[Transcript] – The Renegade Breathing Mastermind Behind The Crazy Holotropic Breathing Protocol I Do In My Sauna (& Biohacking Breathwork, Best Foods For Breathhold Time, Dangers Of Wim Hof & Much More!).

Affiliate Disclosure


From podcast: https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/podcast/niraj2/

[00:00:00] Introduction

[00:01:10] Podcast Sponsors

[00:03:24] Guest Introduction

[00:06:52] Niraj's Personal History and What Makes His Programs Unique

[00:21:34] What Mainstream Yoga Practices Get Wrong

[00:30:21] Podcast Sponsors

[00:32:42] How CO2 Has Been Thrown Under the Bus

[00:36:00] Where Wim Hof Gets It Wrong

[00:45:35] Breathwork Combined With Hyperbaric Treatment

[00:50:34] Combining Modern Science with Ancient Wisdom When It Comes to Breathwork

[00:55:19] Why Humming Is an Important Part of Niraj's Training

[00:59:52] The Importance of the Control Pause Tactic

[01:04:01] What Happens at Niraj's Live Clinics

[01:12:39] How Diet Affects your Breath

[01:18:40] Final Comments

[01:20:59] End of Podcast

Ben:  On this episode of the Ben Greenfield Fitness Podcast.

Niraj:  Oxygen's very powerful stuff. We have to treat it with a lot of respect, hypnotic suggestion with music and with rhythm of breath. You quickly have a very powerful transformative tool. So, if you do yoga the mainstream way, which is very flowy, where you move from one post to the next, it's like riding a bike with stabilizers on. That alone can actually stop autoimmune conditions. We've been under an illusion. We've been told we need lots of oxygen and deep breathing is the way to take oxygen. It's absolutely not the truth.

Ben:  Health, performance, nutrition, longevity, ancestral living, biohacking, and much more. My name is Ben Greenfield. Welcome to the show.

Alright, folks. You asked for him. Here he is, The Renegade breathwork practitioner who has taught me, gosh, like 80% of what I know about my breath and my body, Niraj Naik. He's coming on the show. This is the podcast with him.

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Alright, let's go talk to Niraj.

Alright. So, if you've been listening to the podcast for a while, then you have heard my podcast guest before, or if you've read any of my articles, particularly those on breathwork of which I have many, which I'll link to in the shownotes, and I'll give you the link to that momentarily. Anyways, this guy has been on my podcast before talking about breathwork. I have adopted his specific flavor, so to speak, of breathwork as one of my primary go-tos because there's–I mean, there's tons of stuff out there. There's Buteyko breathing, and there's Wim Hof breathwork, and there's holotropic breathwork. And this is kind of a really nice mashup of all of them, I find. And for me as a creature of efficiency in the 80/20 approach and seeking for ease in the path of least resistance to most of my personal practices, his program just works for me. And so, I've learned a lot from his videos. His name is Niraj Naik. And I first met him, you can correct me if I'm wrong, Niraj, but I think it was inside a sauna in Estonia, Finland.

Niraj:  Yeah.

Ben:  I think you and me and Thomas Kineshanko, we all met up because we were at an event. Was it the Mindvalley event there?

Niraj:  Mindvalley.

Ben:  Yeah, it was the Mindvalley University. That another podcast guest of mine, Vishen Lakhiani, put on where a bunch of people come from all over the globe and kind of like train, and learn, and go in conference, and party for like two solid weeks, even though you can show up for a few days of it if you want to. And I think you and I overlapped in our time there, but there were a couple days where we were both in Estonia. We met in the sauna and I remember like I walk in there and there you are, the skinny dude with the beard, looks like a yogi sitting cross-legged on the wooden benches in there. And you let us through, I believe like some kind of oming breathwork protocol, which is pretty cool. And then, we connected. We did a podcast. I went through your longer program. What was that program I did called, the long one?

Niraj:  The 21-day.

Ben:  Yeah, the 21-day, which was amazing. And then, a couple years later, I brought my kids through the whole 21-day, which was great. And by the way, three times a week, they still do the 20-minute breathwork session from that course, and then once a week, we go into the sauna and do 40 to 60 minutes using kind of like your pre-recorded tracks with music and the breath to beat instruction from you. And so, we've stuck with it, man. You'd be proud of us.

Niraj:  That's amazing. It's so good to hear that.

Ben:  Oh, it's transformative because they're just equipped. I don't know how you feel about this, but I feel like breathwork should be like a foundational practice or a foundational component of every child's curriculum because it's such an integral part of the physiology that so many people are disconnected from. We can talk about that a little bit today, but anyways, so for those of you listening in, I'll put all the shownotes at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/niraj2. So, BenGreenfieldFitness.com/N-I-R-A-J2. And I'll link to his new SOMA Fit course, which we'll talk about, which my boys and I also just did, which inspired me to get Niraj back on the podcast. And then also, that 21-week course that we did.

So, anyways, I'll let you tell a little bit of your backstory, Niraj, but for those of you who want the full meal deal, I'll let him give you the abbreviated version today, but go listen to the first podcast that I did with him because we get into his fascinating story of where he came from starting off as a pharmacist. But I guess that's my question for you, and maybe you can answer this question as you give a little bit of your background, Niraj. But your programs are unique because you combine music with breathwork with the verbal instruction, but it's almost a little bit hypnotic as you go through it because just the music alone and the beats alone drive you into this altered state of consciousness as you're doing the breathwork. By the way, the bedtime one, the 11-minute bedtime one is another one we do, and that one's really good, the four in, eight out, eight hold. But were you like a DJ or something at some point? Because it seems like you mix up these tracks pretty efficiently.

Niraj:  That's a great question because actually, I began running music events like raves back in the UK when I was in the university.

Ben:  I knew it.

Niraj:  And so, music was a huge passion of mine. And actually, I always thought I was going to become a DJ or a producer and run big events around the world. And actually, I did for a while until I had to go back and become a pharmacist because I lost everything. It was such a hedonistic crazy lifestyle. So, I went into the profession as a pharmacist, not really wanting to be there, but actually, it was the best thing that ever happened to me. That was literally the best training for life you could possibly get because you're going into it a career that you may not know that much about and not be that passionate about.

But that pressure, that prison-like zen, when you have everything and then it's all taken away from you, actually, it can either make or break you. And for me, it really made me because it really conditioned me towards where I really want to be in my life, where I really want to go. And I was a little bit different as a DJ, as a musician back in the day. I used to hang out with lots of ravers, lots of people from different backgrounds like gangster types and hippie types, all sorts of different types of people. It was crazy, but I was always the one that had a spiritual mindset. To me, the whole thing was a church celebration. Yeah, there was loads of drugs coming in and out of events and things, but to me it was all about a celebration of life. And the music scene got too druggy and way too–like it lost its original values as well. It got more and more hedonistic.

So, going into pharmacy, I went in in there with a spiritual mindset and I straight away saw that there was such a void in the healthcare system, like it's so cold, and clinical, and sterile. I didn't feel like we are really doing the best service to our patients. And you literally get like 30 seconds to be with a patient because you're in and out like a factory machine just dishing out pills all day long. And every month, you just see people going away with more shopping bags full of drugs, and I'm like, “Something doesn't seem right at all.” And anyway, I was trying to actually try a million ways of trying to get out of my job like different business ideas and trying to make in the music industry. And I did get quite deep into the music business, actually. One of my mentors, dear friend, unfortunately, died. He was the manager of Muse, one of the big rock bands.

Ben:  Oh, I thought you're talking about Muse, the meditation headband. Okay. Muse, the band.

Niraj:  No, no, no. The Muse, yeah. And he took me into the whole music scene. And he was like, “Do you really want to be a part of this? You just don't seem to fit into this culture.” He took me once to meet him and it's his most sleazy slimy industry and I was like, “Actually, this isn't what I'm about either.” And in the end, he kept pushing me to do something with pharmacy because I would come back ranting about all the problems, and then I'd be going to do my own little bit of research and realizing that there's no focus on diet, there's no focus on lifestyle, the things you would expect to make somebody healthy. It was just completely missing. And actually, I had a bit of a breakdown and I ended up going to Tony Robbins event. That's the first time I ever heard anybody talk about diet, nutrition, breathing, even meditation back then.

Ben:  Yeah. With some really excellent clapping thrown in.

Niraj:  Oh, amazing. I mean, I was a [00:11:28] _____.

Ben:  Yeah. He's the best clapper ever.

Niraj:  The best. And I actually didn't expect it to be that good because I was like, “Why is all this guru nonsense?” But it actually was super profound. I've got the best place to test out this stuff. I'm going to put Tony Robbins a test. If he's full of shit, I'll find out pretty quick. But in the pharmacy, you have constant sick people coming in. So, I came up with a system just to change people's diets based on writing shopping lists for them. And those who took my advice had amazing results and got better. In the end, I ended up getting promoted to the head office of one of the big corporations in the UK. That's where I got a taste of my own medicine where I actually tried to put a big project together that could have helped so many people. But in the end, it got shelved.

