[0:00:52] Podcast Sponsors
[0:04:38] Guest Introduction
[0:07:38] The Story Behind Niraj's Famous Infographic
[0:16:17] Alternative Methods Used to Heal Oneself
[0:25:17] Ayurvedic Principles That Are Used to Heal the Gut: Colostrum
[0:31:55] Podcast Sponsors
[0:34:24] Ben Greenfield at NextHealth
[0:35:51] continuation on Colostrum
[0:36:51] Ayurveda: Mind and Body are One
[0:41:57] Enthusiasm in Life
[0:48:29] About Book, “Feeding You Lies”
[0:50:27] A Unique Breath Protocol Called SOMA
[1:02:27] Medical Industry Doesn't Advocate for Soma Therapy
[1:04:33] A Practical Example of Using Breathing to Change One's Physiology
[1:10:26] True Intent of Yoga and How The “Yoga Industrial Complex” Has Twisted It Out of Context
[1:13:40] What It's Like to Go Through Niraj's SOMA Protocol
[1:15:50] Oxygen, RBC and Better Blow Flow
[1:25:24] The 21-Day Protocol and Webinar Niraj Has Developed
[1:31:35] Closing the Podcast
[1:32:44] End of Podcast
Ben: I have a master's degree in physiology, biomechanics, and human nutrition. I've spent the past two decades competing in some of the most masochistic events on the planet from SEALFit Kokoro, Spartan Agoge, and the world's toughest mudder, the 13 Ironman triathlons, brutal bow hunts, adventure races, spearfishing, plant foraging, free diving, bodybuilding and beyond. I combine this intense time in the trenches with a blend of ancestral wisdom and modern science, search the globe for the world's top experts in performance, fat loss, recovery, gut hormones, brain, beauty, and brawn to deliver you this podcast. Everything you need to know to live an adventurous, joyful, and fulfilling life. My name is Ben Greenfield. Enjoy the ride.
Hey, I am so excited for this interview. I was taking notes right and left. You must go to the shownotes after you listen to this because it's just the amount of information, like we take a little while to warm up, in my opinion, but man once we dive in, we dive in. This one's with the Renegade Pharmacist. It's his name, the Renegade Pharmacist.
Anyways, today's show is brought to you–and we're talking about a lot of like the adaptogens and Chinese traditional medicine and even some of the things that come up in today's show. A lot of people ask me, “Well, how can you get all the benefits of Chinese traditional medicine in something that gives you a lot of these compounds, like these kidney restoratives and yin and yang tonics and astragalus and all the things that are kind of time-honored superfoods of Chinese medicine?
It turns out that the extraction is important. The herbal extract needs to be very, very potent and it needs to be from, not like big bins in China that are sitting there getting sprayed with ethylene oxide for years on end but instead, preferably, some kind of wildcrafted, handpicked herbs. The Chinese herbalist who I really trust on this stuff, his name is Dr. Roger Drummer. He's been on this show like three times and he does this. He blends all of these into kind of like a shotgun formula of Chinese traditional medicine. It's called Tian Qi, Tian Qi–brighten your mind.
The reason that it brightens your mind is because–you'll understand if you drink this stuff. Man, mixed on ice or even–actually, I mix it in a blender with the Kion Aminos. Oh, my gosh, it's amazing. You can get Tian Qi and Kion Aminos with a cool lime powder. It mixes really well with Tian Qi on ice. Check it out, getkion.com, getK-i-O-N.com. That's your smoothie for the week, some Tian Qi, some Kion Aminos. You got your anabolic modern science and your Chinese ancient wisdom all blended together into one fell swoop.
Hey, folks. It's Ben Greenfield and I was in Tallinn, Estonia. Several months ago, I gathered a few guys to go visit the sauna with me and one dude that showed up turned out to be this total breathwork ninja. He's Wim Hof's right-hand man and has done some courses with Wim Hof, known as the Iceman, the guy who uses breath to make himself relatively impervious to the cold and enhance his immune system. And this gentleman who's with me on the podcast today is actually trained as a pharmacist. He's from the U.K. He's trained as a pharmacist so he has his broad knowledge of pharmacological medicine, but he actually got a chronic illness that he'll go into today, and he used the special forms of breathwork to heal himself.
Now, some of you before may have heard me talk about how I do this–it's very similar, it's not holotropic breathwork but it's kind of like it in that–I pretty much, for lack of a better description, can get myself high as a freaking kite and supercharge my body with oxygen and nitric oxide with this special one-hour breathwork protocol that I do while laying on my back in my sauna. Admittedly, I do actually take a little bit of psilocybin and lion's mane before I do this protocol just because it seems to enhance it.
But the dude who invented it, like it's all choreographed to drum work in music and it tells you when to breathe and when to stop and when to hold your breath, is actually my guest on today's show. He is known as the Renegade Pharmacist, which is a sexy title but his actual name is Niraj–and Niraj, I'm not even going to try to butcher your last name. So, how do you pronounce your last name?
Niraj: You can say, Naik. That's the most accurate way to say it.
Niraj: Naik, Naik, or like Nike, like Nike Air Max.
Ben: Naik, Niraj Naik. Like Nike shoes without the long E?
Niraj: That's it.
Ben: Okay. Cool.
Niraj: Yeah. The way that British people say, Naik.
Ben: Cool. And also by the way, before you delve into your story, I should mention a couple of things. A, for anybody listening in, you can go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/renegade for the shownotes. That's BenGreenfieldFitness.com/renegade, just like it sounds. And then, also, you should know that Niraj has created what is one of the world's most famous infographics on his website, like one of the most viral infographics of all time, particularly in the health sector and it is an infographic entitled, “What Happens One Hour after Drinking a Can of Coke?” And it's quite entertaining. I'll link to that as well.
So, Niraj, first of all, welcome to the show. And second of all, of course, the million-dollar question, how did you develop the world's most famous infographic?
Niraj: That's a great, great question to start with. Well, firstly, I want to say that it's actually a pleasure being on this call. It's been a long time coming because I don't listen to many podcasts but yours is one of the few that I got hooked on to in the beginning because it's just such a treasure chest of knowledge. So, I became a total junkie of your podcast. To be on your show right now is a real honor. So, I want to give you a load of kudos for that.
Well, how did it all start? Actually, it was kind of–I mean it's a long story but I'll try and make it as short and concise as possible. I became good friends with this guy called Uri Geller, who is one of the most famous controversial psychics on the planet and he's amazing with making stuff happen like attracting people. Michael Jackson was his best man at his wedding.
Ben: Okay. Who was the best man in his wedding?
Niraj: Michael Jackson.
Ben: Oh, wow.
Niraj: He's Uri Geller. He was the guy who's famous of bending spoons, the whole shot, the Maxine, the Matrix is kind of inspired by him. But we became friends for a while and he said to me this one thing. It was there's only one thing worse than bad publicity, and that's no publicity. And he really loved the whole mission. The Renegade Pharmacist's mission was about my backstory with being in the healthcare industry and then healing myself from a chronic disease. I really wanted to get my knowledge out there. So, one of the things I observed really bad, as a serious problem was the link. I saw there's a real link between fizzy sugary drinks that people drank and metabolic diseases. It was just very obvious to me.
