Are you a fan of breathwork and thinking of getting certified? In this podcast episode, Ani and Brian delve into the intriguing world of somatic breathwork, exploring the question: “Should I pursue a somatic breathwork certification?” The conversation navigates through the nuances of somatics, breathwork, and their intersection, shedding light on the distinctions in certification programs. The hosts emphasize the importance of understanding the physiological and energetic aspects of breathwork, acknowledging its power and potential limitations. They also address the crucial aspect of trauma sensitivity in breathwork practices, cautioning against the risks of unlocking stored trauma without proper guidance. The episode unfolds as a rich dialogue, offering insights into the science behind breathwork and its role as a bridge between the subconscious and conscious minds. Listen in and discover if a breathwork certification is right for you!
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Should I Get A Somatic Breathwork Certification: Becoming A Somatic Coach Or Facilitator
This is episode thirteen. Hey there, Brian.
Ani, how are you?
I’m good. I’ve been thinking about something.
Should I get a somatic breathwork certification?
That’s a good question.
I know. I thought maybe we could talk about it because people ask us this sometimes.
People call and talk with you about the Somatic Coaching Academy and what kind of stuff we do here.
It’s interesting because somatics has a large umbrella. Breathwork is a part of what can or could be done from a somatic practitioner standpoint. People want to know, “Should I become a somatic coach? Should I become a somatic breathworker?” I’m going to be honest with you. A lot of people who call have heard about these things. They’re interested in them but they don’t really know what they are anyway. We love getting on the phone with people and talking with them about what they’re trying to get at because not a lot of people understand what they’re trying to do with this work.
I get it because a lot of times, and I’ve probably done this, too if I’ve thought about it, get certifications and things that they’ve not really experienced on a personal level. They’ve heard of powerful practices and haven’t experienced them on a personal level, so then they decide to go get a certification, which is fine. Part of the issue with that, though when you haven’t used it yourself, is there’s stuff you don’t know. I’m hoping we can clarify some of that in this episode because I know there are readers who are considering, “Should I get a somatic breathwork certification?”
It may be to become a breathwork facilitator or breathwork coach. There are all kinds of different ways that it’s talked about. First, we can clear up some of the semantics around it. It might be helpful.
That would be great.
It’s interesting that we’re talking about somatic breathwork. It’s fascinating to start with. Somatic is body-oriented or body-focused. It has something to do with the body. Breathwork has something to do with the body.
It is very body-oriented.
It’s somatic breathwork.
It’s almost like calling you Brian Brian.
There are nuances there that breathwork is a somatic practice, but there are also other somatic practices.
Some breathwork certification programs and facilitator programs don’t call themselves somatic breathwork. They call themselves breathwork. It’s still body-in-the-body breath happening. Some do call themselves somatic breathwork. It’s been my experience that there is not a delineation there. You too?
In my experience, too. I could be missing something.
I could be missing something more nuanced.
If someone is reading this and they’re like, “I’m a somatic breathwork facilitator. I’m not just a breathwork facilitator,” share in the comments and those kinds of things what’s cooking around the differences there. The way we categorize it is that breathwork is a somatic practice.
We do that in the core centering program as a part of the core centering program, but we don’t have a specific certification that is just for breathwork. We’ll probably talk a little bit more about why that is later.
We do breathwork as a part of the core centering process because breathwork alone is really powerful They might ask the question, “Why is breathwork so powerful?”
That’s a great question. Let’s talk about that.
It is powerful in and of itself. It also has limitations if you’re just doing breathwork by itself.Breathwork is powerful in and of itself. It has limitations if you're doing breathwork by yourself. Click To Tweet
Sometimes, it can be more powerful than you intend and can cause problems as well.
The question is, is somatic breathwork safe?
Does it release trauma?
The questions are, “Who should do breathwork? Who should not do breathwork?”
It brings up a lot of stuff like breathwork.
Let’s talk about why is breathwork so powerful. Breathing is a really interesting thing in the body because it is an autonomic nervous system function, which means that if we’re not thinking about breathing, we’ll breathe. Our bodies will keep breathing even if we’re not thinking about it. At the same time, we can consciously change our breath rate, our breath depth, or where we breathe, whether it’s high in our body or in the abdominal breath. We can change all things about our breathing also consciously. It’s an interface between our autonomic or automatic nervous system and our conscious nervous system. You might even say it’s an interface between the subconscious and the conscious minds. It’s the interface that’s most accessible to all of us.
