. So, I started to make this therapeutic music, and that therapeutic music became my first online business. So, it became location-independent.
I’ll tell you what. For most people, the reason why they’re sick is their environment that they live in. It could be that they’re in a relationship where they’re being bullied all the time, and that’s that relationship, that negativity, hostility that’s making them sick, or there’s this frustration that they’re not being true to themselves. It could be they’re in a career where they’re being treated badly, and then, they hate going to work. When you lose that enthusiasm for life basically, your soul wants to escape your body. It’s like, “I want to move into another place, a happier place.”
I think that’s where disease creeps in. Literally, that’s what is the Ayurvedic approach, which is most diseases, chronic diseases are spiritual disturbances. The problem with pharma is that it can never address a spiritual disturbance, something that is … drugs ain’t going to fix your environment. It’s not going to fix your relationship. It’s not going to fix your career.
Dr. Weitz: Well, they try that with these drugs that increase serotonin production, or try to manipulate brain chemistry, except they’re, generally speaking, long-term, not super effective and very hard to get off of. I think brain chemistry is much more complicated than just increasing …
Niraj: It is.
Dr. Weitz: … one or two neurotransmitters.
Niraj: They follow a reductionist scientific model which humans are not. We are completely irrational and un-linear, and therefore … We’re more complicated. Therefore, we need one-on-one customized solutions. Whereas pharma tries to make everybody the same, average, and they try and bring everybody to an average and normal, which not everybody fits into that same average bracket. If you go and get your blood pressure checked, they’re going to say that, if you’re above 120 over 80, or below it, you’re not normal, and therefore, you need some treatment to fix it. But if you were take everybody’s blood pressure on the planet, you’ll find it’s like a bell shaped curve, right? It’s like this. You’ll have people who have very high blood pressure on one end and very low on the other end. 25% of people are going to have what’s called abnormal blood pressure, but for them, it’s perfectly normal. If I was to ask you, what was Gandhi’s blood pressure his whole life until he got shot with a bullet in his head, and he was like 80 plus years old. Do you know what it was?
Dr. Weitz: What?
Niraj: It was 200 over 100 his whole life.
Dr. Weitz: Wow. Wow.
Niraj: So, he had abnormally high blood pressure, but when they did the postmortem on his body, he had perfect health. None of his organs were affected. So, some people can live with very high blood pressure. Some people can live with very low blood pressure. That’s their normal, right? But if you check that graph, 25% on each side is going to be a false positive when they go to the doctor for a checkup, because they’re going to be like, “Oh, you’re not 120 over 80.” So, they’re going to give you a medication, and then what’s going to happen is that they’re going to bring you to the normal of what they consider normal. The problem with that is, then you’re gong to get side effects. You’re going to get all these issues with your health, and that’s why we have so many side effects with medications. They use linear reductionist science, and it doesn’t fit the human being. We’re social people. We’re emotional. We are irrational. We don’t fit into a box like that. So, as a chiropractor, you know very well, you can’t just do that.
Dr. Weitz: I think I should change the name of my podcast to Irrational Wellness.
Niraj: Yes. You got it. You got it.
Dr. Weitz: At some point in your career, you created this infographic that become one of the most viral infographics of all time. I looked at it. It’s pretty cool. It’s called What Happens To Your Body One Hour After You Drink a Can of Coke. I wondered if you could talk about that for a couple of minutes.
Niraj: Yeah, yeah. That happened by accident, actually. One of the reasons why I got kind of sick in the first place actually was because I fought really hard to change my career. I wanted to get out of the pharmacy world. The way I started to do that, to make my job a bit more fulfilling, was I figured out a way to give people dietary advice through shopping lists, which I found … it came up through a Tony Robbins event, actually, where it was the first time I ever heard anyone talk about diet, nutrition, breathing, and things like that for health. In pharmacy, you don’t get taught any of this.
Dr. Weitz: Yeah. He even talks about chiropractic adjustments as a [crosstalk 00:17:13].
Niraj: Yeah, he’s great. So actually, I was like, “Well, I’m gong to put Tony Robbins to the test. If he’s full of shit, I’ll find out pretty quick, because in my pharmacy, I’ve got loads of people coming in who are sick.” So, what I did was, I started to just change their diet to a, what I call, the simplest thing was a no factory diet. You’d be surprised that the majority of people consume mostly processed foods in the U.K. I don’t know how it is elsewhere. I’m sure in America, it’s everybody.