Ben: No kidding.
Niraj: Yeah. But you'd be surprised, back in the time when I was really working as a community pharmacist back in the mid-2000s, how kind of ignorant doctors of our medical profession was to this. So, I'd written this infographic, which was based on some other research that was out there and I put together a whole article based on my experience of getting people off fizzy drinks and getting one to more healthy things. I got known as either renegade pharmacist. There's a long story of how I ended up there but what happened was since I met him, he basically really made me think about publicity.
I do all these crazy rituals in the sauna-like you do with breathing techniques and stuff and I just one day really meditated on like–I really want to get–like I was really frustrated with how dumbed-down the healthcare system is and how hard it is to just get alternative knowledge taken seriously, especially in places like the U.K. And literally, I'm not kidding, like a week later, I was checking my email and suddenly I had Daily Mail, the Huffington Post, Independent. I had the Radio One in Mumbai. I had news called Cudo AU, all these huge media outlets all on my case about this infographic.
That's this guy had shared on Truth Theory, which is this blog that's quite popular. It suddenly blew up and it became like for two weeks running. Facebook used this show like the top trending articles. They don't kind of show anymore for some reason but it was the number one trending article on Facebook for two weeks running. I had over a million hits in my site initially, literally, like a few weeks.
Ben: So, for you, what sparked it was this dude from–what do you call it, truth viral?
Niraj: Truth Theory. Truth Theory was the blog.
Ben: Oh, Truth Theory.
Niraj: We published there first, yeah.
Ben: So, they shared it and then you just got caught up by all these news media outlets?
Niraj: Yeah. I think there are over 60,000 sites linking to that one article. So, what it did was it gave my own website so much authority. For those of you who geeks about SEO, I had the heads of one of the big publishing companies, Mindvalley. One of the SEO wizards, he basically said, “What happened to your site, it can only be explained like an act of God because people would spend millions trying to create that kind of power of authority with your website.” So, I know, as a result of that, have really strong ability to rank for the keywords related to the things that I'm really passionate about.
Niraj: So, I'm helping a lot of people get more awareness, get knowledge, and heal people from these autoimmune conditions that if you look on–if you type in, for example, one of the symptoms that I was suffering from really badly with also colitis is blood in stool. It gets about 100,000 to like two million searches a month. It's a serious problem. Bleeding from stool is scary. But if you go on there, most of the websites on there are just scaremongering, fearmongering kind of government-funded sites or Wikipedia, things that basically just tell you this is incurable, that there's no cure. You're going to be on drugs for the rest of your life. Just like the information I received from the consoler. Now, if you go on there, like my sites, one of the ones out there that actually shows you there's another way, there's another path, I've helped so many people as it was all that. So, it's been super blessed. So, I have to now do what I can to help as many people.
Ben: Yeah. I want to talk about that and how you healed yourself, but A, hopefully, this isn't boring for people who aren't kind of like internet–I guess people who make a living on the internet. But man, getting an infographic to go viral is one of the best things you can do for your business. I know a lot of people are building their business now around infographics, like having people develop because you can get people from like–what's it called, Upwork or I think Elance is another one or some folks will do it for like five bucks on this website called the Fiverr. You can have amazing infographics made out of articles that you write and then simply disseminate those across the four corners of the internet planet.
You do have to kind of get lucky and keep your fingers crossed but it's this concept of creating good infographics and then being everywhere. I've thought about all the articles I write at Ben Greenfield Fitness getting them turned into infographics. I just haven't really done it yet but I mean, you know, I write 3,000 to 5,000-word articles. It would be so easy to just get them turned into graphics and spread them through the internet. I guess I just need to hire somebody to do it. But the Coke one that you did, it actually is kind of interesting like a lot of people just hear about how sugar is acidic, period, and the high fructose corn syrup is going to make you obese but you actually get into a lot of other things like how the phosphoric acid binds calcium and magnesium and zinc and the lower intestines and some of the urinary excretion of calcium and some of the adjustments of neurotransmitters. It's just pretty interesting. Have you done one by the way for Diet Coke?
Niraj: Yeah, yeah. So, that was the follow-up and that was so massively viral. Those two articles generated so much publicity for me. I was on Fox News. Fox News did a whole show on it. They're actually on a daytime TV. They had my infographic up there and they were going through it and they had a Harvard doctor backing up everything I said. It was insane. I couldn't believe it.
Ben: Yeah. I know. It's actually really good too, like the combination of caffeine and aspartame. You talked about how you get that excitotoxin release that basically exhausts your brain by over-stimulating the neural receptors. I need to send this to–there's a guy who's been on the show before, the dude who runs Quest Nutrition, Ron Penna. He drinks a lot of Diet Coke and we had a little bit of a debate and he said, “You could shower in Diet Coke without getting sticky. There are such trace amounts of this artificial sweetener in it.” But I think there's a little bit more artificial sweetener in there than most people think. And I will link to this infographic as well for people who want to check that one out.
But I want to turn too to some practical tips for people and the topic at hand. And you can kind of delve into your story here but I know that you were a pharmacist in the U.K. And as you've already alluded to, you began to experience some pretty intense digestive issues and ulcerative colitis. I'd love to hear your story a little bit and kind of dive into some of these alternative methods that you used to heal yourself.
Niraj: Totally, yeah. I'd love to. Basically, I actually worked my way up to the head office of one of the biggest supermarket chains in the U.K., which is owned by Walmart. What happened was I've got very good at getting people off the drugs in the pharmacies and I created this healthy shopping list service where a pharmacist would write out healthy shopping lists based on people's conditions. This was actually again very controversial because there was very little awareness in the mainstream about the effective diet and nutrition on your health. I mean, even we're talking like–and this was 2009, right?
So, you'd think that we would have more awareness of that but in the U.K., people are really kind of behind when it came to–especially doctors, when it came to diet and nutrition. And I just came out with very simple kind of method of getting people off drugs, especially chronic use of things like blood pressure medications, diabetic medications just by getting people off fizzy drinks or getting them to swap process-ready meals that are full of sugar with just healthy things that they can make themselves. And you'd be surprised at how few people actually even knew how to cook their own food. It was amazing.
So, what happened was the Walmart loved this idea of creating a healthy shopping service on their website, but their previous employer hated it actually. They actually fired me from my job for mismanaging the pharmacy. I mean, that's another story in itself. But I ended up getting this amazing position where I could help millions of people in the U.K. But what happened was about six months into it, the director who actually was like a renegade director in the company, he left to become the vice president of Amazon in the U.K. and left me in this kind of extremely cutthroat corporate world where everyone work in cubicles. You have to really kind of book your time to speak to any of any authority. It was a real weird system. It was just a very cold environment.