I'll cut a long story short, but I just lost connection with God, spirit, my faith in humanity, everything when I thought that project that could have helped so many people with changing their diet something really simple, I wasn't allowed to go through. And boom, that's when I got hit with autoimmune condition called ulcerative colitis, which I've learned so much since why people get things like autoimmune, and especially it's such an epidemic right now. But we can go into that a little bit more because the breathing has a big influence with this as well.

Ben:  Yeah, absolutely, the gut-brain connection. I remember from our last podcast, that's what got you on to the frequent use of colostrum as well, right?

Niraj:  Yeah.

Ben:  When you're facing–you're going to get your colon removed, right?

Niraj:  Yeah. I mean, I was going to be a guinea pig as well for a drug that hadn't even been tested and they wanted to take out my colon. I was like, “Screw that. There has to be another way.” And they say, “God stands for gifted desperation.” And literally, I went super deep praying for some kind of redemption. And luckily, somebody came to our rescue who's–she runs a yoga school in the UK called Swami Ambikananda. And she basically said, “You've got a gift. If you can heal yourself from this with your passion, and your interest, and your background, you could probably help a lot of people, inspire a lot of people.” And she said, “Look, you can test out this stuff from pranayama yoga.” She does a traditional form of yoga, which we can talk a bit about yoga as well, and why mainstream yoga has gone off a lot of what the original wisdom was all about.

And so, I just surrendered to what she said and just gave it a go. Very quickly, I started to get relief, especially from the breathing techniques. It's basic pranayama techniques. They're designed to switch off the stress response. And then, I discovered actually a book called “The Power of the Subconscious Mind” by Joseph Murphy. It's actually my uncle who said like, “You should check this out.” And he's a pharmacist who was a Christian science–he was really a devout Christian, but he also studied eastern medicine and Chinese [00:14:20] _____ Ayurveda.

Ben:  What was his name?

Niraj:  Dr. Joseph Murphy. Amazing, amazing book, “The Power of Your Subconscious Mind.” Yeah. Actually, Tony Robbins gets a lot of his material from his work.

Ben:  No kidding.

Niraj:  And it's a very, very good book. You should check it out. And in there, he talks all about the process of scientific prayers. He basically combines guided meditation techniques and breathing techniques to change your state, and then using prayers, forms of affirmations and mantras to reprogram the unconscious mind, which is where disease arises from the autonomic nervous system. And he talks all about how you can reprogram it, from a pharmacist point of view because he's a pharmacist. I was like, “Wow. This is like a miracle. There's a guy who has similar background to me.” But this was back in the 1940s, long time ago.

So, I gave that stuff a go, and in the end, what happened was I combined my passion for making music to get into these guided hypnotic altered states consciousness. Then I started to use these mantras, some of the mantras he put in the book, which comes from basic Christian prayers of gratitude and things like that, and it worked. I went and the sauna was where I really started to actually get a lot of benefit as well. I instinctively was drawn to the sauna. Like Wim Hof was drawn to the ice, I was drawn to the heat. I just found a lot of peace, tranquility going into like a church that created in the sauna from the local spa where hardly anyone used to go because in the UK, hardly anyone was into this stuff back then.

And I would go in there and it was like just a place, a sanctuary, healing sanctuary that I created, going into cold water, that whole rotation, doing these scientific prayers, using toning and breathing techniques to alter consciousness states. And literally, life just transformed after that, like I started to really find all these amazing other resources, like colostrum I discovered. It just opened my whole mind to the world of Ayurveda or learning that not all diets work for everybody. So, Ayurveda is a lot about customizing your lifestyle based on your personality types, energy types.

Ben:  Yeah.

Niraj:  So, Ayurveda is like a very traditional ancient form of medicine from India, and it's so profound. And so, I was trying to do raw vegan diets back then because I thought that was what was in the media quite heavily. That was the worst thing.

Ben:  And a big part of the scene that you were involved in in terms of like yoga and Ayurveda?

Niraj:  Big time. Yeah. And it was completely the wrong thing. In fact, I switched completely. I went to bone broth.

Ben:  Oh, really?

Niraj:  Eating beef, which actually goes totally against the Hindu belief system.

Ben:  You rebel.

Niraj:  But it cured me. I was a terror rebel, and colostrum, and all that. So, there was a lot of undogmatizing I had to do, a lot of going into a different kind of mindset of understanding the mind-body connection. And in the end, it just worked and I created my first business using therapeutic breathing techniques with music, meditation. And I started helping people with ulcerative colitis, create a protocol for people with what I had, and then that grew into my own music therapy business. I started to work with people like Marisa Peer. I even became like best buddies with Wim Hof and we went around on tour together. I was like his right-hand man on stage and I produced a soundtrack to the Wim Hof method. That's a whole another story in itself.

But people kept egging me on to do my own thing with SOMA breath because I developed this experience, which was so powerful based on these techniques that I was doing, but with the music combined and rhythmic breathing to the music because rhythmic breathing is the way to very quickly change your physiology. Like, you really like the 11-minute track. The 11-minute track has a different rhythm to the other tracks that you've done because it's all about extending exhalation. And when you extend your exhalation and breathe in a rhythm where you're breathing out twice the length of time as you breathe in and you do it in a certain way, in a certain protocol, you can switch on the parasympathetic nervous system very quickly, get into this altered state consciousness where you're like in an alpha-theta brainwave state, which hypnotherapists would take their subjects into. And that's where the best subconscious reprogramming can happen.

So, when you combine visualization techniques, guided imagery, it's a basic hypnotic suggestion with music and with rhythm of breath. You quickly have a very powerful transformative tool, which is what we've developed with SOMA breath. That's just like one of our focuses. We actually have different types of breathing techniques from pranayama, different lifestyle recommendations from Ayurveda, and developed a system that is actually just a whole way of life. It's not just around one little magic trick.

Ben:  Yeah. That's what I liked about SOMA Fit. That eight-day course that we just finished was–it incorporated breath-holds during fitness, it incorporated sleep routines, it incorporated nutrition and eating breathwork, it incorporated manifestation and meditation, included some of the more rigorous forms of breathwork that you introduce in the 21-week course, and then also had like the control pause time, which I want to ask you about a little bit later on as we progress. But a couple of things. Do you think that what drew you–just from what you know about Ayurveda. You said Wim Hof kind of chose the cold, you chose the heat. What is the Vata type in Ayurveda that's naturally cool? Do you tend towards that type that would dictate that you kind of like seeked out the heat?

Niraj:  Very, very good observation. Yeah, because I am more of a Vata-Pitta type. Wim's a full power Pitta fire energy. So, he likes to cool himself down because he's super fiery. I'm in the middle of it, but more of a Vata. And so, we are more drawn to warmer climates and less extreme temperatures, actually. We prefer more of a balance.

Ben:  That's interesting, too, because–

Niraj:  Definitely not cold.

Ben:  Yeah, because cooling foods would be–like sweet fruits like banana, and watermelon, and strawberries, and raw foods, and vegetables, and dark leafy greens like peppermint tea and bitter herbs. And it sounds like that definitely did not strike your fancy, and then you look at warming foods and it's not only like onion, and garlic, and ginger, and pepper, but then meat, and many of the more protein and fat-rich compounds we're familiar with or oily foods and more pungent spices. So, it sounds like you not only tackle things from a nutrition standpoint, but also from a heating and a sauna standpoint. So, that's interesting that you delved into that.

Niraj:  Yeah. I like going from the heat to the cold like that, doing the Russian style, the banya. That's what I'm really into.

Ben:  Yeah. I love that. I'm actually a little bit more Vata-Pitta personally as well. So, that's super interesting. Also, you mentioned that yoga today, it's almost like a bastardization of the original yoga. What do you mean by that?

Niraj:  This is controversial because there's so many people doing mainstream yoga right now, but basically, the original teachings, and I could talk a little bit about the history of the breathwork styles that have emerged and people like Buteyko. He was a yogi, by the way. Buteyko was an adept yogi. He probably understood yoga better than most people.

Ben:  No kidding, huh.

Niraj:  So, basically, traditional yoga, if you look at it, it seems to be a system design–I mean, there's different, different, different uses for it, but primarily for the body, for the health, it's a system of reduced breathing techniques and different exercises designed to train your body to become extremely efficient using oxygen. So, the less you need to breathe. And that seems counterintuitive because we've been so pushed about deep breathing, benefits of deep breathing, which there are very few. And we've also been told the yoga is all about deep breathing, it's a deep breathing system. It's not true at all.