Dr. Weitz: Oh, much, much worse in America.
Niraj: Yeah. So, what I started to do, I know there’s a huge correlation between processed food consumption and the amount of meds people are on. So, I started to just make a switch to the no factory diet, which would literally teach people how to make their own food, and just gave them a shopping list and directions to recipes. Those who took my advice actually started to get better, and I got doctors calling me up going, “What are you doing? This is amazing. Keep going.” I even had lots of patients’ children, because they were older patients, going, “Oh my God, it’s amazing. My dad, he’s able to play again, and I see a smile on his face. I was really getting more job satisfaction, because I didn’t feel like I was doing anyone any favors as a pharmacist.
But then, basically, I got promoted. I had an office at one of the biggest corporations at the U.K., and that’s where I really saw … because I was going to do this healthy shopping service on a big scale. I really saw the level of consumption of fizzy drinks, in particular. You could just see, it was clear as night and day, that sugary drink consumption goes hand in hand with diabetes and metabolic syndrome, and all these issues. I had amazing results in just the pharmacy getting people off diabetic medications just swapping their fizzy drinks with something else. Basically, some people would drink 10, 15 cups of coffee a day with three spoons of sugar in it, and they were on a whole list of meds. It was unbelievable. The doctor had never asked them, “What do you eat or drink?” It’s fascinating. So basically, when I healed myself and got [crosstalk 00:19:41], I had a lot of people-
Dr. Weitz: I would say it verges on malpractice, to take somebody with diabetes, hand them a medication, and not do something significant to get them to change their diet and lifestyle.
Niraj: It’s unbelievable, yeah, that they don’t do it. So I then actually, when I got out of pharmacy, I had a lot of people asking me, when I healed myself, “How did you do what you do?” So, I made this website, The Renegade Pharmacist. I just put all my information on what I did for free on there. I put loads of advice on food, nutrition, all that. I just put up … I saw this really cool timeline somebody had written about what happens when you drink a can of coke. I didn’t actually create that bit of content. I did the infographic based on that content, but I did my interpretation of it from my experience in the pharmacy as the article. I just put it up there to illustrate how bad fizzy drinks could be, and my experience with getting people off fizzy drinks.
So, I just forgot about it, and then a few months later, somebody who had been following my site asked me to share it, and he shared it on a very popular website. Then, suddenly, I was waking up in the morning, and it was like Daily Mail, Huffington Post, Telegraph, Guardian, all these newspapers on my case asking me for permission for them to share it. Suddenly, it’s all over the world. Fox News made a whole show on it. It was just wild. I had several million hits to my website in like a week.
Dr. Weitz: Wow.
Niraj: It was crazy. It blew us up. It made us quite popular. Yeah.
Dr. Weitz: Interesting. I’ve really been enjoying this discussion, but I’d like to take a minute to tell you about a new product that I’m very excited about. I’d like to tell you about a new wearable called the Apollo. This is a device that can be worn on the wrist or the ankle, and it uses vibrations to stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system. This device has amazing benefits in terms of getting you out of that stressed out sympathetic nervous system and stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system. It has a number of different functions, especially helping you to relax, to focus, to concentrate, get into a deeper meditative state, even to help you sleep, and there’s even a mode to help you wake up. This all occurs through the scientific use of subtle vibrations.
For those of you who might be interested in getting the Apollo for yourself to help you reset your nervous system, go to apolloneuro.com and use the affiliate code, Weitz10. That’s my last name, WEITZ10. Now, back to the discussion.
Niraj: SOMA Breath is based on pranayama. Pranayama is the ancient Indian school of energy exercises, breathing, energy movement, and just things that manipulate the energy body. Pranayama actually means energy control. It’s revolves a lot around breathing because breathing is how you produce energy in the body, through respiration. Because that’s what I was taught, was pranayama from my Swami, I went down that rabbit hole, and I started to do as much research as I could to really gain as much knowledge about this as possible.