I suddenly was faced with the fact that the legal team and a few other people just for–but my idea was way too renegade, too controversial to go out on a mainstream way in the way that I created it. So, they try to water everything down that I said. Any kind of claim was taken out. Everything was watered down. And also they're a big corporation so they have to be very careful of what they say. But everything that I'm talking about then has now become way more mainstream knowledge, like the fact that fats, essential oil was good for you and sugar is not good for you and causes heart disease. Just simple things like that back then was so controversial. So, I ended up faced with the situation where I had to go back to being a pharmacist. This was the most soul-destroying profession like you can imagine. There are more people now leaving the pharmacy profession than joining it.
I was really scared, like the fear just crept inside and it was a fear of what is going on with humanity. I'm trying to help people but I'm getting shut down by a company that I thought had good values. And I saw so much corruption as well within this corporation. I mean, I could write a whole book on that but basically, I ended up getting the symptoms of colitis at this point. And slowly, it turned into–well, disease [00:20:33] _____ in conditions is fear manifest or negative emotions manifested as physical symptoms and also colitis kicked in.
Ben: Is that pretty typical for all sort of colitis to kick in in response to stress versus diet, or for you, is it a combination of both? I mean, it sounds like you're already aware of eating healthy so maybe it was more psychological related but I'm just curious if that's common.
Niraj: I think it was pretty much like psychological. I mean, when I was in university, I destroyed my gut as a lot of people do. It's like alcohol. And I was in the rave music scene as a DJ.
Ben: Join the club. I used to party hop with a bottle of Everclear and I just bring that into a few parties tonight and jam with whatever jungle juice they had there. That's how I lived in college for about four years.
Niraj: Yeah, man. And alcohol is the worst thing for the gut, man. It destroys everything. Like in moderation, it actually can kill some of the bad bacteria but in high doses like we do at university, it just kills everything. So, I already had a pretty bad digestive system from university, but it was the stress that broke me, that fear manifest. And I see this over and over again that the trigger for most people with untenable conditions is some emotional trauma that is manifested at that point in their life. And quite often, just with changing the perception of the illness, you can actually reverse some of the symptoms, and that's why breath work can actually help because it changes your emotional state quite dramatically.
But that's what happened so I ended up becoming housebound. I couldn't leave. I was shooting blood like 40 times a day. I was ready to give it all up. I was ready to call it a day alive because I had no life. I lost three stone in weight. The doctors told me, “You're going to be on drugs for the rest of your life.” I was faced with either being a guinea pig for a drug that has never been tested before or have my colon removed and then be crapping a bag for the rest of my life.
So, the age of 31, it was so depressing to hear that. Luckily, like they say, GOD stands for gift of desperation, right? Right at that moment of absolute desperation, somebody came to me, who's I'm forever indebted to. She's now very close to our family, Swami Ambikananda. She runs one of the top yoga schools in the U.K. She regularly goes on mainstream media to talk about yoga. She's quite a spokesperson for yoga now. And she actually came to the rescue. She lived in the same area and she basically said to me, “Look, you've actually got a gift. If you can heal yourself now with your knowledge, your scientific background, your passion, you could be an amazing role model and inspiration to other people.
So, she basically really changed my perception immediately then and gave me some hope. She said, “Look, you can heal this. Here's the evidence why.” She had cured herself from cancer in the past. She actually even had a heart disease at one point, which triggered her into becoming a yogi in the first place. So, I believed her, I believed her. So, I went for it. I wasn't very spiritual back then. I wasn't at all into this stuff. I'm very kind of left brain in that way, like I really need science. I need evidence to prove to me these woo-woo things whether they work.
Anyway, I kind of surrendered to her and followed the basic principles of pranayama yoga meditation and some Ayurvedic principles, which we can talk as well because I know you like your subjects like that. So, I literally, just within a few months, was completely back to full health. It was a combination of something that you know very well, colostrum, breath work from pranayama, and the change of perception, my mind, and just basically creating the right environment for the gut microbiome because a lot of the diseases of autoimmune begin with the gut. So, that's also an Ayurvedic principle that is the most disease, majority of disease begins in the guts. Most Ayurvedic treatment starts with firstly the mind because the mind is actually the true source of all this, but the gut-mind connection has now been known.
Ben: What are some examples of Ayurvedic principles that are used to heal the gut?
Niraj: Okay. Well, one of them is colostrum because colostrum actually comes from–it's the first milking of the cow. So, Ayurvedic doctors, thousand years ago, knew that the cows have two parts of the milk, the first milk and then normal milk. The first milk actually is very, very rich in immune factors, growth factors. It's like a complete food with all the vitamins and amino acids that you need.
Ben: Yeah. I use colostrum as a staple in my diet. I don't use it all the time because it is a pretty potent–and this is actually useful for muscle gain, it's a pretty potent insulin-like growth factor precursor and can increase growth hormone even in people who don't want to take growth hormone injections or like athletes who can't because they're competing in sports that are sanctioned for doping and growth hormone is banned. Colostrum is amazing for that as well but it's also why I cycle it, like I want to do kind of press-pull cycling to have my body go into higher mTOR activation, higher IGF-1, and then I kind of cycle it off to go back into cellular autophagy and clean up. But I mean, man, I'll let you continue explaining how amazing colostrum is. We keep going.
Niraj: Yeah, yeah. So, it's really good for digestive health. The reason why is very simple principle. The cows are given colostrum by the mother because baby calves; they don't have a perfectly formed digestive tract yet. So, the colostrum comes in and allows the cow to actually use normal food that the adult cow would have. Same thing for humans; humans, the first meal that you're going to drink is colostrum, and the colostrum comes down and it actually gives us our first immune system, it gives us the first fully formed digestive tract so that we can actually digest food better.
Now, the cool thing is is that if you didn't get enough colostrum as a baby–and I actually saw this coloration actually like mothers who didn't breastfeed their babies for long enough or just didn't breastfeed them at all because Nestle also made a big campaign to get to fool everyone into using powdered milk instead of colostrum and first milk and breastfeeding. And so, what happened was there's a whole nation–actually in Africa, this actually happened where mothers were deluded into using Nestle instead of breastfeeding their babies. And then, so many children were born with problems in Africa. This was a horrible thing to happen, but this is also happening in the U.K., America even to this day.
I actually didn't fully get as much colostrum as I should have got. I know a lot of people who have also colitis have had some of that issue. And the quality of the colostrum is also important. So, your mother's emotional state will have impact the quality of the colostrum that you get. The cool thing is that you can actually use cow colostrum. You can use bovine colostrum. So, cow colostrum is a perfect translation into humans. The cow produces four times the amount of colostrum that the calf needs. So, farmers extract the excess, which they then put into banks to actually give to calves that are not getting enough because the mother is not producing enough for some reason.