There are other things that you can do through biofeedback. People can learn to consciously change their heart rate, their blood pressure, and those types of things. Most people aren’t going to be able to consciously change their liver function, their gallbladder function, or something like that. Breathwork is the interface between the subconscious and conscious minds, but let’s take the mind out of it for a second because we can have a whole debate on that. I’d love to do an episode on the difference between the brain and the mind at some point in time because there are distinct differences between those two things. I don’t want to go off on that trip because we’d be here for a really long time talking about it. Let’s talk about the brain. Breathwork has different effects on both the subconscious control centers in the brain and also the centers of conscious awareness in the brain as well.
Did you want to say anything else about that physiology?
I have a lot more to say about it, but you want probably to say some things too.
I’m thinking about the energetic body and how the breath is right in the middle of the body. From a somatic perspective, a lot of people do somatic work so they get out of their heads. They get embodied or come from a different place other than somatic intelligence. When we talk about coming from a different place than somatic intelligence, we then, a lot of times, think about the heart and the gut. Those are the other intelligence that a lot of people know about.
The whole body is intelligent. It gives us an access point to unlimited intelligence. I’m thinking about the breath being at the center of the point in the body. It’s right around the heart, lungs, and all that. It has to do with the lungs, the heart function, and the other body system function. It is the energetic body, the metaphoric body, and the physiological body.
What you brought up for me is that whole idea of the energy body. Let’s talk about physiological energy. Let’s talk about ATP or Adenosine Triphosphate. The foundational energetic battery of everything that happens in the body is produced in mitochondria, which are these little organelles inside of your cells. They’re all day and all night producing ATP to run everything in your body. Breath is one of the primary, if not the primary, deliverer and producer of ATP.
When we’re talking about basic body energy, if we stop breathing, we stop producing energy. If we change how we breathe, our body’s metabolism changes. That links back to things like the hypothalamus. The breathwork or our breathing wiring goes directly, especially in our nasal cavities. There is some really interesting stuff that happens in the nasal cavities.
This is why there is a whole other debate, too, we can have around nose breathing and mouth breathing. Do I breathe in through the nose or out through the nose? Do I breathe into the nose and out through the mouth? Where am I breathing in and out of? We can do a whole other ten episodes on that, too, but let’s try to stay focused here on, “Should I get a breathwork certification?” Let’s focus on that.
It is interesting to happen up in your nasal cavities that have direct wiring into your hypothalamus. The hypothalamus, which is the part of your brain, is the carburetor of your body. It runs your metabolism in your body. That information gets hooked in with other parts of your brain like your hypothalamus or periaqueductal gray. Insula has something to do when you’re paying attention to how you’re breathing. There are all these kinds of things that happen.
We know from research that when you pay attention to your breathing, even when you’re not changing your breathing at all, which is a foundational part of breathwork where you’re paying attention to the breath, doing that alone changes the function of the amygdala. That’s in the part of the brain that is like our smoke detector or our threat alarm in the brain. By paying attention to the breath, it starts to change function in the amygdala. It starts to downregulate amygdala sensitivity. It also increases coordination and communication between the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex.
The amygdala is really part of our subconscious brain centers, and the prefrontal cortex is part of our conscious brain centers. Here’s breathing having a connection between our subconscious and our conscious brain function. The prefrontal cortex has a lot to do with not only how we label, rationalize, plan, and execute functions and things like that, but there’s also some control over our body function.
When we’re consciously controlling our breath, we’re doing that from the prefrontal cortex as well as paying attention. One more thing about the prefrontal cortex is also what we call the watchtower of the brain. It’s the part of the brain that watches and witnesses what’s going on in the body. When we’re doing practices like meditative or body scanning practices, our prefrontal cortex is activated to pay attention to what’s going on. Even paying attention to your breath is linking together all these amazing brain centers, which is starting to create better coordination between our subconscious and conscious minds. It also has some things to do with balancing our autonomic nervous system.
You’re making a pretty darn good case for the fact that everybody should get a breathwork certification. Let’s go. Can I give you my take on breathwork?