On my travels, I actually also, indirectly through the infographic, met Wim Hof and became good friends with Wim Hof, the Ice Man, who most people have heard of these days. I ended up making the soundtracks of the Wim Hof Method. He really inspired me. he was one of the few people that really put some science behind this stuff, and we shared some similar techniques and ideas. Then, I started to, when I went and found my home in Thailand, Koh Phangan, there’s a big spiritual community there, and breathwork was quite popular, like rebirthing, holotropic, and things like that.
So, what I decided to do was to start doing breath workshops, use these pranayama techniques, but I found with music, you can make the whole process really powerful and dynamic. But in pranayama, there’s this one method called Savitri pranayama, which is all about breathing in a rhythm. With music, you can time the breath perfectly to the beat. So, when you breathe in, you can breathe in for a certain number of beats, out for a certain number of beats, and you can create a perfect harmony with your breath.
If you’ve heard of [inaudible 00:25:03], they did a lot of studies on harmonic breathing, and rhythmic breathing, and coherence. So, what I started to do was this rhythmic breathing practices with music, and using breath retention, which is the stuff that my Swami taught me, it’s the stuff that Wim Hof is all about, to make these powerful experiences where it takes you into powerful, altered states of consciousness.
So, I found this amazing sequence that I put together with music, that became really popular in Koh Phangan and these workshops. We started with four or five people. Then, it turned into 40 people. Then, 150 people, and then eventually, I was going around the world doing these big workshops. People kept coming up to me, asking me, “[inaudible 00:25:56] do what you do?” Because I’m taking people into incredible peak states, like all these profound states of consciousness. People were having these crazy realizations and moments of inspiration, just … I mean, some people were getting healed of issues like chronic pain and inflammation, and things like that. So, I-
Dr. Weitz: I don’t think most people realize that breathing strategies, techniques, exercises, can take you to an altered state of consciousness.
Niraj: No, exactly. It’s fascinating. Holotropic Breathwork by Stanislav Grof was actually one of the first ones to really go down that way, because he needed an alternative to LSD to treat … He was one of the first psychotherapists to use LSD in … He was a psychiatrist, actually.
Dr. Weitz: What’s his name?
Niraj: Stanislav Grof. He found the hyperventilating-style breathwork with music was a way to create altered states of consciousness. Then, he created holotropic breathwork, which was kind of popular many years ago. Now, it’s revived a lot more popularity in recent times. Leonard Orr [inaudible 00:27:15] rebirthing, which is a similar profound breathing practice, circular connected breathing, which is a similar things.
But these are ancient yogic rituals and practices, as well. These techniques can take you into altered states of consciousness where you can actually release a lot of trapped emotions, unresolved emotions, and also have some self-realization moments. You get into these high gamma, peak gamma brainwave frequencies where you can connect to something higher than yourself, and it’s amazing.
I was doing variations of this but with another technique from pranayama called Kumbhaka, which is a breath retention. With breath retention, you can actually really alter your state of consciousness even deeper by lowering the oxygen for brief periods. When you hold your breath for a long enough period of time, you can get into very deep, very awakening, expansive states of mind where actually, your mind gets very still.
A stillness happens because thought is actually stimulated by breathing, all right? When you breathe in, you inspire. You get inspired. Inspiration actually comes from that word, of breathing in. Actually, expire is the last thing you do when you die, and it’s what you do when you breathe out, right? Inspire is the first thing you do when you’re born. You inspire. That’s when the first thought comes into your mind.
So, the yogis understood, there’s a direct connection between thought and breath. When you hold your breath after the exhalation, as you expire and hold your breath, you pause life for a moment. When you pause life for a moment, and long enough, what happens is, you actually can trick your brain almost into thinking that you’re dead, right? In doing so, it’s like a defrag for your whole nervous system, and it can actually clear all that noise out of your brain and in your mind, and actually clean the operating system.
But you could also use it as a way to actually still the mind so much that you can actually use visualization. If you’re a therapist, for example, you can actually use these techniques while somebody’s holding their breath in the same way to reprogram their operating system. You can also do it consciously with visualization yourself.
So, these are the therapies I started to develop, which was getting people into very deep meditative states using the breath retention, the pause, and through that, helping people to re-pattern their unconscious mind, which is the source of everything, your bad habits, your good habits, your immune system’s function, whether you have autoimmune or not, just your sense of wellbeing. A lot of it comes from … our sense of self comes from this unconscious mind.