So, then the excess of that is then taken, freeze-dried and used for human consumption. So, no calf is harmed in the process. That means that we can now use cow colostrum as a healing tool for all these issues that are now being more, more prevalent, which is especially digestive tract related gut issues, IBS, leaky gut. Leaky gut is a huge problem that people are just still not fully aware of, especially doctors. And this is what I had. I had like stress-induced leaky gut syndrome, which I think triggered then also colitis and the colostrum was magic. It's so powerful. But again, I'm like you, I don't take it all the time. I take it now and then.
Ben: What about dosage on colostrum? Are there any standardizations with dosage? I mean, for you as a pharmacist, I'm sure stuff like that is important.
Niraj: Yeah, yeah, super important. Basically, you have to get the right source of colostrum. The colostrum has to be full fat, whole fat colostrum because that's where most of the nutrition is contained in the colostrum is the fat. And the fat is also essential for you to absorb the nutrients properly. So, there's a lot of colostrum out there, different brands, and majority of it actually is where the fat has been removed and it's not going to be as effective. I've tried those brands. They don't work anywhere near as good as full fat, whole fat colostrum.
That's the first thing. You need to go for that. And you need big doses. In the beginning, you want two or three massive tablespoons and you want to take it raw, so not with anything else, you put it in your mouth like the whole tablespoon. And it's a bit weird at first because the texture of it is quite clumpy, so it's a bit dry.
Ben: Are you doing a powder?
Niraj: Powder, yeah. I was going to recommend powders, actually. But some people, they need the caps because if you really want to get it into the intestines, you need the caps. So, the caps can–some companies make enteric coated caps. That helps. And some people have problems with swallowing and things like that. The reason why I prefer to use the powder is because a lot of the colostrum is absorbed in the guts–sorry, not in the gut, in the gums. So, you put it into the —
Ben: The gums. Really?
Niraj: Yeah, yeah. This is the thing that not people know too much. You put into the gums and you just swallow it. You let it stick into your mouth or you make it into a little bowl and you just leave it and suck it for about 5/10 minutes, and then you swallow it. And then it kind of absorbs a bit through your gums because the gums are great absorption source so that your stomach acid doesn't kind of destroy or denature it. And then the rest, because you create like a saliva ball, the saliva ball can allow it to pass better through the gut into the intestines.
Ben: Well, howdy-ho, I want to interrupt today's show to tell you about this wonderful, wonderful beverage that my friend Drew Canole has invented in his mad secret scientist labs in San Diego. It's called Organifi Gold but it's not the traditional gold I've talked about before. They have listened to their customers who are apparently all chocolate addicts and they've turned this gold, which is kind of similar to like the golden juice milk that you can get for $16 a freaking bottle at Whole Foods or the golden milk latte you can get at Starbucks that fills your body with chemicals of all varieties.
This is like a homemade, very inexpensive premix chocolate version of that but it's all healthy. It's ginger, reishi mushroom, lemon balm and turkey tail, so it's really nice for the evening as an anti-inflammatory and relaxant. And then, they added turmeric and black pepper extract and a lot of really rich chocolate flavor too. So, it's all plant medicines from nature blended with chocolate. It's good stuff. So, you drink this at night, sip away at it instead of having your giant fishbowl-sized glass of wine and your dark chocolate bar. You know who you are. Okay. So, you get a 20% discount. You go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/Organifi, Organifi with an I, and use the discount code mentioned there.
I would also like to highlight to you the benefits of infrared light, particularly infrared light in a sauna. I have a sauna that is, unlike most infrared saunas, not one that microwaves your body because they use what's called EMF shielding technology, meaning it blocks all the electromagnetic fields that can be harmful. But it's also a sauna that generates these really–they're very concentrated forms of infrared that causes you to break out in this sweat that detoxes your body because your skin is your largest detoxification organ from metals and chemicals and toxins. You may heat shock proteins if you stay in there 20 or 30 minutes, which increases your cellular resilience.
There's, of course, the well-known Finnish sauna that shows that regular sauna use reduces your overall risk for mortality and Alzheimer's significantly. There's immune support. There's stress reduction. You sleep better. And not only that, but you get 500 bucks off by being a listener of today's show and their lifetime warranty on these saunas. You go to healwithheat.com and the code that you use over there is BENGREENFIELD. That's healwithheat.com and you use code BENGREENFIELD.
Hey, by the way also, I should let you know, I'm headed over to L.A. I'm going to be in L.A. January 25th through the 30th. And among other fun shenanigans, I'll be at in L.A., I am giving a talk at this place called NextHealth in Century City Mall at L.A. It's kind of like an upgraded biohacking facility if you will, and I'll be giving a talk there. It's free. It's open to the public. You can just go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/calendar to see that and all the details of it. And as I promised in the podcast I did with NextHealth last week, which you can listen to at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/nexthealth, that's BenGreenfieldFitness.com/nexthealth, I mentioned that I would be dialing in all of my listeners who are in the L.A. area, who want to travel to the L.A. area to hear this talk.
I spoke to the owner of SunLife Organics, which is across the hallway in the mall from NextHealth, and they agreed to give anybody who comes to listen to my talk one of their billion-dollar meals which are those billion-dollar smoothies you've heard me talk about with every superfood known to man shoved into this bowl. So, you can skip dinner or you can just grab your billion-dollar meal and come over to NextHealth and hear me talk. Mention my name; they'll give you a 10% discount. So, instead of being a billion dollars, it's nine hundred and–what's that come out to? I guess it's just $900 million if you get 10% discount on a billion-dollar bowl. No, it knocks the price off significantly. So, mention my name. Come hear me talk, L.A. Check out BenGreenfieldFitness.com/calendar for more on that.
That's interesting because I know some people, there's one product–I think it's called sovereign colostrum that is popular on Amazon. It's like a liposomal delivery. It sounds like if you're kind of like letting it sit in your mouth as you've described, that that type of delivery mechanism might not be 100% necessary.
Niraj: Yeah, yeah, maybe. I just think that you shouldn't adulterate colostrum. It should be exactly how it comes. Obviously, you got to freeze-dry it, but I think that you shouldn't change it. I don't know about sovereign. I think they're one of the defatted ones but I just don't think you should remove the fat. That's all, yeah.
Ben: Alright. Well, if people go to the shownotes, just go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/renegade. I'll put links to a few different forms of colostrum up there, as well as I'll get an erogenous info on the one that he takes and include a link to that as well in the shownotes for you guys.
I know that we really want to focus on breath work but before we take a deep dive into breath work, in addition to colostrum, were there other Ayurvedic strategies that you found to be particularly effective for gut issues brought on by stress?
Niraj: Yeah. So, Ayurveda actually is a whole complete kind of medical science. It's a holistic science from India. It has thousands of years of history to it. You have to understand Ayurveda from a perspective of the mind and body are one. You can't separate the mind and body. The most chronic diseases like long-term disease, a disruption in the spiritual nature of a person. So, when you go off your spiritual alignment, it's usually when you start to feel a lot of negative emotions. So, fear, grief, sorrow, sadness, if you hold onto anger, grudges, if you blame, if you're blaming kind of person, which I was at that time. I hated the world, man. I had lost my love for the planet. I really become disillusioned. I stopped believing in God or the higher power. All of these things led to me getting really sick.