Original yoga, which I had to–the way I learned this, actually. Firstly, my Swami gave me a bit of a taste of it, but the way I really learned it was, actually, I met a guy called Prakash Malshe. He's a doctor in the Himalayas, who's written a very good book called “The Medical Understanding of Yoga,” which I highly recommend everybody reads. He's a medical doctor. He has a clinic in near the Himalayas where he actually helps people with a lot of yoga and pranayama techniques, but from the traditional lineage. If you look at traditional yoga, you're meant to go into every asana. Let's look at the asanas, the poses. You're meant to go into it. This is direct translation of the yoga sutra. To prepare your mind as though you have to hold this pose forever, okay?

Ben:  Forever?

Niraj:  Yeah. You're meant to put that into your mindset. Basically, what that means is hold each pose to maximum effort, okay? And you're meant to control your breath during that so that you reduce as much oxygen supply to your muscles as possible. What this makes yoga is a functional isometric training, okay? I don't know if you heard of like Bob Hoffman.

Ben:  Yeah. Well, was he the active stretching guy?

Niraj:  He wrote a book called “Functional Isometric Contraction.” It's a very, very good book. Basically, he was a champion powerlifter, and he wanted to find out why the Russians winning all the competitions. So, he got a backdoor entry and observed what the Russians were doing to train. And they would do functional isometric contraction where you'd do every exercise to maximum effort, but it will be like you're pushing an immovable object. So, you get weights. Let's say you do a deadlift. You do the deadlift, but you'd hold the deadlift position until you can't hold it any longer. What that does is it causes you to exercise, but whilst contracting your muscles. And that closes the blood vessels, and it stops blood flow, extra blood flow going to your muscles. And this actually forces your muscle group in that area to go into hypoxia, state of lower than normal oxygen. And this triggers a whole cascade of different hormones being released. You produce more growth factors. And that intermittent hypoxia state also wakes up stem cells out circulation. You improve the circulation to that area, to that muscle, and you also improve the supply of myoglobin, which is the oxygen store reservoir in that area.

Ben:  Yeah. It's kind of similar to blood flow restriction training, and you get the same thing. You get the accumulation of lactic acid, the hypoxia, the increase in vascular endothelial growth factor to the brain, the brain-derived neurotrophic factor, the growth factors you're talking about, surge in testosterone, growth hormone, et cetera. And it's funny because a long time ago, I interviewed this guy who had developed a program called Man Flow Yoga. And I'll hunt that one down and link to it in the shownotes. But basically, it's similar to what you're talking about. It's yoga with really long holds in a deep position. His name is Dean Pohlman.

And I remember that I got interested in his program and the legitimacy of it when I was down at this health conference called Paleo f(x), and they had like a fitness competition down there. And I did pretty well, but this one dude smoked me, and it was Dean. And I'm like, “Dude, what's your training program look like?” He's like, “Well, I mostly just do yoga, but I do really long isometric holds for everything.” And I've tried his program out and sometimes still do it in the sauna. All my yoga books are on top of my sauna. Sometimes I want to bring it in there with me and jam out on a new routine. And his routine is very–it sounds very much like what you're describing. You're holding for a much longer period of time, like two minutes plus compared to what you'd normally hold in a typical, say, yoga flow routine.

Niraj:  Yeah, exactly. You got it. And so, when you do that, it's actually that type of yoga is just like wearing resistance bands. It's like you're stretching and moving your body into positions where you're reducing the blood flow to those muscle groups naturally. So, it's literally like wearing resistance bands, the same concept, but they were doing it thousands of years ago. It's incredible the difference it makes. If you do yoga like the mainstream way, which is very flowy where you move from one pose to the next, what it's like is like riding a bike with stabilizers on. If you really want to get good at riding the bike, take the stabilizers off, which means hold each pose to maximum effort, and then you really build strength, and stamina, and resilience. In fact, Bruce Lee did this type of exercise. That's why he was super strong and ripped. He did functional isometric training a lot.

So, going back to that and understanding that, it just blew my mind, and I started to read more into pranayama. And if you look at pranayama as well, it's a system of reduced breathing exercises. And it explained a lot why I was able to get better because when you have an autoimmune condition, quite often there's something that's happened or is happening in your environment that has caused you to have an overactive immune system.

Ben:  Right. Almost like the cells are stuck in cell danger response mode due to spinning subconsciously in almost a sympathetic state. Thus, reducing everything from cellular metabolism to causing an influx of calcium into the cell, which affects the electrochemical balance across the membrane. It's interesting how subconscious trauma or even subconscious negative thoughts or negative energy affect cellular function so dramatically.

Niraj:  And when you're in that sort of fight-or-flight mode, which I was in for a long time, I was so frustrated. I mean, I don't know if you've ever worked in a corporate head office, but it is just not a pleasant place to be. Horrible. I'm always on triggered fight-or-flight mode. And what happens is you are actually hyperventilating and you start to breathe deeper and faster because your body is actually trying to prepare for battle, and therefore, it thinks that you need more oxygen than you actually do because you're not doing any of that physical activity that demands that oxygen. So, you get excess oxygen in the body. And what that does is actually, it's weird, it's counterintuitive because it doesn't make sense really. But when you actually breathe deeper and harder, you actually prevent oxygen from going to where it needs to go, which is the tissue, the body tissue cells, like the muscles.

Ben:  You mean because you're breathing off carbon dioxide?

Niraj:  Yeah. So, you're messing up the Bohr effect, which is what gets oxygen from the red blood cells and into the tissue cells where it needs to go. So, you need carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is the healer. It's the prana. It is what gets oxygen to where it needs to go in the first place. And in pranayama, if you look, the whole system, if you do it properly, is all about reducing your airflow and slowing your breathing right down. And that alone can actually stop autoimmune conditions. Just that alone can stop hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and other chronic diseases.

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Pharmaceutical companies don't want to hear that, Niraj, but it is interesting because I didn't know that about Buteyko, who of course is the inspiration for guys like, say, Patrick McKeown, or what's the other guy's name? Anders Olsson, and a few of these other practitioners including yourself who really teach this idea of reduced frequency and reduced depth breathing. And I'm curious, have you ever messed around with any of the carbon dioxide devices like the Carbogen or–I don't know.

There's even like a paper bag tactic that you can use, proceed with caution, to increase your CO2 tolerance. Or even like that old school elevation training mask, the one that makes you look like Bane from Batman that–it doesn't actually simulate altitude because it's not reducing the partial pressure of oxygen in the air, but it creates almost like a dead space in front of you where you're breathing some of the carbon dioxide you exhale. Or I suppose you've probably worn a COVID mask. That's the one hidden benefit of the COVID mask. Everybody's like, “You're breathing CO2, you're breathing CO2.” I'm like, “Well, technically, that might not be a bad thing.”

Niraj:  And actually, it could be beneficial for some people who are overbreathers, who naturally breathe too much. But there is a lot of other problems with mass mandates and they're not safe. I mean, you're breathing in a lot of your own germs.

Ben:  COVID with Teflon. Yeah. There's some issues. I mean, well, depending on the type of mask you have.

Niraj:  So, yeah. So, going back to the roots, and if you look at Buteyko, he did a lecture. He actually did a lecture and it's worth reading, the first lecture that he gave where he proclaims to the world his method, his system. He talks about yoga about 20 times and talks about how traditional yoga was a science of becoming extremely efficient using oxygen. And he talks then about how he observed like in clinics, when you force somebody to hyperventilate, their disease symptoms get worse. And then, as soon as you switch them to slow reduced breathing, their symptoms reverse and they get better.

So, he would sometimes do this. It's called a hyperventilation provocation test where you would force somebody to hyperventilate. So, basically, deep breathing. Just for even a few minutes can actually raise somebody's blood pressure up significantly, and it can also make them feel lightheaded. I mean, if we just do it now for just a few minutes, you're going to feel lightheaded and all weird. And it does make symptoms worse, the disease. So, why would deep breathing be propagated by the media as being important? It's because we've been under an illusion. We've been told we need lots of oxygen and deep breathing is the way to get oxygen into the cells. It's absolutely not the truth because we need carbon dioxide. I'm so glad that you've got Patrick McKeown and all these people coming out there explaining all of this because Buteyko, unfortunately, he got buried under a lot of controversy. A lot of people tried to silence him and he went through a hell trying to get his message out there, even though he had so many research papers, studies backing him up.

But what happened now recently, which is really interesting, is Wim Hof came along, and he blew open the whole world to power of breathing techniques. But Wim gets something very wrong as well. And when I was on stage and I was going around talking with him–

Ben:  Careful, man. He should come at you with a beer bottle.

Niraj:  No, no, no. Wim and me are good buddies. He'll be cool with this. But what he gets wrong is that–

Ben:  Well, you're like a Wim Hof certified instructor, aren't you?