So, if we can have a tool that can allow us to go in there and reprogram it, that’s like basically hypnosis on absolute steroids, man. That’s what we have developed now, and that’s what I train our therapists to do. Using these different techniques, you can actually alter brainwave states and help people to re-pattern the mind, the source of all things. Also, another benefit of all of this is that actually, when you hold your breath for a long enough period of time, you create this state called intermittent hypoxia, a lower than normal oxygen level for a brief period.
I met a yogi doctor in the Himalayas called Prakash Malshe, who’s one of my many mentors and teachers. He’s an advisor to our company. He wrote a book called the Medical Understanding of Yoga, and he really, the first time, gave me absolute clarity on the profound deep science of yoga and its medical applications. He really explains the benefits of intermittent hypoxia and why yoga itself, if you do traditional yoga, how it’s supposed to be done, not the stuff that you see in the mainstream yoga now, but traditional yoga where you’re holding each pose for long periods of time, doing breath retention, training yourself to be able to expand your breath retention times. What it does is it makes you very efficient adapted to oxygen. There’s a reason why we do that. The more efficient we are at using oxygen, the less we need to breathe.
Dr. Weitz: I’d like to interrupt this fascinating discussion we’re having for another few minutes to tell you about another really exciting product that has changed my life and the life of my family, especially as it pertains to getting good quality sleep. It’s something called the chiliPAD, C-H-I-L-I-P-A-D. It can be found at the website chilisleep.com, which is C-H-I-L-I-S-L-E-E-P dot com.
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If you go to chilisleep.com and you use the affiliate code, Weitz20, that’s my last name, W-E-I-T-Z, 20. You’ll get 20% off a chiliPAD. So, check it out and let’s get back to this discussion.
Niraj: You bet.
Dr. Weitz: I mean, we certainly have heard of people checking their oxygen saturation. Oh my God, your oxygen saturation’s going lower. You’re going to need oxygen. You can die if your oxygen saturation gets too low at night. You’re going to need a CPAP machine. It seems like we don’t need technique to increase carbon dioxide. You can simply just walk along a freeway, or smoke a cigarette, or do any of these other things in modern life that increase hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and decrease oxygen. So, explain why we need to intermittently decrease our oxygen.
Niraj: Okay, so basically, I have a device here. If you have a pulse oximeter, you’ll find that most people’s oxygen levels … I don’t know if it’ll show up, is around 99% at all times. [inaudible 00:34:49]. So, you’ll find that even just with a sip, like that, is enough to oxygenate the blood fully. If you see this, it’s just calibrating. I don’t know if you can see it.
Dr. Weitz: It’s stopping right there. Yeah. It says 97%.
Niraj: It’s at 98%. That’s completely normal. 97, 98, 99 is perfectly normal. You just need a little sip, a little sip of air, and the oxygen levels go right up, okay? Now, that’s the measurement of all the cells. It measures your blood oxygen saturation, so this is your bloodstream. This is not to be confused with body tissue oxygenation, okay?
So, when you breathe in, you inhale, the oxygen binds to your red blood cells, and your blood cells drop off oxygen to the areas of your body that need the oxygen. So, every single organ in your body, every cell in your body is respiring, is breathing. It breathes in oxygen, breathes out carbon dioxide. Now, the most active areas of your body, like let’s say you do some weights, so you’re doing your dumbbells or whatever, these cells here …
Dr. Weitz: [crosstalk 00:36:08].
Niraj: … are going to respire the fastest, okay? So, they’re going to be producing more carbon dioxide, and that carbon dioxide is the signal for telling your blood where to drop oxygen off. Otherwise, it will never know where to drop it off, and it will be a very inefficient method of transportation of oxygen. So, the carbon dioxide level signals your blood to drop off oxygen. The higher the carbon dioxide is, that’s where the oxygen is going to go, right? So, we’ve got this very clever system.
Now, what happens is, when it comes to oxygen efficiency and oxygenation, now the problem is, when you’re stressed [inaudible 00:36:54], we breathe at a faster rate than we need to. If you’re also eating the food that’s not good for you, if you’re not digesting food efficiently, you’re eating process foods, if you’re on loads of chemical medications and stuff, you hyperventilate and actually breathe at a faster rate than you need to, right? So, the faster you breathe, the more carbon dioxide you’re expelling, which means there’s less of that signal in your system telling the oxygen … your blood cells where to drop off oxygen.