That was all very cool science stuff. My brain oftentimes thinks in terms of the feeling quality states. Breathwork feels good. I am a busy mom and partner. I’m running a business. I am a busy woman. Let me tell you. Lying down and breathing for a little while, I like it. That is something that, as a practitioner, is very appealing to be able to do with our clients to be able to give them an opportunity of what it looks like to lay down and de-stress. Can we talk about how breathwork gives other opportunities for Pandora’s box to potentially be open?
We can talk about breathwork and trauma release.
It’s not just lying down and feeling good. What you’re talking about here is this intermediary between our conscious and our subconscious mind. To me, having this kind of awareness about being the intermediary between someone else’s conscious and subconscious mind reminds me of I went in the garage and I got into your dad’s tools. Your dad has all these tools all around the place. Brian’s parents live across the street. That’s for another episode on another day.
If I got in there and messed around with your dad’s tools, I could cause a big problem. I could get into something that I don’t know how to handle. That can happen when we do breathwork in particular as a somatic practice. There are a bunch of somatic practices. Somatic breathwork can, in particular, be one that could cause some retraumatization for people without trying because of that relationship with the subconscious mind.
When we ask that question again, “Should I become a breathwork facilitator?” or, “Should I get a somatic breathwork certification?” or however you want to think about that, my next question is, are you trauma-informed? Are you trauma-sensitive? How does that work? You had a client reach out to you, remember?
She was asking you, “Should I go to this breathwork workshop?” It wasn’t even a workshop. It was a breathwork event.
I’m putting my head in my hands here for a moment. If this is you who is the person who is calling and asking us this question, please know we love answering this question. I am putting my hands in my head. All the time, we hear from people who say, “I’m in this thing and I heard something about somatics. They mentioned somatics. They did a few hours of somatics in my breathwork certification or something like that. Do you think I should get a trauma-sensitive certification too?” I’m like, “Yes.” I can’t believe that programs aren’t telling people that. I can’t believe that they’re not partnering up and piggybacking with places like ourselves that offer trauma-sensitive certifications because you should.
It’s a little bit like the Wild Wild West out there. Many years ago, no one wanted to talk about meditation. Several years ago, meditation started to become popular. A few years ago, everybody was doing meditation. Holistic stuff is the new best thing, but it is so much the Wild Wild West. There really isn’t care, so we make sure that we don’t do harm to people who talk about trauma. I don’t think it’s on purpose. People aren’t aware that we should be looking at these things in conjunction.
As you talk about becoming a breathwork facilitator or getting a breathwork certification, also become a trauma-sensitive practitioner. We would say a trauma-sensitive coach, specifically depending on your line of work. Anybody and everybody can become a breathwork facilitator. Anybody and everybody can also become a trauma-sensitive coach so that you’re doing those things responsibly.
This is a really great segue, Ani. We’ve talked about having a breathwork certification, for instance. If you’re a breathwork facilitator, breathwork coach, breathwork healer, or whatever you want to call it, then you’re going to be able to do things with people with the breath. By working with someone’s breath, you can either help to speed up their nervous system or slow down their nervous system. That’s a core part of breathwork. You’re teaching someone to do that.
The risk we run is if there is un-divulged or stored trauma in someone’s nervous system. When we speed the nervous system up or slow the nervous system down outside of what’s customary for that person or what they haven’t done in a while, there’s probably a pretty good reason they haven’t done that in a while. That’s because their nervous system has contained something out of bounds.
The person won’t naturally do it because it’s out of bounds. If we take them across that boundary without understanding what we are unlocking for somebody, it can end up with a lot of trouble. That’s a good thing and a bad thing. The bad thing about it is if we unlock something and we don’t know what to do with it.
This big soapbox issue for me is when we unlock something and then the person has to deal with it and we don’t know how to deal with it, oftentimes, practitioners refer that person to therapy. Therapy is great for certain things, but any given individual who has then said, “You should go to therapy,” thinks something’s wrong with them. It’s not because we’ve unlocked something in the subconscious that it means anything’s wrong with us.
Ninety percent of people are walking around with traumatized nervous systems. We’re not talking about you doing a breathwork practice with somebody and you could unlock a traumatic memory that they don’t remember because that can happen. We’re also talking about the people who are walking around. They know what happened and remember what happened, but they’re not dealing with what happened or they’ve dealt with it and they’re “done”. How many people have we worked with who thought they were done with things? They said, “I went to therapy for 20 or 30 years,” or something. They start to do somatic practices and, all of a sudden, they realize they’re not done because it hasn’t been resolved in the nervous system yet.