Niraj:  Yeah, yeah. I mean, I'm good ass. I did a lot of work with him in the early days. But what is the mantra of breathe more, motherfucker, is–there's a problem with that. Actually, it's not about breathing more, it's about breathing less. And if you look at the Wim Hof method, the way it works is it actually makes you more efficient. If you do it properly, and if you don't just focus on the hyperventilation part, because the most important part of the Wim Hof method is the breath retention, the hyperventilation part is just to allow you, to trick you into being able to hold your breath for longer periods of time.

When you do that, you exercise the mitochondria, and you actually train them to be more efficient using oxygen. Also, when you hold your breath for that long period of time, you create this intermittent hypoxic state. What you're doing is you're creating a lower than normal oxygen level, which makes your body freak out a bit and go, “Oh, I need to prepare for having less oxygen.” So, what it does is produce more red blood cells. You get better vascularization, you get capillaries forming, and blood vessels go around to make you more efficient at using less oxygen. So, you adapt to low oxygen.

Ben:  Now, theoretically, by the way though, sorry to interrupt, but couldn't you do, let's say like a typical Wim Hof breath up? And instead of like a fully in, letting go, fully in, letting go. Couldn't you do a little bit more of like a fully in, letting go?

Niraj:  Yes.

Ben:  Fully in, letting go. And if you did a breath up like that, you would be reducing or blowing off–well, I guess you'd still be blowing off CO2.

Niraj:  Yeah. That is the goal. The goal is temporarily to get rid of CO2 because then it allows you to hold your breath for longer. And people should not mistake that for normal breathing. This is another big problem that people make with breathwork is they–so you've got rebirth and you got holotropic, and you got Wim Hof where you're doing a lot of hyperventilation, right? A part of it. Now, the big mistake is when you say that that's normal breathing–and this is what Buteyko–Buteyko is all about normal breathing. Yoga and pranayama is a sequence of different techniques. But in pranayama, there's also a technique for normal breathing. There's advice for that. And you should not mistake hyperventilation breathwork as normal breathing. And that's where the problem has happened and the misconceptions happened in the whole breathwork world is when people are going around saying, “Deep breathing is going to make you immortal or whatnot,” right? When it's not true.

The technique is their design for a short period of time–so 20, 30 fast breaths like that are not going to do any harm, permanent damage to your nervous system. If you do it for, say, two hours or an hour, or if it becomes a chronic habit where you're constantly breathing at faster rate than you normally should, you're going to cause nervous system damage. You're going to cause low body tissue oxidation. You're going to literally go nuts. You're going to go mad because you're not getting oxygen to the brain. And you'll see very anxious, jittery, panicky people, they tend to hyperventilate a lot as well.

Ben:  Arguably, similar to exercise, that brief stimulus to the sympathetic nervous system can be effective. For example, right before you're going to go jumping in an ice bath to warm the body and to activate yourself to be ready for that, or pre-workout, or something where you want to hype yourself up and almost activate yourself sympathetically, there's some benefit to it, right?

Niraj:  So, what hyperventilation can do, when you breathe in twice the length of time as you breathe out. So, you double your inhale time, right? What happens is so you're forcing the inhale. You actually produce adrenaline, okay? You produce adrenaline and heat. You create thermogenesis. So, the Wim Hof method in pranayama is a combination of bhastrika, which is this fast rhythmic breathing, followed by nisshesha rechaka, which is the breath retention beyond the comfort zone where you're holding your breath 'til maximum effort. And that's basically what the Wim Hof method is, and it's just an ancient pranayama technique.

Tummo was another technique, similar in the way it works, but ultimately, it's about thermogenesis producing heat in the body. And the way you do the Wim Hof method, actually, you breathe in twice the length of time as you breathe out. And you can use your mouth as well because if you're in very cold temperatures like minus 20 degrees, it's really hard to breathe through your nose. The correct way is actually to breathe through your nose, but for generating heat, actually, if you breathe through your mouth, you're going to produce more heat, more fire because when you breathe through your mouth, you also stimulate sympathetic receptors. When you breathe through your nose, you stimulate the parasympathetic in the lower lungs. So, the Wim Hof method is really good for generating heat in the body and preparing yourself for ice baths, but it can, in some people, make them more anxious, more jittery, especially the fiery types, the Pitta types.

Ben:  Now, help me wrap my head around this real quick because when I was demonstrating what theoretically might be a better form of Wim Hof, you didn't want to amp yourself up so much those long breath-outs. If you're saying that with Wim Hof, you're breathing in for twice as long as you breathe out, wouldn't that theoretically cause you to retain CO2?

Niraj:  You're still breathing at a much faster rate, right? So, you're expelling a lot more CO2 than you normally would.

Ben:  It's the breath rate and the breath depth that matter. Whereas I know for something like–you take a breathing–if I want to do it and I'm going for a walk, for example, I breathe in as light as I can for about two, plug my nose, hold briefly, breathe out for about two, and it's almost like I'm on the fringe of really wanting to take a breath because I'm not quite breathing deeply enough and my exhales are longer than my inhales. And so, that's a little bit more like, in, pinch the nose, hold, out, two, three, four, but it's very kind of like light. And thus, that's allowing me to retain some amount of CO2 and get the parasympathetic response because my breath is not just quite as deep and frequent as something like a Wim Hof.

Niraj:  So, when you do the Buteyko style breathing, you actually are slowing the breathing rate right down to the point where you would also do complete reduced breathing where you actually would do anaerobic exercise. You'd hold your nose, walk around the room. Anaerobic exercise is a big part of Buteyko method, which is basically yoga. Traditional yoga is an anaerobic exercise. And a lot of the yoga techniques were supposed to be done, all the asanas where you produce a brief period of hypoxia in the body, which is basically anaerobic exercise. So, there's a lot of benefits.

Ben:  Right. Which when paired with that isometric tactic you talked about really amplifies the hypoxic aspect of it?

Niraj:  Yeah. So, that's why I think going back to the traditional wisdom and looking at the system, and also seeing in Ayurveda where you don't just put one-size-fits-all approaches to techniques. So, there's a place for everything, but you have to know when's the right place. As a pharmacist, I'm all about compliance, again making sure people do the things, but also making sure it's the right indication for the issues. So, people who are already very adrenalized, very high energy, fiery, they don't always do that well, and we see this in our SOMA breath community from doing things like the Wim Hof method, or rebirthing, or holotropic. It's too intense for them. And they prefer the slower techniques that we have. In fact, what we've done in SOMA breath is much more like that–

Ben:  That sounds like my wife. I actually like your holotropic routines because honestly, the coolest thing about them, especially the 60-minute routine–because I have inhaled DMT before, and used the DMT vape pen, and done the full DMT experience, and I can get extremely close to how I feel with that experience by simply–well, it's about the last 10 minutes or so. I think the final two breath-holds of that 60-minute routine, I get pretty dang deep. I did it once in the hyperbaric chamber, and the breath-holds were just out of sight. I mean, like seven, eight minutes long on the exhale towards the end. Not that I recommend this to you. There's some clotting risk, et cetera, proceed at your own risk. I'm not a doctor, but I have done a little bit of breathwork practice in the hyperbaric, and once did that one-hour routine and it is nuts how long your breath lasts.

I prefer to do it in the sauna, but that actually–it's interesting, well, for a couple reasons. I wanted to ask you if you've ever done any breathwork in the hyperbaric. I'll ask you what else I wanted to ask you briefly, but have you ever used a hyperbaric much or combined it with breathwork?

Niraj:  I have done hyperbaric before and I never did breathwork in it because you're breathing in pure oxygen and there's a problem with that. So, you actually want to slow your breathing down during that time, in my opinion. But there is a very interesting study that came out about hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

Ben:  This was actually the other thing I wanted to ask you about, if we're talking about the same study. You're talking about the telomere one?

Niraj:  Yeah.

Ben:  Yeah. Tell people what that was.

Niraj:  So, this is really, really profound. And this backs up this nisshesha rechaka technique, Wim Hof method, also what we do with our SOMA awakening technique, which is basically nisshesha rechaka with music. But basically, this is one of the most profound new studies to emerge because it's misleading. They're saying hyperbaric oxygen therapy increases telomere length and decreases immunosenescence in isolated blood cells. Basically, what that means is it increases telomere lengths, which is to do with your–it's like your bio clock. It tells you your biological age, basically.

Ben:  Right. Not the gold standard, but still a pretty decent, decent metric. Yeah, it's a decent biomarker, I mean, granted there's some issues just because it's simply a measurement of I believe the white blood cell telomere length and not necessarily a full body analysis. But it gives you some clues.

