Somatic Breathwork Could Be The Trauma Release Your Body Needs

If your social media feeds tend to skew a bit toward the "crunchy" side of life, you've likely come across a facilitator advertising profound trauma healing through somatic breathwork. While awareness around alternative healing modalities is on the rise, it can be difficult to even nail down an exact definition of certain practices, let alone separate fact from marketing. That's where we come in. Somatic breathwork is a therapeutic intentional breathing technique that bridges the gap between a person's mental and physical consciousness.


The progress practitioners of somatic breathwork have seen in the areas of trauma release and in the reduction of symptoms often associated with unprocessed trauma is significant. If you're someone who struggles to process trauma, anxiety, stress, addiction, or pain, and prefers a natural approach to healing, somatic breathwork may be just what you've been searching for. Consider this your guide to the practice's many potential benefits.

Trauma release

The secret behind the success of breathwork is the vagus nerve and its connection to the respiratory organs. The vagus nerve is the coordinator of the parasympathetic nervous system, sending signals to regulate your heart rate, digestion, and other involuntary bodily functions, including activating "fight or flight" mode or "rest and digest" mode. This massive cranial nerve is also intertwined with the pharynx, larynx, diaphragm, and lungs. Intentional breathing uses all these anatomical essentials to stimulate the vagus nerve and activate "rest and digest" mode.


People who have lived through trauma often find their bodies returning to the same "fight or flight" state it was in during the traumatic events they experienced. Somatic breathwork is effective for the release and healing of trauma because it provides a person with a way to control the state of their own nervous system. Often, this includes releasing the unprocessed tension and fear that remains in the body after a traumatic event and then learning the skills to self-guide the nervous system out of "fight or flight" mode.

Anxiety and panic relief

If you've ever experienced acute anxiety or a panic attack, you'll never forget the physical symptoms: breathlessness, sweating, dizziness, nausea, heart palpitations, weakness, shaking, and/or disorientation. For some, these sensations can even elevate to the point of experiencing vomiting, diarrhea, or fainting. Experiencing these symptoms can be so traumatic in itself that the fear of facing them again can cause subsequent attacks to occur.


Somatic breathwork can help to heal anxiety and panic symptoms in the same way it can ease the effects of trauma. Living in fear of experiencing the terrifying symptoms of a panic attack can put your nervous system on high alert, increasing your overall anxiety level. Just knowing that you possess a tool that allows you to return your nervous system to "rest and digest" mode at the first sign of anxiety, on the other hand, can be all you need to combat this effect. 

Improved sleep quality

If somatic breathwork can stimulate the vagus nerve and trigger the nervous system to enter restful, relaxed "rest and digest" mode, it only makes sense that it would also help to facilitate healthier sleep. While these facts are true, they actually aren't the only reason you can count on getting better sleep after you start practicing somatic breathwork. There is evidence that using intentional breathing to regulate the nervous system can trigger the production of melatonin in the brain.


Melatonin, known as the "sleep hormone," is essential to falling and remaining asleep. While you can purchase synthetic melatonin in supplement form, taking it can result in a number of side effects, including headaches, dizziness, and next-day drowsiness. The longer a person experiences insomnia, the less melatonin their body produces. This can lead to the consumption of higher doses of melatonin and increased severity of side effects. Many people eventually resort to habit-forming pharmaceutical sleep aids. That escalation may be avoided by turning to breathwork. 

Stress reduction

Stress — especially if chronic and long-term — can cause serious physical side effects, including hypertension, headaches, muscle pain, digestive upset, irritability, difficulty concentrating, sleep disruptions, and even sexual dysfunction. Learning how to use somatic breathwork to access the power of calming and resetting the parasympathetic nervous system can have a hugely positive impact on stress reduction. Breathwork exercises can be used routinely as both stress relief and prevention.


While your somatic breathwork routine might not be able to prevent the stressors in your life from existing and creeping into your awareness, they can prevent the physical effects of stress from accumulating in your body. Think of practicing breathwork as releasing a pressure valve. Letting that excess steam escape your nervous system in a controlled manner means you won't feel its effects festering in the form of troubling chronic stress symptoms and you also won't have to fear an eventual explosion. 

Addiction management

If you've ever experienced addiction or been close to someone else who has, you know that substance abuse is far more complex than simply choosing to use drugs or alcohol. Chronic stress, depression, anxiety, ADHD, and post-traumatic stress are all risk factors for developing an addiction to one or more mind-altering substances. What all these risk factors have in common are symptoms that can prompt a person to become desperate to escape from their own bodily awareness.


Practicing breathwork can help an individual recovering from addiction to process the trauma and repressed emotions that led them to turn to substance abuse in the first place. It can also facilitate a way to connect the mind and body that carries a peaceful, positive association rather than a painful one. Over time, this will replace the mind and body's negative associations with bodily awareness that created the urge to escape via drugs or alcohol.

Pain relief

Pain, whether it is acute or chronic in nature, often results in the person who is experiencing the pain tensing their muscles without realizing it. Over time, this muscle tension can worsen the pain that was already being experienced and create new pain points. The type of deep, diaphragmatic breathing that is encouraged by somatic breathwork results in the relaxation of the muscles that carry tension from pain, worry, and stress.


Regularly releasing tension from the body can contribute to experiencing less pain overall. Focusing on intentional breathing can also offer a mental distraction from physical pain that can help to shift focus and disrupt the kind of rumination that leads to excessive muscle tension and the worsening of pain. Whether you're struggling with physical pain, emotional pain, trauma, anxiety, stress, addiction, or insomnia, it is worth finding a somatic breathwork facilitator and trying this groundbreaking technique out for yourself.