So, the oxygen stays bound to your red blood cells, and what this causes, and Harvard have done the studies, is rusting internally. If you are not getting oxygen into your cells efficiently, you can create this internal rusting effect, which will lead to plaque formation, and then heart disease and things like that. But also, if you’re not getting the oxygen from your red blood cells into your tissue cells, the problem there is that your tissue cells needs the oxygen, so they start to get diseased.
Oxygen is also a constrictor. It constricts. It makes your blood vessels narrower. Carbon dioxide is a dilator, and it works with another key ingredient gas called nitric oxide, which is only produced by nasal breathing. So, when we don’t breathe through our nose, which a lot of people … you’d be surprised how bad that issue is actually, we have an epidemic of mouth-breathers, right? If you don’t breathe through your nose and just breathe through your mouth, you over-breathe. The mouth means you have too much volume of air going in and out. You’re not producing nitric oxide, you’re getting rid of too much carbon dioxide, and that then leads to phasic constriction, high blood pressure, but also leads to poor oxygenation of tissue cells. Eventually then, that leads to chronic disease, fatigue, all these issues.
So, when you learn to be able to raise your carbon dioxide totals, because carbon dioxide also is what tells your brain that you need to breathe again, to inhale. Now, if you have very weak carbon dioxide tolerance, if you can’t handle a decent amount of carbon dioxide in your system, you’re going to also chronically hyperventilate, meaning you will breathe faster than you need to. That chronic hyperventilation then again leads to the over-breathing problem. But if you can increase your carbon dioxide tolerance, which is very, very easy to do, it’s just a simple practice, you’ll be able to handle higher volumes of carbon dioxide, keep a good ratio between carbon dioxide and oxygen, meaning you get optimum oxygenation of your body tissue cells.
This is what Buteyko discovered, but it’s been forgotten. Recently, it’s becoming more known like people like Patrick McKeown, Oxygen Advantage. He talks a lot about this stuff. But it’s still kind of shrouded in a lot of mystery, and doctors and all these people, most of them have no clue about respiration and breathing, and its link to inflammation and things like that. So, we’re doing a lot of reeducation. We have a lot of doctors coming to us to actually train again in respirational science, because they haven’t been taught the right stuff. It’s very simple.
This is what I was talking about. This is the big ah-ha moment for you, because yoga as a system was developed by studying animals in nature. Animals that actually live a very long time are elephants and turtles. They breathe very slow, right? Whales, for example, live over 200 years. They have a breathing rate of less than one breath per minute, and they can hold their breath for two hours at a time. You can only hold your breath for two hours at a time if you have very, very good carbon dioxide tolerance, right, and oxygen efficiency.
The other end of the spectrum, animals that don’t live a long time are rats and mice. They have very fast breathing rates, 150, 300 breaths a minute, right? But there’s a weird anomaly to this rule, and that is the naked mole rat. The naked mole rat basically lives primarily underground in a hypoxic environment. It can hold its breath for over 18 minutes, and it lives 30 years pretty much free of disease, and is really hard to give it diseases in the lab even. It’s a very robust animal.
So, there is a correlation in the animal kingdom between breathing rates, breath retention, and longevity, right? The father of oxidative stress and [inaudible 00:41:45] is Helmut Sies. He did the best studies on this stuff, and he says, although it’s very difficult to live without oxygen, it’s also very difficult to live with oxygen because of the problem of oxidative stress. That’s why we need antioxidants in our diet and stuff like that.
So, yoga as a system, if you do it properly, traditional yoga, the yoga asanas where you hold each pose for maximum effort, holding your breath in poses, is all designed to train your body to become very efficient at using very little oxygen, to adapt to a low oxygen environment. There’s a reason why yogis go and live at the top of the Himalayas, where the oxygen levels are very low, and yogis are famed for longevity, right?
So, I went back to those roots and decided to go through all of this. I made that system of yoga and pranayama a little more accessible, easier to use. The music all helps this. Add in the new, modern sciences coming in to then create a system that’s designed to improve oxygen efficiency in people, and that’s the metric.