And so, the first thing with Ayurveda is to regain your emotional balance. And actually, Ayurveda is all about balance. It's about creating a balance and harmony in your system. The thing with Ayurveda is that there will be–it's like a prescription. So, you'd have yogic postures, you'd have pranayama techniques, you'd have different kind of diet protocols based on your energy types. So, Ayurveda takes into account that you're not all the same. Everyone's an individual and not one-size-fits-all.
The problem with modern medicine is reductionist scientific way of looking at the world and putting averages on everyone is that actually, it's completely against what the human nature is. Humans are irrational or illogical and we are not–we can't be compartmentalized into averages and numbers because what's your average cholesterol or what's high for you may be low for me, and what's a good blood pressure for you may be completely different from me. So, this reductionist scientific view completely doesn't work. There are so many side effects caused by drugs and by creating averages and things like that. So, the Ayurveda takes into account that we all have characteristics, and through those characteristics, you can work out your personality type, your energy type. And through that, you can create more of a holistic approach to the health. So, you can work out exactly the right kinds of foods for someone like yourself who's a very strong pitta energy, a fire entrepreneurial driven, strong muscular physique.
Ben: You can know that? Because you've never done like an analysis on me. You just know that?
Niraj: I can do that from just your voice, by looking at your presence.
Ben: And you are spot-on. I've read many Ayurvedic books and taken many Ayurvedic quizzes and I am full on pitta.
Niraj: Yeah. So, I can tell that from just your appearance. But it goes a bit deeper in Ayurveda. So, you may have certain mind traits that makes you more vata at certain situations. So, your energy types also are changed by how stress affects you as well. So, in Ayurveda, there are a lot of questions to figure out who you are. There's a lot of series of self-inquiry to know thyself. And by knowing thyself, actually, everything becomes a lot more clear. And you then realize actually, there is no pill for every ill but there's definitely an ill following every pill. And that's the problem that we have in the medical system is that people are too reliant on pills without looking at the whole approach to what makes you healthy and happy.
Actually, Ayurveda begins with answering this question and this is actually the principles, like the most important question of all that you should ask yourself every single morning. Am I waking up with absolute enthusiasm to do a hard day's work? Because you don't want to be sitting idle either and being lazy because that's not healthy, but to actually do hard day's work. Are you waking up enthusiastic? So, if you're waking up feeling like you have to do something to survive, and that's like most of your life, then it's going to lead to chronic stress, you're going to get sick. That's just how it is. It's what happened to me. It happens to so many people.
But the people I know who are super enthusiastic for life, they love what they do, they work really hard. They don't take supplements. I mean, they don't follow strict diets or regimes. They drink loads. They smoke when they want. They do what they want but they love what they do. And I have friends like that who live into their 70s and 80s.
Ben: That's very, very common. If you look at, for example, what National Geographic–and I'll link to it in the shownotes because–you could find it for free on YouTube. They have a wonderful documentary called, “The Age of Aging,” I think is what it's called. One of the things they touched on there is the idea that many of these centenarians and Blue Zones are living a long time not because of their lifestyle practices but despite their lifestyle practices, they are equipped with a series of genes for everything from limited responsiveness to excess growth hormone, which you already touched on with age. Meaning, they produce growth hormone, they just become less responsive to it as they get older to genes that protect them against like high amounts of the cholesterol variant Lp(a) to a host of, even like immune system modulating genes in the gut. These folks are just, as unfair as it may sound, genetically hardwired to live a long time.
I mean, it's almost like–for me, a close to home example is my wife. Her blood work is always just flawless. She doesn't really do much to take care of–this isn't like any supplements or anything like that but she's got these Hardy Montana Rancher jeans where people–her grandparents lived into their, I think late 90s or early 100s just basically taking care of skinny cattle out in freaking Bozeman. So, yeah, it is very interesting how many of these things are not necessarily connected to time spent in a hyperbaric oxygen therapy chamber or time spent getting an NAD/IV like a lot of this stuff is genetic. And also, as you've alluded to from the emotional standpoint, very relationship-based, like you're going to live longer for smoking your cigarette while you're playing poker with a bunch of your buddies or girlfriends or family members at night. It's very paradoxical but it's fascinating.
Niraj: Yeah. And the other thing is like–the next question I think is actually equally important and that is, do you wake up feeling like you want to be compassionate to other people or do you do it because you have to be compassionate? It's like “wanting” versus “have to” to survive. When I was in the pharmacy, I actually had nothing in common with anyone that I worked with. They were all very negative and I just faked being nice to people even though I just couldn't stand being where I was, and it was all fake and I wasn't really genuinely compassionate. That again is going to make you sick if you're in that environment all the time where you don't like anyone, you have grudges with people, you're angry about things and situation. You got to get out of that situation and find the place that is your right environment because you become your environment.
That's one of the biggest things in Ayurveda is that we are a community, alright? If you look at the evolution of human beings, we started off as tiny single-cell organisms. They multiplied and became organized cells, and they're community of cells and then they suddenly formed fishes and then amphibians and then land mammals and then became us. But we're still–all we are is an organism. There is a community of cells, intelligent cells with a consciousness. Each cell has consciousness also.
So, we're a collective consciousness of many tiny little cells. So, with that said, we have to look at each one of ourselves with equality, like the cells actually of our body, the human cells is not all that we have. We actually possess I think three or four times more than just our human cells, bacterial cells. So, what are we really? Are we bacteria or are we human? What are we? But we actually are like a symbiotic harmony of trillions of cells all living in harmony each other. This is a great line that I love from a doctor who is very, very dear to my heart. It's Dr. Hegde from India. He's one of the top doctors in India using his —
Ben: How are you spelling his name?
Niraj: Dr. Hegde, H-E-G-D-E. I really urge everyone, anyone who's interested in anything to do with health to check out stuff.
Ben: Okay. I'll hunt them down and include that in the shownotes.
Niraj: Yeah, yeah. He's a top dude. Basically, he says this really beautiful line which is that what's the first two letters of “wellness?” It's “we.” What's the first letter of “illness?” “I.” So, people are very I-focused, very much all about their “me, me, I, I, I” egotistical. They tend to get sick more than the people who are more community-based. We focus who were like always contributing and looking out to help other people. We are a collective consciousness of many different cells. So, we should also treat our environment like that. We should build community.
It's one of the reasons that I live in Thailand now because I run this big conscious music fest over here, run all these and treats. And I'm surrounded by so many like-minded people. We're all into the same things. It's a big wellness community here, probably the biggest concentration of people into wellness that I found in the world. We have so much in common. It's just I have so many friends as compared to back at home. I was sick all the time and it was just me and I used to be so kind of introvert and I'd hardly talk to anyone all day long and then I'll go home and I'll be on my computer and I got sick. It's no surprise that people are getting sick, being so lonely, nuclear families and stuff. Johann Hari, another guy, great stuff on depression. He wrote a whole book on this about depression, about how the community is secure and how getting back into community and having a sense of belonging is the cure for depression. It's so true, so true.