Niraj:  It's something we can go by. And then, there's a decrease in dying cells, aging cells being created. So, what's misleading about it is because they followed a specific protocol, which means they give very high oxygen followed by low oxygen. So, several minutes of very high oxygen followed by loss. What they said was that the best way to affect the telomere length and even activate stem cells, they talked about activating stem cells, is when you give a basically normal or higher than normal oxygen followed by very low oxygen, which is actually IHHT, intermittent hyperoxic-hypoxic training.

And there's machines that do this as well. And what it does is it confuses the body a little bit because that fluctuation in oxygen concentration makes your body think that you're running out of oxygen, so you must prepare. So, it creates a temporary feeling of going into a very low oxygen environment. But with this study, what they did was they were like, “Oh, it's dangerous to reduce oxygen that much systemically,” which I don't agree with. So, what they were saying was what we should do is give very high oxygen through hyperbaric oxygen therapy followed by normal oxygen. So, that's what they did.

Ben:  Yeah. Did you read the paper? Because they were doing 90 minutes in the HBOT, but every five minutes, they were doing hypoxic. So, if you own a hyperbaric chamber–and I actually haven't really done this yet, but you could theoretically get like–you could either have like a CO2 tank or–I also have this unit that I tried called the LiveO2, and it allows you to, with the flip of a switch, go from hyperoxia to hypoxia. I have it out by my exercise bike in the garage. And so, I can do that. That's called exercise with the oxygen therapy. But I could theoretically talk to that company and have them ship me an extra unit, use that next to my hyperbaric chamber. And so, I can literally have a switch inside the chamber that allows me to go hypoxic, and then also hyperoxic.

Niraj:  Wow!

Ben:  You could theoretically simulate this study. But yeah, most people sit in a hyperbaric and just do full oxygen the whole time, including myself, admittedly. I haven't pulled the trigger yet on changing out the oxygen tank next to my hyperbaric session. And part of it is I'm getting the hyperoxic-hypoxic training with that unit that I have in my gym also. But yeah, it's super interesting that a lot of people see that study as like hyperbaric oxygen makes you live longer. And really, no, it's like hyperoxic-hypoxic intermittent training could make you live longer, or at least decrease immunosenescence in isolated blood cells.

Niraj:  And the thing with that machine as well, it costs like 50 to 100 grand just for a three-month course. So, hardly anybody can afford it.

Ben:  You mean the hyperbaric?

Niraj:  The hyperbaric. The machines that these guys tested in Israel.

Ben:  Yeah. They had like the hard shell high atmospheric pressure. I have a home soft unit. I think it was 6 or 7K, I want to say. It only goes to 1.4 atmospheres. The nicer ones go to about–I think almost two and a half. But yeah, it is interesting. I'm glad you commented on that study. I think that'll get a lot of people thinking. I know we have a lot of hyperbaric practitioners who listen in. So, if you guys have some ideas or some contributions regarding this thought pattern that we're on, go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/niraj2. That's N-I-R-A-J, the number 2. And I'd love to hear y'all's thoughts on this.

Niraj, you talked about the sauna, which is how we met. So, I know you do breathwork in the sauna. We talked a little about hyperbaric, but do–we have an audience who sometimes likes to know a little bit about the ancient wisdom, and then also some of the modern science. Do you ever combine anything else, whether quantification or photobiomodulation like red light therapy or anything else like that with your breathwork?

Niraj:  I think all of those things are great additions for sure, especially the red light has so much compelling evidence. I'm pretty simple. I just go for what's available in the area. I live on an island in the middle of Thailand so we don't have too much available here. But it's getting better. We got some amazing, like extremely hot Russian banya style sauna with very, very cold ice buff, like goes down pretty, pretty cold. So, we do that. I haven't gone too deep into gadgets. I've just realized that actually for me to be compliant and to stick to things, just simplicity is key, keep things simple. And these machines, they cost thousand, thousand dollars, right?

Ben:  Yeah.

Niraj:  So, what was really interesting is that we, from our courses and just anecdotally right now, right now, we're actually in talks with the University of Copenhagen to potentially do a whole study on this. But I believe with our breathing technique based on nisshesha rechaka, we're mimicking already this IHHT training, which already has clinical studies done. And I believe that we are because–I'll give you one example. We had this one guy who has the very rare form of MS where he couldn't even pick up his grandson who was like six months old.

Ben:  Oh, geez.

Niraj:  Yeah. He couldn't even throw a ball over his head. And he literally just did our 21 days and he, for six months, did our 22-minute session every day, the one that you like as well.

Ben:  Yeah.

Niraj:  And he came back and he was picking up his grandson for the first time, and he was throwing balls over his head to his dog. And then, he went to get studies done because his doctors didn't believe him. And they said, “Your muscle tissue is growing back.” So, he was just blown away. And this was just from doing that one breathing technique. So, I believe we're mimicking what they're doing, this hyperbaric oxygen therapy and this IHHT just with the breath retention. And it makes perfect sense because you're breathing at a faster rate than normal for a few minutes. That's the hyperbaric part. What happens when you do that is also you raise your blood pressure. So, your blood vessels contract. Oxygen causes contraction, vasoconstriction. So, naturally, you actually create like a hyperbaric state in the body because you increase the pressure of oxygen. Then you followed by a period of very low oxygen by holding your breath, oxygen levels go right down, and that creates the intermittent hypoxic part.

Ben:  Especially the breath-holds on the exhale?

Niraj:  Exactly. And so, that whole system is already doing what this machines are doing. And that probably explains why we're getting so many amazing transformations, anecdotal transformations.

Ben:  Yeah. I love that. One of the reasons that's about the red light therapy was because red and near-infrared light to a certain extent, that gets absorbed by cytochrome c oxidase, which is one of the units in your mitochondrial respiratory chain, and then it produces nitric oxide. And so, you can get some nitric oxide produced, and sometimes I can actually displace oxygen and can create almost something that simulates a little bit of a hypoxic effect as well. And yeah, there's some interesting corollaries. That's actually why I like to do the breathwork in the sauna because I use an infrared and I flip on the red, near-infrared light that I have in the sauna, then I can lay under that while I'm doing the breathwork. So, I'm getting my cytochrome c oxidase triggered, at the same time doing my breathwork, getting the surge in nitric oxide, and it's a cool way to do the breathwork come out of the light, and of course the heat. So, not that you can't do it laying in your living room. You don't need a bunch of fancy toys, but I just want to comment on that for the people who like to geek out.

Niraj:  But you see some people, I would say, in the sauna, they're going to get too hot because you generate a lot of heat. You can handle it. You can clearly have no–

Ben:  Yeah. Proceed. Do it a few times outside the sauna first to see what it's like. Actually, it's kind of funny when I do it now outside of the sauna. It's super-duper enjoyable because there's a lot less of the suck factor because as you get towards the end of that hour-long one, like you're working. If you're doing it right, you're working when you really get going.

Niraj:  And the one in Thailand, their temperatures go over 100 degrees. Remember in Estonia how hot it was. It was like 100 degrees. It was insane. So, it's really hard to do any kind of breathing, but what I love is the humming. So, a big part of our training is all about humming and using the humming as part of our routine as well. But when you hum, basically when you chant om and you put the emphasis on the “um” sound–and you feel that vibration in between your eyes, what happens is you stimulate the paranasal sinuses. And this is the area where nitric oxides produce. And you produce seven times the amount from normal nasal breathing because nasal breathing is the only way really to produce the nitric oxide. So, when you hum and you stimulate that area, so it's like when you're stimulating your third eye, basically, if you put your attention to the middle of the eyes, that feels incredible in the sauna. I highly recommend like just go into sauna and just do humming.

Ben:  Yeah. I've done that, but I haven't really focused on the third eye when I've done it, but that's just see if your eyes closed.

Niraj:  Yeah. Keep your eyes closed and just imagine you're vibrating the center of between your eyes and just om for as long as you can, just really long hums, and just do that over and over again.

Ben:  Alright, cool. I'm in the sauna tomorrow. I'm going to try this.

Niraj:  I know you like your CBD gummies and stuff as well, right? You could even take that to expand the consciousness even more and just go into a trip of your own creation in the sauna with humming. It's so good. And you produce so much of the nitric oxide.

Ben:  Yeah. CBD makes me tired probably because I use it before sleep, so I think my body almost associates it with going to bed. So, I don't do much CBD, but I use–lately when I do breathwork, probably–I don't want to throw too many things out there because we could talk about like niacin, and beets, and all sorts of things that could be helpful for breathwork. But particularly when it comes to altered states of consciousness and really getting into that state during breathwork in a much deeper fashion, aside from just the essential oils that I use in the sauna, and I typically use a few of the heart openers, or the sacral plexus, or the chakra ones from–what's it called? Essential Oil Wizardry, Dr. Nick. He's been on my show before. He has some really, really nice blends that go well with breathwork or with plant medicine.