Breathwork is one of the fastest routes to make that happen, which is why typically, in our core centering program, we don’t start with breathwork. We have a different way of organizing the material to warm the nervous system up to create safe safety anchors and be able to help ease in there. We’re doing this very smoothly, safely, and easily to be able to get a great effect.
The good thing about doing these somatic practices is that it does soften up someone’s resistance to change if the resistance to change a pattern has been locked in their nervous system for a long period of time. That oftentimes is a result of some sort of trauma on some level in their nervous system. That is why we have those somatic practices as a part of our entire somatic coach training program.
When you use somatic practices to help soften up resistance to change, then you follow up with the coaching. If you don’t have the skills to follow up with the coaching after you’ve opened something up for somebody, that can really leave somebody in a very vulnerable, destabilized, and dysregulated position. It can have a not-so-great outcome for people in a lot of ways.
Should you get a somatic breathwork certification? If you’re not going to follow up and become a somatic coach, you should work in very close referral with somebody who is. Why on earth would you open up somebody’s subconscious content and not even want to do something with it? It’s gold to be able to open up somebody’s subconscious content when you know how to coach and know how to work with it. Do it responsibly.
This leads to another whole episode that we’re planning for some point in the, hopefully, not too distant future, which is the idea around psychedelics. Let’s talk about this for a second. There is a hierarchy in this work. Psychedelics is the freight train to opening up subconscious stuff. I’ve heard this idea that psychedelics are like the high-speed elevator and breathwork is like the escalator. If you want to take the stairs, there are our somatic core centering practices. You’re under more control. You are in charge. You can stop on the stairs if you want to at any time. You can step to the side. You can take a break. Whereas if you’re on an escalator or an elevator, once that thing gets going, you have to go along for the ride. You never know where you’re going to end up.
I can’t attribute this to myself. I thought it was brilliant. They said because there’s an elevator there doesn’t mean you should take it all the time. If you take the elevator all the time, we know what that does to our bodies. We should be taking the stairs most of the time and taking the elevator sometimes. When we talk about psychedelics or breathwork, that’s a really smart way to think about it. Do we even know how to take the stairs?
We see time and time again people talking about traumas that have occurred in their lives because of not just psychedelics or plant medicine, although I’ve seen that as well, or any kind of drug that you’ve taken or whatever. Being able to empower your own physiology is true power. I want to highlight that we do teach breathwork as a part of the core centering program. A big part of that program is helping to understand what the window of tolerance is, helping somebody to stay in it, and creating safety so that you can do breathwork and other somatic practices and be safe with anybody.We do teach breathwork as a part of the Core Centering Program. It's a part of that program to help understand the window of tolerance, help somebody to stay in it, and create safety to do breathwork and other somatic practices. Click To Tweet
In the core centering program, we teach you these four legs of the stool of somatic practices. Breathwork is one of them. When you understand how breathwork fits in with the matrix of these other practices, you can safely navigate people to a place where they can learn to consciously shift their own nervous system into regulated states.
They can also create it as an opening to be able to do deeper self-discovery work and deeper change work if that’s what they want. It’s all done in a way where people have a great sense of self-agency through the entire process. With all that said, we’re not saying that all breathwork facilitators don’t do that. When someone says, “Should I get a breathwork certification?” my question is, “Why don’t you get a core centering certification? That’s because then, you’re getting even more than the breathwork alone.”
This is something we’d love to talk about with you. If you’re considering getting a breathwork certification or becoming a breathwork facilitator or you’re not sure if you should do somatic coaching and also how it would fit, we have breathwork practitioners who study somatic coaching with us. We’ve also had a graduate go on to do breathwork certification because they’ve got that under their belt.
This is something to talk about with our team. Go to our website, SomaticCoachingAcademy.com. You can look at the contact page or do SomaticCoachingAcademy.com/AnswerTheCall and have a call with our team. We will help you map out your learning journey based on the things that you really want to do, who you are, what you have already in your bag of tricks, and where you want to go. It is so that you can do awesome and safe work with people because breathwork is awesome.
We love breathwork. We do it ourselves. We teach it. It’s so important. We love it.
Do it responsibly. I hope you learned a lot. I hope that you reach out to us if you have more questions about breathwork. We’ll see you in the next episode.