Ben: Yeah. That's interesting. By the way, when you say–they say Hari, you made me think of something I wanted to bring up way back when you were talking about some of the issues with sugar and GMOs and chemicals and additives in what you were finding in the U.K. There's this author named Vani Hari, and this is fresh in my mind because I just finished her book yesterday called, “Feeding You Lies.” It's kind of shocking because she goes in that book about how some of the key American brands like Kellogg's and Pepsi and General Mills and Kraft, they actually are creating what could be argued are much healthier versions of their packaged foods and their fast foods in the United Kingdom versus the United States.
Meaning like McDonald's French fries in the U.K., basically it's like potatoes, some sunflower oil and dextrose, and then they use a little salt after cooking. And then if you look in the U.S., they're allowed to use potatoes, canola oil, citric acid, dextrose, hydrogenated soybean oil, then they use something called dimethylpolysiloxane as an anti-foaming agent. They can add so many extra things because we're so much more lax in the U.S. with what's allowed into foods. I mean, you think it's bad in the U.K. And for any of you listening in, I'll link to this book in the shownotes at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/renegade.
I'm having my kids read it now so that they're a little bit more aware of what's in some of the things that are served over at their school lunch program at their school because even at their school, it's not flawless and it is shocking. I know it's a complete kind of rabbit hole but when you brought up Hari, it jogged my mind that I wanted to mention that as well. It's just nuts.
Niraj: I think she's the food babe, right?
Ben: Yeah, the food babe. Very controversial, fearmonger, but the book is pretty good.
Ben: Anyways though, I want to make sure that we kind of steer the direction of the conversation now towards what I really wanted to hear a little bit more from you on, and that is this idea of what I think you call soma, S-O-M-A, because this intrigues me. It's very related to this breathwork protocol from your–you have like a 21-day breath program and I've got–I think it's from week three. I have one of those audios on my MP3 player that I do in the sauna. I'd love to take a deep dive into soma, what that is, and how that originated.
Niraj: Yes. Okay. So, soma is actually–it's something that's referenced to over 50,000 times in the Rigveda. Rigveda is the oldest religious manuscript that exists and its roots are from the ancient Indus civilization, which is the origins of yoga, Buddhism, meditation, all these things. If you imagine like thousand, thousand, thousand years ago, nobody quite knows exactly when, that there was a time where there was a golden age on the planet. There are far few people on the planet. It's like the Garden of Eden kind of story.
There are far few people on the planet and people lived in harmony with nature. There were these shamanic kinds of people called Rishis who would–they would basically bring the knowledge of civilization to the people there, and they would revel in this psychedelic ritual called soma. Soma has many different hypothesized substances. So, one is the amanita muscaria, magic mushroom, the red and white thistle. Another one is it could be the Kush cannabis, this indica cannabis which is like if you take a bit of that, you reach super enlightened states with it as well. But then there's the blue lotus. So, you see like in some of the Hindu kind of paintings and murals, you'll see Krishna on like a lily, a lotus–a lily or a lotus coming out of the background. Well, the blue lotus, believe it or not, is full of DMT. So, if you produce it in the right way, it's actually a psychedelic plant.
Ben: I remember you told me this. Keep going. This is interesting.
Niraj: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, there are a few hypothesized ideas of what it could be, but what happens is according to the legend is that as humans start to spread out across the land, they start to explore different parts of the world, the soma inevitably starts to run out because it grows in certain areas. And because the Rishis are the sowed whoops on this, one of the chief Rishis, the god, everyone was considered a god then, so god Indra, he goes crazy and tells everyone, “You must go inward to discover how to play the soma within because we can't be dependent on this substance anymore through our bliss.”
So, that is basically the origins of tantra. So, tantra is the original art of moving energy through the body to create the bliss molecule, the spirit molecule, the DMT, the dopamine, the serotonin, the tryptamines that gives you all the feel-good psychedelic experiences and generally raises your mood up to that level of bliss. So, that's basically the origin story of these ancient practices now become so popular around the world, but people have forgotten actually the real meaning behind it all.
Ben: So, soma originally was a plant. It was like an Ayurvedic plant considered to have like this great, great power to be able to heal you spiritually or enable you to be able to kind of like access different dimensions, or perhaps very similar to psilocybin or LSD or the other mushroom, the amanita mushroom, to be able to dissolve the ego to a certain extent. There are a lot of hypotheses around which, like what the soma plant was or was soma just basically a category into which a lot of these plants like marijuana or blue lotus would fall?
Niraj: I would say it's more likely to be a kind of a category of different psychedelic rituals that people do.
Ben: That's very interesting.
Niraj: Yeah. And you'd use this to go into the spirit world. I don't know if you don't know ayahuasca I had a one-on-one conversation with an angel goddess for like four hours. So, I can understand where all this comes from because I've done semi-psychedelic, pretty extreme doses in some places.
Ben: Yeah. That blue lotus, by the way, that you told me about, it's very interesting because it's actually a very potent aphrodisiac when I was–I think shortly after or before I was talking with you about it, I think we were talking about this in the sauna about how it can be used in combination with psilocybin, like if you make yourself–even if you're micro-dosing with psilocybin and you make yourself like a tea in the morning, typically 0.1 to 0.2 grams of psilocybin, you put a couple drops of a really good blue lotus essential oil in there. I use the one from essential oil wizardry. Vastly increases probably because of the DMT release that you alluded to the sensory perception that you get from it. But also, because it's such a potent aphrodisiac, I mean like before sex, for example, that is absolutely amazing.
The guys at the Human Garage when I was there getting a treatment once, one guy was talking about how he started using blue lotus as kind of like a cologne. He put some on his wrist in the back of his neck when he'd go out and his dog started humping his leg and then he actually got–he had that happen two other times with two other dogs. Meaning that it's not just humans for which the aphrodisiac effect is elicited with the use of this blue lotus but also apparently the animal kingdom. Just a fun fact for people for cocktail parties, just be careful. There are no dogs around when you're on blue lotus cologne. So, anyways, I'm totally derailing you but that's the origin story of soma.
Niraj: Yeah, yeah, yeah. That's basically it. Then obviously people who hooked on it. I see a lot of people now hooked on ayahuasca, hooked on mushroom or whatever, that cannabis. There are so many people using these substances when–they're doing out of context. Back then, there was a ritual. There was a ritual to speak to God [00:57:14] ______. But now people are doing it as a way to numb their senses and escape.