But then the two things I've been using lately, I got these things called Sananga eye drops. They're using the Amazon for things like clarity, and vision, and lucid dreaming, and heightened sensory perception, and they burn like hell. But you put it in your eyes and they burn, burn, burn for like two minutes. And I'll do that about five minutes before, and then I'll snort either Rapé or the Zen spray from Dr. John Lieurance, who I've interviewed on the podcast before. It's basically like peppermint, rosemary, a bunch of essential oils that you spray up your nose, but it has Rapé and oxytocin in it as well.

Niraj:  I'm so glad you mentioned Rapé.

Ben:  Yeah. And that's amazing pre-breathwork. I mean, it also really heats you up, so the sonic gets even more warm. But I really like that, and the eye drops, and the nasal spray, and then drop in, and it's pretty epic.

Niraj:  Wow, amazing. Well, I mean, I love Rapé. It's the little bit of nicotine, low-dose nicotine.

Ben:  Mm-hmm.

Niraj:  Have you seen the studies on low-dose nicotine for ulcerative colitis, for Alzheimer's, dementia?

Ben:  Oh, yeah.

Niraj:  It's fascinating.

Ben:  Yeah. Even mitochondria, the P450 upregulation. So, there's kind of a weight loss effect. So, there's something to the skinny cigarette smoker. Obviously, heavily addictive. There's a little bit of a dopaminergic response as well where you get a little bit dopamine desensitized. So, you got to be super careful because when you combine addiction with a need for something to actually feel good or a decreased enjoyment of activities like sex, or food, or something like that unless you're actually on said compound, you need to be careful with it. But I mean, some people want all these fancy routines to, whatever, get them off nicotine or whatever, but I personally, even though I think a lot of that stuff works, sometimes you just got to use the jocko approach and tell yourself, “Hey, I only do this before breathwork. I don't do it any other times. I'm just not going to take it.”

Niraj:  Good point.

Ben:  A couple other quick questions that I had for you. The control pause time, we briefly went over that, but it was such a big part of this SOMA Fit program, this new program that you have. And my time went from 27 seconds at the beginning and I got up to 54 by the end of the eighth day, and that was my morning measurement. And we pretty strictly followed the whole course, and then this hold time indicates that I would have increased carbon dioxide tolerance, right?

Niraj:  Yes. You got it. That's a big–and better efficiency.

Ben:  But it's not like a deep breath in and a deep breath out, this control pause tactic. Well, can you explain the importance of it and how to do it real quick?

Niraj:  Okay. Yeah. So, I always love to go back to the original, like as much as possible, the original voice of the person who came up with the method. So, Buteyko again, he's the one who developed this control pause as a measurement. In fact, it was used medically by other people as well, but he really pushed it as a quick way to judge somebody's stay of health. And in yoga, the original traditional yoga, breath retention time, your ability to hold your breath is really part of the whole system as well. And I'll explain to you why that makes sense as well in a moment. But Buteyko was all about low body tissue oxygenation, being the cause of most diseases. So, this is where if you don't have proper oxygenation of your muscles, your organs, your body tissue, that's when disease creeps in. And we know scientifically through the studies that cancers definitely exacerbated by low tissue oxygenation, and so is dementia, all these degenerative diseases that cells die, basically, if they're not getting oxygen.

So, if you can hold your breath for a certain length of time, and for Buteyko, it's between 20 and 40 seconds is that kind of average, it's kind of satisfactory, below 20 seconds and less. What he observed was that people who are on their death bed, they will have a pause time of like five seconds. What that pause time means is when you just take a normal inhale and exhale, full exhale, and you hold your nose, and hold your breath, it's that length of time before the first signs of stress. So, where you get that first urge, big urge to breathe, that's when you inhale and you count your time up until that point. So, most average people, going to be between 20 and 40 seconds. But if you train yourself to become very efficient using oxygen, you will dramatically and pretty quickly increase that time.

Ben:  Oh, yeah. It's super quick.

Niraj:  Yeah, yeah.

Ben:  Mine was like a few seconds every day, it would go up. Occasionally, a couple times during the course, we did it while we were walking just to see based on number of steps you could take on the exhale, which is a cool practice, too, to do it while you're moving. Obviously, the whole time is going to be a lot shorter. But yeah, I love how you start off the actual course, teach people how to do that because it gave us a cool metric. We would just wake up in the morning. We did it first thing, so we didn't want to forget. So, I'd literally just go into my boys' room at 6:30. Usually, I get up around 5:00 or so. So, I do my morning routine, then come in and grab them, and we'd just sit on the floor and do it right away. Well, they're 13. They were doing–I think they were kind of like in the low 20s and got up to the low 40s over the eight days, which is great. I love that I can see my children learning the importance of carbon dioxide tolerance. And they use that. They use it when they're–the type of breathwork routines they've learned. They use it in the cold pool, they use it when they're shooting their bows, they use it if they get hurt. So, there's so many benefits.

Now, I'm super intrigued by this because I see during the course that some of the videos from it are coming from your live clinics. I've never been to one, but what happens at those live clinics that you do in Thailand, for example?

Niraj:  Yeah. We were doing, until this crazy situation in the world happened, we were doing retreats. And we were actually having–even in Bali right now, we have a whole SOMA resort center being developed by one of our instructors. It should be ready in November. But we have a place here, a center here where we do our retreats. These are some of the most–for me, it's the most fun thing to do, but super profound transformations happen here. So, we teach people all of the stuff that you'd learn from our online courses. But what we do is we train people to become instructors of these techniques themselves.

So, that's generally what we've been doing with our retreats. And then, those instructors go out, and then they go out into the world, and they will have their own clinics and centers where they would use our techniques to help people. But we would take people through some very profound breathwork experiences. But you have to prepare people to go that deep with breathwork where you're using a lot of fast rhythmic breathing, a lot of body activation where you're engaging the entire body with the breath. In order to take people into these very profound altered states course, you have to prepare the person first. So, we start very slow and we build people's breath-hold times up to the point they can handle very intense breathing techniques, and then we go super deep. Some people can do it already, they're fine, but others need a bit more conditioning. That's why we have the BreathFit course, the SOMA BreathFit, by the way, we call it. And the reason why we have that course is–

Ben:  I was calling it SOMA Fit, wasn't I? Yeah, SOMA BreathFit, yeah.

Niraj:  Yeah, SOMA BreathFit. And the reason why we call it that is–why we've created this course is because so many people have bad breathing habits. And what that means is that they cannot handle even a few minutes of hyperventilation. And in order to do the higher yogic rituals, the stuff that takes you into a whole another dimension, which you've done yourself in the sauna of all places, you need to be prepared first. So, that's why we've done it in a step-by-step fashion. One of the problems that you get is when you're thrown into these very intense breathing practices without proper preparation, people can go off feeling very ungrounded, and it can actually destroy the nervous system.

Oxygen is very powerful stuff. We have to treat it with a lot of respect. That's one of the main things like we really put into our instructors is being very mindful about the breath and oxygen, and how beneficial carbon dioxide really is. Actually, what we also talk about a lot is the wisdom from pranayama. And if you look at pranayama, it was developed by studying animals in nature. Part of it was developed by studying animals with nature. And animals that have very, very slow breathing rates tend to live longer and have less diseases as well. So, like elephants and turtles, they're very slow breathing rates, like two to four breaths per minute. Whales, they actually have less than one breath per minute, breath rates, and they can hold their breath for like two hours at a time. Animals that don't live a long time like rats and mice, they have very, very fast breathing rates, up to 150 breaths per minute. And they only live like one year.

Ben:  Yeah. Except a few of them, interestingly, that do have high carbon dioxide tolerance, like there's that naked mole-rat, and granted it's not a size thing because the bowhead whale is the same way. But yeah, they're known for their long-lived, I guess, time compared to–relative to many other rodents. And yeah, they have really high carbon dioxide tolerance. They've got relatively low body temperature. And then, there's one other thing. I think it's their protein repair mechanisms, like they have really good protein folding mechanisms that allow for enhanced DNA repair. But yeah, it's fascinating how there's a few species that have cracked the code on living a long time despite having what might be a high metabolism.

Niraj:  Yeah. And very slow breathing. They breathe very slowly and they can hold their breath for like 18 minutes at a time, this naked mole-rat. And they live primarily underground in a hypoxic environment where it's rich in CO2. Humans, we have the conscious ability to control the rate of our breath, and we can adapt to a lower oxygen environment where we can handle high amounts of carbon dioxide. This improves body tissue oxidation, and therefore, the net result of this is you prevent oxidation, there's rusting effect in the body from not being adapted to oxygen properly, and therefore, you then improve your lifespans. That's the theory behind all of this. And it's backed up by like, what, Buteyko's done all this new evidence coming out from Israel, who's backing this up with the hyperbaric, and the IHHT studies that are out there.