If you can improve your breath retention time, like there’s a measurement you can do every morning, the morning BHT. This is what we [inaudible 00:43:05]. Do the morning BHT within the first 10 minutes. Breathe in through your nose. Breathe out through your nose. Hold your nose, and hold your breath. You don’t do any breathing techniques beforehand, just do this. Hold your nose and hold your breath until you get that first strong urge to breathe where you’re not gasping for air at the end of it. You’ve gone too long, if you’re gasping for air, but you inhale release as normal afterwards.
That’s your BHT, breath hold time. If you can bring that to 30 seconds and above, then you’re in good health. If you can go to 60 seconds and above, you’re like super yogi. But if you’re less than 15 seconds, less than 10 seconds, you’ve actually got probably some disease you’re trying to fight. Actually, if you’re five seconds and less, then there’s actually some real issues with your health that I you need to look into. So, that’s one of the measurements we do.
Dr. Weitz: That’s sweet.
Dr. Weitz: Breath hold time, right?
Dr. Weitz: Interesting. I mean, we can use that as an exam technique for patients.
Niraj: Yes. That’s what Buteyko used to do. He would use that as a test for … Actually, a lot of doctors used to use this test. They would also use the forced hyperventilation test, where you hyperventilate for like a minute, and it would make sick patients more sick. Through that, he would be able to tell which organs are the ones that are sick through the symptoms that would get exaggerated. So, forced hyperventilation makes people more sick. You see, I’m talking a lot right now, and I’m actually hyperventilating. It makes me a little bit lightheaded.
But a lot of people who are working all day long, they’re sat down in a chair talking all the time on the phone, or to their colleagues or whatever, hyperventilating. Then, they’re eating processed foods. That’s make you breathe even faster than you need to. Then, you’re not doing any exercise. Exercise makes more efficient use of oxygen and all of this.
That builds up to then a problem with this gaseous exchange where they get poor tissue oxygenation. Then, that’s what makes people inflamed. It makes people have chronic pain, because the constriction leads to poor blood flow to your body, and to your tissues and organs. Then, that poor blood flow leads to chronic pain.
So, imagine, just by changing the way you breathe, your relationship with your breathe, learning to extend your breath retention time, slowing your breathing down, training yourself oxygen efficiency, which [inaudible 00:45:45] is probably the one that’s really good for you. What it will do is, it will help you with so many other areas of your life.
Then, once you’ve got that bit sorted, you can then go into the [inaudible 00:46:02] rituals, which are where you actually use hyperventilation as a way to get into profound altered states of consciousness. It’s controlled hyperventilation, which is what we do. We have instructors we’ve trained as facilitators. You can take people into these powerful psychedelic-like journeys where you have this connection with the Divine, and get rid of all these emotional traumas and baggage that’s built up from the past.
So, we have a system of doing this in a safe, effective way. One of the problems we see with breathwork today is that there’s too many people jumping straight to the hyperventilation because it gets you high, right? The problem with that, and if you get confused with that-
Dr. Weitz: Is that what happens like in Wim Hof technique, is they tend to focus on that more?
Niraj: No. See, the Wim Hof technique is all about the breath retention. It should be, because it’s 20 breaths in an hour, fast breaths followed by holding your breath. Actually, that is the best method for getting into holding your breath for long periods, because what you’re doing is, you’re hyperventilating for a bit. That brings all the carbon dioxide out. Carbon dioxide is what tells your brain you need to breathe again. So, if you have less carbon dioxide in your system, you’re going to hold your breath for much longer than you normally can. What that does is, it lowers the oxygen levels for a brief period, and that creates this intermittent hypoxia.
We use a slightly different method. We use rhythmic breathing to the beats, so the breath retention’s slower, rhythmical. We use different breathing patterns. So, you have a four eight, four beats in, eight out, or two in, four out.
When you double your exhalation time, it does something else. It actually switches on the parasympathetic nervous system, because when you breathe in, you stimulate sympathetic. When you breathe out, you stimulate parasympathetic. Actually, when you breathe in a rhythm, when you’re breathing in and out at the same time, you balance the nervous system. With you breathe with a double the exhalation time, you turn on parasympathetic.
So, when we’re doing these psychedelic journeys, when you do that, actually people go into very deep parasympathetic, low theta brainwave states, which is very, very therapeutic and healing. It could be, for some people, the first time in their whole life that they’ve activated their parasympathetic for that long. So, people have these powerful healing experiences.