Ben: Yeah. And we should clarify, by the way, that what you've just alluded to, that would be like trip dosing. I actually don't feel that you need to have set in setting for a microdose that you're using to say, “Get through a day where–” like for me, if I have a very intense day of writing, I will use something like that to enhance my left and right brain hemispheric activity and kind of merge creativity with logical thinking. But when you're looking at a trip dose like ayahuasca or, “Hey, I've got a free day today to walk around the city. I'm going to take mushrooms and make it fun.” I know people that do things like that, and you're right, it reduces and almost kind of bastardizes the deep spiritual meaning and the ability to be able to tap into a lot of these kinds of stronger Ayurvedic principles that you've alluded to when it comes to the use of these. I mean, it needs to be done responsibly.
And as Steven Kotler and Jamie will talk about in their book, “Stealing Fire,” it's very hedonistic. It's not something you do all the time. There actually is a pretty intense–and you would know this being a pharmacist, there's a pretty intense neurotransmitter flood that occurs of dopamine and serotonin and you can F yourself up from a neurotransmitter balance point of view by just using this kind of stuff willy-nilly to go find yourself every week.
Niraj: Yeah, I totally agree with that. So, that's why this legend story is so profound in my opinion because it really speaks a lot about what's going on right now. The soma, you could say, the external somas are like the drugs, the substances. The TV is one, the entertainment industry, they're all the distractions in the world, you could say, as external somas. But the internal soma is the inner pharmacy. So, what the Rishis discovered was they're actually, by going inwards, they discovered that through these practices, tantra basically is very much focused on breath work, and pranayama is–if you imagine, tantra and yoga were like the first things and then pranayama became a school of its own. Ayurveda came out of it. Buddhist and meditation all came out as branches of kind of tantra and yoga.
So, one of the branches of yoga–there are many branches of yoga, hatha yoga. So, in hatha yoga, it's the practices, the special practices like pranayama of changing your energetic state, your emotional state using breath, because the Rishis discovered that actually the breath is the one thing that we all have conscious control over, but also it runs on autopilot. So, we can let it run on aside. But because of that, it means we can tap into the autonomic nervous system. And through the autonomic nervous system, we can actually wake up, awaken the inner pharmacy. So, we actually have every single substance that exists in nature pretty much, already contained within us and through the breath and different yoga asanas and you eating the right things and things like that, we can actually–and meditation, we can actually change our physiological states. So, we can make our own blood pressure medication, we can make our own antidepressants, we can make our own pain relievers, we can do all of the things that pharmacists give us as drugs but without side effects.
And here's the thing, scientists for a long time have educated the world into believing that we have no power of the autonomic nervous system. I mean, I can show you if–I do have a video on this where I show people how to do it, where I can raise my heart rate, at will, up by 20, 25, 30 beats per minute and lower it by 20, 30 beats per minute. And I can show anyone how to do it, which completely proves all of that wrong, and then we have absolute abilities to tap into autonomic nervous system.
Ben: Oh, absolutely. Not just the autonomic nervous system but the immune system. And when you look at the study, I think it was last year in the summer, the one that Wim Hof, who I know you're friends with and who you do some work with, the effects of cold exposure and breathing techniques on immune response in which they found that the meditation element along with the cold and breath work element resulted in a significant amount of immunomodulation, particularly increases in plasma, adrenaline levels, and a decrease in anti-inflammatory cytokines. And this was inflammation that they elicited.
When you talk about gut issues, many of them are linked to this lipopolysaccharide, this endotoxin that's released in–it can be aggravated from a leaky gut, and of course, a high-fat high-sugar diet can aggravate it even more. But human endotoxemia, in this study, was actually shown to be controlled via breath work and cold and meditation. And I'll link to that study in the shownotes, but I think a lot of this stuff.
I don't want to sound like a conspiracy theorist but I think that much of it, because it's so free, like it couldn't be more free to sit down outside in the cold close your eyes and do 15 minutes of breath work that, A, people don't really find it that sexy or intriguing because you don't have to buy something, and B, it's honestly not going to make any supplement company or pharmaceutical company much money.
Niraj: Exactly. And that's actually where–that's the problem. That's the biggest problem is this unconscious capitalism which is just based on greed and power, which has educated everyone out of things that are really useful and important and made shit on our money for drug companies like trillions of dollars. I mean, another example is this whole cholesterol myth and the fact that they say the saturated fat causes heart disease. All of that has made the huge industry, the sugar industry booming, and the statin industry is booming. But if you mess up with the cholesterol in the body, human body's production of cholesterol, we are mostly fat, right? Sixty percent of our brain is cholesterol.
So, if you actually stop the body from making it, what happens? You get Alzheimer's, you get dementia, you get the problems of hormonal imbalances, you get all these problems on metabolic diseases, diabetes, all of them–actually, you get 50% more chance, risk of getting diabetes if you take statins. So, we are making nations of diabetics right now. It's one of the biggest problems in the world, and it's because everyone's taking these stupid pills that they don't need. Whereas, I can tell people how to change their stress levels, make their own blood pressure medication instantly, like literally, really within minutes, I can lower somebody's blood pressure just by showing them a couple of breathing. I can show you how to raise your core body temperature. In two minutes, you'd raise your core body temperature.
Ben: Since this is an audio podcast, and we can explain this to people, give me a practical example of a way in which you would use breathing to change your physiology. Maybe one of the shorter examples for the purpose of this podcast, and just in case folks are driving, if you are operating heavy machinery or something like that and Niraj demonstrates something here via audio, you may want to pull over or at least stay cognizant of your awareness levels.
Niraj: Totally. So, it's so simple. It's almost too simple that people don't believe it's possible, okay? But if you had a pulse oximeter on you and you put it onto your finger and you could measure your heart rate right now, I don't know if you have one handy, but basically, what you want to do–okay, if you want to create that burst of adrenaline at will right now, all you need to do is you breathe. So, when you breathe, let this simple principle, when you breathe in, your heart rate goes up. When you breathe out, your heart rate goes down. But when you breathe in and you employ the most sacred component in yoga, which is the Mula Bandha, Mula Bandha is activated by contracting your sphincter muscles up or contracting the muscles you'd use where if you really need to go for pee, if you're going to hold in your pee, you imagine it's like you're sucking something up your ass. I know that sounds gross but–
Ben: No. I got it. I'm doing it right now. I get what you're saying.
Niraj: Yeah, yeah, yeah. You basically breathe in and hold and keep squeezing, right? And what will happen is your heart rate will start going up. You'll start producing the heat in the body and you will also produce that short burst of adrenaline. Initially in, I would say, less than a minute, your heart rate will go up by 20 beats per minute. You'll produce adrenaline. You'll [01:06:26] ______ anti-inflammatory effects in the body and other things can happen as well. Your metabolism goes up.
A few things change just by doing what I just told you. And here's the thing. People who get constipation and people who are considered uptight because they're a little bit anal–you know all those words, anal, uptight, there's a reason for that, because all their blood pressure is high. The reason why is because they're contracting their anus all the time, or they've got constipation. So, stimulating this Mula Bandha region.