So, what I've done with SOMA Breath and what we teach in our retreats and our events is we teach people a fun way to enjoy all of these techniques and this wisdom of the past with the music. The music adds a huge dimension to it. And then, there's the therapeutic approach to this as well because when you can hold your breath for a certain period of time, it also acts like a defrag switch for the mind. And when you hold your breath after the exhale, it's by pressing pause on your life itself because life is just a series of inhales and exhales. And when you press pause on the breath after the exhale, you basically expire. It's like pressing stop on life for a moment, a pause. And when you can expand that pause and that ability to go deep into that pause, you go into the most profound meditative states that there are. It's just incredible.

Ben:  It's one of those time stand still type of phenomenons. I've experienced that many times and it's so special. I think we're seeing a big surge of interest in breathwork practices. I think many people have during COVID, for example, adopted that as a form of stress control. I think that many people though still resist truly adopting breathwork as something they do daily because they can supplement or pop a pill, or figure out how to get themselves into that state in some other way. I'm stressed, I'll have a glass of wine, or take a hit on this vape pen because sitting on the floor doing 4, 8 for two minutes sounds pretty laborious.

But man, once you adopt it, this stuff–this is why I wanted to get you on the show just because it's so, so special when you are able to introduce that into your physical, your mental, and your spiritual practice. And again, Niraj, I love your flavor, like the style of breathwork that you do, which is why I've had you on the show a couple of times. And I know we're running short on time, but I want to tell people that the 21-day course is obviously a little hefty, some heavy lifting there, but it's doable. It's totally doable. What I do is just make sure I've got a good three weeks when I'm at home and have an extra few minutes each day to practice it, for example, with my boys the second time I did it, and it works just fine.

Honestly, the way that I do it, Niraj, is when I do one of your breathwork courses, because a lot of times, I'll work out twice a day, I'll do kind of like a walk, or yoga, or sauna, or something like that in the morning, and then hit the kettlebells, or lift some weights, or something like that in the afternoon or the early evening. All I do is I'll just take one of those times, I'd normally work out and do the breathwork session instead, and it works just fine.

Niraj:  And actually, exercise is so important to this. So, you can do all the reduced breathing techniques in the world, right? But if you're not exercising, you're not going to build carbon dioxide tolerance. And it needs to be that high-intensity exercise where you're pushing yourself intensely for a short period. What that does is it creates a lot of carbon dioxide and it basically makes you adapt to more carbon dioxide. That's the key to all of this carbon dioxide tolerance.

So, intense exercise is super important. And all the stuff you talk about with diet, nutrition, super important because when you've got your diet in check, you don't overbreathe. Overbreathing is actually quite often triggered by too much heavy processed foods. And actually, protein-based foods can also make you breathe faster than you normally need to. And that's why knowing who you are, what's your right body type according to Vedic system, Ayurvedic system, is really important because then you know that you shouldn't overeat in certain types of foods, or you can eat these foods.

Ben:  It's like freediving. I took a freediving course and pretty much like I would say the top three things you could do to increase your breath-hold when free diving is no coffee or anything stimulant-wise so that your respiratory rate or your metabolic rate is not faster. B, dairy, which thickens the mucus, like no dairy. And you could say some of the same things for many so-called acidic foods, or alcohol, or red meat, but dairy was a biggie. And then, three, have a high blood level of ketones. So, some amount of starch and sugar mitigation simply because ketones are very, very useful as an energy source in a hypoxic state. And so, all those same strategies could have crossover to breathwork, although I got to admit I'm still going to have a ribeye steak after I do my breathwork in the sauna and take a cold shower.

Niraj:  That's completely fine. It's just not overeating. If you overeat, that's when you start to hyperventilate, start breathing too fast. But if you eat 'til you're not full, like 20% full, yeah, then you're less likely to go into that hyperventilation zone. So, enjoying a steak. And I know that you probably do intermittent fasting, and fasting's so beneficial.

Ben:  Like the holotropic routine best–that 60-minute routine do not do it like in the evening after dinner before you go to bed. For me, that's Sunday morning fasted that I do that one.

Niraj:  Oh, and yeah, any type of intense breath retention type stuff. If you're doing Wim Hof or even our stuff, do not do it after eating food because when you hold your breath, after some point, you start to stimulate the peristaltic movement. It actually is a way to cure constipation. If you're feeling constipated, you haven't got full belly but you're feeling constipated, if you hold your nose and walk around the room, breathe out fully, hold your nose, walk around the room until you start to feel flushed, you need to breathe. Do that a few times, a few reps of that, not only will you unblock your nose, but you also move the peristaltic and contractions and you'll start to actually move the bowels and be able to go to the toilet. It's crazy way of curing constipation, but it works. That's why you never do any intense breathwork after a heavy meal. It really messes up the system.

Ben:  The other one you show, and then we got to go pretty soon, but the other one that you show in the SOMA BreathFit program, it's like the crow where you bent over, sucking down and swallowing air. It's so funny because my boys just laughed like crazy when we were practicing it because I always, too, because the air just goes right through you and it's super weird, but that one also works well like if you're going to the bathroom. Like if you do that right over the toilet, it's like the air just pushes everything out.

Niraj:  It's true.

Ben:  That's crazy. Yeah.

Niraj:  And actually, have you done ozone therapy? Yeah.

Ben:  I actually just had a glass of ozone water before this podcast.

Niraj:  Oh, really?

Ben:  Yeah.

Niraj:  So, have you tried the rectal ozone therapy?

Ben:  Yeah. I have a whole ozone generator. I like to drink it better, but yeah, I do have the ozone bags and I've done the rectal zone. Why do you ask it, sir?

Niraj:  So, ozone, okay, when you administer it rectally, that's like maybe one of the best ways of administering it. And I've been doing sessions actually here. But the ozone is a very powerful antioxidant. Oxygen itself is a very powerful antioxidant. And when you put the ozone tube up your bum rectally, firstly, anaerobic bacteria are wiped out. The ozone just kills anaerobic bacteria, and that's usually the bad bacteria in the gut is the anaerobic bacteria, right? So, they hate oxygen. But also, the lining of the gut is very poorly oxygenated. So, when you get a little bit of oxygen in there, it can actually be beneficial to healing, repairing the gut.

If you look at our Kaki Mudra technique, what you're doing–and it's not mine at all, it comes from pranayama. I just revived it because people didn't really understand why you do this technique, but what you're doing is you're drinking air into the bowels and getting that oxygen into the stomach first. And then, if you do these certain yogic postures, and even sun salutations, arguably, it's just a system of getting air into the bowels. What happens is you're getting that oxygen into the small intestines and colon and you're killing bad bacteria, and actually oxygenating the bowels. So, it helps it to become healthy and kills disease. And in Ayurvedic system, most diseases emerge from the gut. And having a healthy microbiome is essential. That's why there's so many fermented foods in the Ayurvedic system.

Ben:  Well, you're inspiring me, but I'll have to get back on the rectal insufflation of ozone bandwagon. One of my other former podcast guests, Ian Mitchell, just developed like ozonated soft gel capsules. You could probably just use that almost like a suppository if you didn't have an ozone generator.

Niraj:  Oh, wow. Okay.

Ben:  Yeah.

Niraj:  So, yeah. So, ozone's got so many good results from it. But you can do it naturally with just swallowing air, drinking air, which is what we teach you in the BreathFit course.

Ben:  Yeah. That's a fun one. That's called the crow, right, I think?

Niraj:  Yeah, the crow mudra is. That is called Kaki Mudra.

Ben:  Yeah. Crow mudra. Well, this is just fascinating. I'm going to link to all your courses, Niraj. So, for those of you listening in, it's BenGreenfieldFitness.com/N-I-R-A-J2. And I'll link to his 8-day course and his 21-day course, my original podcast with him, so many other breathwork podcasts that I've done, that study on hyperbaric oxygen therapy, if anybody wants to go geek out on that. So, check out the shownotes and leave your comments, your questions, and your feedback, or your own breathwork tips or conundrums as well and I'll be happy to review those. I love to read the comments, so leave me some comments and then Niraj and I will go check out what you guys have to say.

In the meantime, Niraj, thanks so much for coming on the show. I got to just fly to Thailand sometime and take a nap on the plane, and wake up, and do a course with you guys. It'll be a ton of fun.

Niraj:  Oh, I want to give you a big props as well because we are now working with a Canadian psychedelic therapy company called iSTRYM–do you know Kelsey? Okay. She came from some mastermind group that you're a part of that you recommended me to.

Ben:  Okay. I know who you're talking about. It was Kelsey Ramsden.

Niraj:  That's it.