Dr. Weitz: So, a longer exhalation period is better for stimulating parasympathetic?
Niraj: Yeah, and another way you can do that is just by humming. If you om, when you hum, you do a couple of things. You extend your exhalation. That sound, the vibration actually stimulates the vagus nerve, so that calms parasympathetic. It exercises parasympathetic. But then, also the humming, when you hum and vibrate this area here between your nasal cavities, it’s called the paranasal cavity, the paranasal sinus cavities, what happens is you stimulate nitric oxide 15 times normal than if you were to just breathe normally. Om, this is the science of om, if you do om properly, like I just told you where you put the hum on the hum, you produce all this amazing nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is antiviral, antibacterial, nasal dilator, bronchodilator, also works with carbon dioxide to get that oxygen to your cells. So om, chanting om is one of the best things you can actually do for your health [crosstalk 00:49:55].
Dr. Weitz: Fascinating.
Niraj: Yeah, man.
Dr. Weitz: Amazing stuff, it really is.
Dr. Weitz: Really, in the functional medicine world, we should really be incorporating breathwork more regularly into our patients’ treatment plans.
Niraj: Oh, 100%. It goes hand in hand with chiropractic. I actually have a few chiropractors where I’m in, in Spain right now, who are doing all our courses, and I’m hoping to work with more chiropractors. I think it just works so well with what you do, as well. It’s all about the energy in the body. [crosstalk 00:50:30].
Dr. Weitz: So now, we, or our patients, can access your training programs online?
Niraj: Yeah. We have a website, Somabreath.com. I’ll give you a link as well, so you can give a discount to your listeners, if they want to take any of our courses. We have the SOMA BreathFit course, which I think is invaluable for people to build healthy breathing habits which will protect them from disease, prevent disease. I’m not going to say it’s going to cure things or prevent everything, but it’s definitely going to give you more energy, and a better experience and quality of life if you learn this stuff. What it is, is the best essence of Buteyko but made much more easy to do and follow.
Then, we have the 21 day course, which is a real deep dive into altered states using breath. It’s done as a group with an instructor online through Zoom and things like that. It’s really transformative, very helpful. We recommend people do both courses back to back.
Then, we have the instructor training, which is great for professionals like yourself, like chiropractors, to be able to bring breathing techniques and powerful experiences to clients for transformation. Because with breathing, it can also be very fun. Actually, you can get into very good states of being, wellbeing, just with the breath, which creates great foundations for healing, right? So, that’s the different options.
We also have a YouTube channel, SOMA Breath, Facebook group, SOMA Breath, which is an amazing, buzzing community. I love the community we’ve created. It’s super high vibe. Everyone is helping each other out. I feel the community is the thing that’s really going to cure this world’s problems that we’re going through right now. [crosstalk 00:52:26]-
Dr. Weitz: The website is S-O-M-A-B-R-E-A-T-H .com?
Niraj: Correct. That’s it. Yeah.
Dr. Weitz: Awesome. Hey, great podcast. I really appreciate you spending some time with us and providing some great information.
Niraj: Yeah. Sorry if I’ve been talking a thousand miles per hour, because I’m trying to get as much info to you as possible.
Dr. Weitz: I appreciate it. Yeah. That’s the way my mind works, too.
Dr. Weitz: When people talk slow, I have to speed it up when I’m listening to their podcast.
Niraj: Me, too. Me, too. Me, too. We’re very much on the same page.
Dr. Weitz: Okay. Thank you so much.
Dr. Weitz: I’ll send you a link when we post it.
Niraj: Perfecto. Much love, man.
Dr. Weitz: Same here. Thank you for making it all the way through this episode of The Rational Wellness Podcast. If you enjoyed this podcast, please go to Apple Podcasts and give us a five star ratings and review. That way, more people will be able to find this Rational Wellness Podcast when they’re searching for health podcasts. I wanted to let everybody know that I do now have a few openings for new nutritional consultations for patients at my Santa Monica Weitz Sports Chiropractic and Nutrition Clinic. So, if you’re interested, please call my office, 310-395-3111 and sign up for one of the few remaining slots for a comprehensive nutritional consultation with Dr. Ben Weitz. Thank you and see you next week.
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