Ben:  Yeah. David Rabin, the guy who developed the Apollo Neuro wearable device that makes that audio frequency that shifts you into different states, which–that's another cool thing about breathwork, not to rabbit hole. But yeah. I think I connected her to David Rabin and I think you as well. I think there was a connection there regarding her study with Mind Cure. So, anyways we're probably boring people now, but–

Niraj:  Yeah, I know, but it's amazing [01:20:16] _____–

Ben:  Yeah. That's cool. That's awesome you guys are doing that.

Niraj:  –can be used for therapy, yeah. There's so many different use, so versatile from your health to your mind and spirit as well. So, it's an honor that you're working on these things.

Ben:  Awesome.

Niraj:  Thank you so much.

Ben:  Dude, keep doing what you're doing, and I'll always try any of the new courses you come out with. And yeah, I absolutely feel like discovering you was a real gift for me and my family, and a lot of my audience members as well. So, keep doing what you're doing. And I'll put all the shownotes again at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/niraj2. That's BenGreenfieldFitness.com/N-I-R-A-J2. Niraj, I'll catch you on the flipside, man.

Niraj:  Awesome, brother. Cheers.

Ben:  Alright, folks.

Well, thanks for listening to today's show. You can grab all the shownotes, the resources, pretty much everything that I mentioned over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com, along with plenty of other goodies from me, including the highly helpful “Ben Recommends” page, which is a list of pretty much everything that I've ever recommended for hormone, sleep, digestion, fat loss, performance, and plenty more. Please, also, know that all the links, all the promo codes, that I mentioned during this and every episode, helped to make this podcast happen and to generate income that enables me to keep bringing you this content every single week. When you listen in, be sure to use the links in the shownotes, use the promo codes that I generate, because that helps to float this thing and keep it coming to you each and every week.



I met my friend Niraj Naik (the same guy who invented the crazy holotropic-style breathwork protocol I do in my sauna) inside a sauna in Estonia, Finland, where he led me and one of my buddies through an “omming” breathwork protocol, and I've been hooked on him as my “go-to guy” for breathwork ever since.

He joined me first on the podcast “The Renegade Pharmacist: How To Increase The Effects Of Psilocybin, The Secrets Of Colostrum, Fixing Constipation With Breathwork & More” and also invented the breathwork routine that I took my boys and I through and detailed in the article “How To Blast You (And Your Child's!) Physical, Mental, & Spiritual Resilience Through The Roof With Breathwork.” He also recently designed an extraordinary 11-day breathwork course called “SOMA BreathFit” that my boys and I also just dida course that combines fitness, sleep protocols, meditation protocols, and much more in a simple-to-implement, done-for-you short daily program. (BGF listeners get 10% off the new SOMA BreathFit course we discuss with this link.)

Niraj comes from a background of working long hours for several years as a community pharmacist. Becoming a certified “legal drug dealer” at the ripe age of 24, he got to witness first-hand many clients going home with shopping bags full of drugs each month, rarely getting better and usually going on to suffer from other diseases. He also learned of the debilitating side effects of the prescription medications which drove many of the patients to have to take more and more drugs to ease the side effects.

Curious to find ways to improve his own health, Niraj attended several health seminars and discovered an in-depth approach on how to reach optimum health and vitality by understanding the true origin of disease and how to prevent it. After experiencing great benefits with his own health, Niraj was motivated to devise a scheme to see if he could also help his suffering patients. He incorporates a lifestyle plan called his “healthy shopping lists” that includes simple food swaps, tools, and websites to support their specific conditions.

Within two weeks he received testimonials from patients who were starting to get better and within a few months some being able to lower their dosages or completely come off their medications. After an arduous battle trying to get his novel approach accepted into the mainstream that resulted in a lot of stress and disillusionment, in 2010 Niraj was diagnosed with a stress-related illness, ulcerative colitis, that left him housebound for over 10 months. He was told by doctors and nurses that there existed no cure and that he would need to be on medication for the rest of his life.

Like his patients, Niraj suffered from side effects of his medication to the point that he felt completely hopeless and even suicidal. He was then left with a choice that would be a major turning point in his life: test out a new drug or have his colon removed. He decided to choose option 3, a path not yet known by conventional medicine.

So began Niraj's search to learn from people who had great success with either curing themselves or others from chronic illness. He learned a combination of natural treatments including Ayurvedic practices and dietary recommendations from Paleo and Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD). He studied healing methods through meditation, yoga, and mind power techniques like self-hypnosis and Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). He even discovered the powerful techniques of sound and music therapy as tools for reducing stress and promoting self-healing. Niraj finally broke free from the burdens of his illness, without medication.

The experience of illness has allowed him to completely reinvent his life and discover a new passion for helping others to do the same. Niraj's specialty is helping people recover, prevent, or reduce the dependency on long-term medication for the metabolic diseases of diabetes, heart disease, and obesity as well as autoimmune disease when stress is an underlining factor in the cause.

Niraj is now a professional musician, holistic health expert, and entrepreneur. As the founder of SOMA Breath, Niraj is dedicated to educating people on a complete holistic system of Pranayama techniques through programs like his 21-Day Awakening Journey (use code: BEN to save $200) and SOMA BreathFit (BGF listeners get 10% off the new SOMA BreathFit course we discuss with this link.). He also runs several successful websites that help others who suffer from stress-related, chronic diseases through his self-composed, captivating meditation music, and online courses. Niraj has composed music for healing centers, spas, and therapists worldwide.

During this discussion, you'll discover:

-Niraj's personal history and what makes his programs unique…06:50

  • Previous podcast with Niraj:
  • Niraj has a history as a music producer and event organizer in the UK
  • Had a spiritual mindset in a hedonistic lifestyle
  • Became a reluctant pharmacist, but looks back at it as the best move of his life
  • Took the spiritual mindset into the pharmacy business; saw a real lack of mindfulness, conscientiousness in the industry
  • Attended a Tony Robbinsevent, was introduced to some of the concepts he uses today
  • Was challenged by a yogi to find a way to heal his colon, which led to many of the practices he uses today
  • The Power Of Your Subconscious Mindby Dr. Joseph Murphy
  • Disease arises from the subconscious mind—autonomic nervous system
  • Current work combines a passion for making music with knowledge of the human body and spirituality
  • Became enamored with saunacombined with breathwork
  • Raw vegan diet was the worst thing for Niraj
  • Lots of “undogmatizing” in understanding the mind, body, spirit connection
  • Produced music tracks for Wim Hof's programs
  • Saw a need in the market for his SOMA breathworkprograms (use code BEN to save $200 off the 21-Day Awakening Journey)
  • Niraj and Ben are both Vata-Pitta Ayurveda type, which is more drawn to warmer climates, less extreme temps

-What mainstream yoga practices get wrong…21:45

-How CO2 has been thrown under the bus…33:15


-Where Wim Hof gets it wrong…36:10

  • Niraj takes issue with Wim Hof's mantra to simply breathe more
  • It's not about breathing more, it's about breathing less
  • No one-size-fits-all approaches to breathing
  • High energy individuals don't always do well with things like Wim Hof techniques

-Breathwork combined with hyperbaric treatment?…45:45

-Combining modern science with ancient wisdom when it comes to breathwork…50:35

-Why humming is an important part of Niraj's training…55:30

-The importance of the control pause tactic…59:55

  • Buteyko developed this method
  • CO2 tolerance
  • Low body tissue oxygenation the cause of most diseases
  • Length of time between exhaling and feeling the first urge to breathe
  • Average is 20-40 seconds
  • Time will increase rapidly with proper training

-What happens at Niraj's live clinics…1:04:05

  • Train students to become instructors of his methods at their own clinics
  • SOMA BreathFit courseNiraj teaches (BGF listeners get 10% off here)
  • Advanced yoga techniques require proper breath control
  • Be mindful and respectful of the importance of oxygen
  • Wisdom of Pranayama is developed by studying animals in nature
  • Mammals with slow breath rates get sick less and live longer
  • Humans can control the rate of our breath; improves body tissue oxygenation
  • Teach fun ways to enjoy wisdom from the past; music is a huge part of this
  • Holding breath after exhale is like pressing “pause” on your life for a moment
  • Expanding the pause takes you to profound meditative states

-How diet affects your breath…1:12:45

-And much more!

Resources from this episode:

– Niraj Naik:

– Breathwork Podcasts And Articles:

– Podcasts:

– Books:

– Gear:

– Other Resources:

-Episode Sponsors

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Ask Ben a Podcast Question

One thought on “[Transcript] – The Renegade Breathing Mastermind Behind The Crazy Holotropic Breathing Protocol I Do In My Sauna (& Biohacking Breathwork, Best Foods For Breathhold Time, Dangers Of Wim Hof & Much More!).

  1. Mark Austin says:

    Sorry to ask this here, it’s not specifically about this episode, but about an offer made within the episode:
    tried to order 2 coffee bundles (normal and decaf) and bars bundle but when I entered promo code got the following message:
    BGF20 discount code isn’t valid for the items in your cart

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