Ben: Or they can't parasympathetically activate it when they're actually on the toilet. [01:07:07] ______. So, that's one of the reasons people get constipation when they travel. You're so sympathetically activated. Actually, when we were in Estonia, I was talking with Eric Edmeades about this, one of the guys who is there teaching with us at the Mindvalley event, and he told me his trick after he's traveled and he is constipated is he focuses his gaze on the horizon and basically breathes out for very long periods of time with shorter inhales and it kind of just relaxes everything down there.
Niraj: Yeah. That's the opposite side. So, this was stimulating the sympathetic nervous system. And what happens is when you do the Mula Bandha technique and you release it, it will immediately stimulate bradycardia where your heart rate will go lower than normal. So, it will go down and your blood pressure drops and become stabilized. So, it's like a reset switch for your nervous system, okay?
Now, the flipside of that is actually, we can–by extending our exhalation, that's why Eric's thing works. By doing om, for example, the om chant, “Ommm,” what you're doing is you're extending exhalation. What do Tibetan Tuvan singers do, they, “Eyyy.” And they do that for a long time, right? By doing that, you'll stimulate your paraspinal nervous system, your blood pressure goes down, you stimulate the vagus nerve if you–there are certain ways to stimulate your vagus nerve. One is converging your eyes. So, you're looking at your nose, for example, alright? That stimulates the vagus nerve.
So, I like to do yoga by converging my eyes because it just works really well with yoga. And the other thing is that putting a finger up your ass, believe it or not. One of the tantric practices is to de-armor the prostate and you put a finger up the ass, basically. And you're basically–
Ben: So, you mean like while you're having sex, you'd put your finger up your partner's ass or you would do that up your own ass?
Niraj: Oh, you could do it to your partner's ass. Yeah. Why not?
Niraj: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, these are just things that the yogis discover. There are ways we can actually influence the vagus nerve, passing the nervous system, lower heart rate, lower blood pressure, not get stress, switch stress off because we don't have off switch with stress like animals have. We store a lot of stress in the body because if you think about it, a thousand years ago, we had an autonomic nervous system that served us very well because it does exactly what the [01:09:39] ______ is designed to do.
When you're being attacked by a lion or a tiger in the jungle, you need a quick mechanism to defend or run away. However, now, nowadays, we are in concrete jungles and those lions and tigers and bears are replaced by deadlines, bosses, jobs that you don't want to do and relationships that aren't working. And we can't escape that stress. We're constantly surrounded by that environment because we're not going to go and kill our boss. We're not going to run away from work and never come back, some people do, but we're not going to do that on a mass scale. So, most of us are wallowing around in stress hormones with no off switch of stress.
So, this is why I created soma. Soma is really going back to the roots of where the ancient origins of pranayama come from, where tantra comes from, yoga comes from. I'm going back to the ancient traditional style of yoga. So, before the yoga industrial complex, which we have now, which has taken yoga and taken out of context and made into a fitness thing which it really wasn't–it's a spiritual thing to create bliss and to tap into your physiology and to do cool stuff with your body and reaching God. It was a way or route to the divine. But that's kind of in taking out of context in this day.
So, I wanted to really go back to the ancient roots and I've kind of curated a lot of knowledge from my swami. I have curated our knowledge from my teacher in the Himalayas who's a doctor who told me a lot of the science behind all of this stuff, spending time with Wim.
Ben: Of Wim Hof.
Niraj: Wim's example of this. Yeah, Wim Hof. Then what I've done is I've created a system which is based on all these ancient [01:11:38] ______. It has the evidence, science of evidence with breath being the main component, because if you think about it, what the Rishis were doing, they were doing this practice, which I call the soma awakening. There's this ritual that I've created, which is rhythmic breathing followed by kumbhaka techniques. Kumbhaka is like breath retention where you're doing an intimate and hypoxic training bodily.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. By the way, when I'm in the sauna doing your audio, because I just put it on my MP3 player, so it's like your voice with choreographed music like this kind of deep spiritual music driving me through it but then your voice is there and you'll be doing one, two, three, four, out, two, three, four. And I'll do that for several minutes and then you have me release all the air. I'm trying to remember if I take the deep breath in and then release all the air. Do you remember? Or do I do the full exhale?
Niraj: Yeah, yeah, yeah. You do the full exhale first. As long as you can, you repeat that several times to really create that hypoxic–
Ben: Yeah. And then it gets faster and faster like I'm going one, two, one, two, in, out, in, out. It's intense, but dude, it pushes the reboot button on your whole body. And like I mentioned, it's the highest I get without the use of any synthetic chemicals or anything like that. It's nuts.
Niraj: And that's like the week three, yeah.
Ben: Okay. Yeah. So, that's in week three. Walk me through this, like if people take this soma breathwork course to learn how to do this to their own bodies, it's almost like–it could be useful to Wim Hof style breathwork but there's not really the cold component, like you're not like the Wim Hof program going out and doing cold soaks or walking outside barefoot as you do this. It's all kind of like just focused on the breathwork. But as people are going through this series, how long does it actually take to learn all these techniques? How's the program actually work?
Niraj: I mean, it's not rocket science. It's always super easy to learn the things. Basically, you're learning the core ritual, I believe. I think I've revived it. And the ancient Rishis called it kumbhaka. So, rechaka kumbhaka, okay? And you do bhastrikā followed by rechaka kumbhaka, which is basically rhythmic breathing where you are breathing out carbon oxide, breathing in oxygen but you're creating a coherent state with rhythm because you're doing it to rhythm. And that rhythm where you're breathing in perfectly for four–like in a rhythm, to music, to a beat, to pulse, basically creates a staple coherence.
HeartMath actually has done a lot of studies on and showed that actually, your electromagnetic field of the heart radiates more. You connect more to other people who are also breathing in that same rhythm. If you ever done anything like NLP, one of the core foundational teachings of NLP is that when you model somebody's behavior, if you can match their breathing, you become more in rapport with them.
So, the same thing happens. I run these big breathwork ceremonies where everyone's breathing in a rhythm and people naturally just connect with each other a lot more by doing it. It's amazing like the vibe it generates. So, the first bit is all about learning to breathe in a rhythm and to do this as more of a daily habit as well. But this whole awakening ritual is designed. So, you do the rhythm breathing, which is bhastrikā followed by two different types of kumbhaka, where it's the breath retention out, rechaka, and then puraka, breath retention in. And this combination, what it does is it follows this intermittent hypoxic training protocol, which has been studied a great length by the Russians.
The Russian Soviet is very competitive. They wanted to make their athletes the best in the world. And also, what happened was in the Mexican Olympics in the '80s, which was done at high altitude, people are winning records in the front center. So, I wanted to know why. It's because training on high altitude trains you to be super efficient at using oxygen.
Now, here's the thing. We've been deluded into believing that oxygen is this super essential thing that is scarce and that we need to get as much of it as possible. It's actually the opposite. We actually have too much oxygen and that's actually the cause of a lot of the problems in the world. And oxygen [01:16:10] ______ stress in the body.
Ben: That confuses a lot of people because oxygen is supposed to like–they have oxygen bars and there are oxygen sprays. A lot of times when you go to high altitude cities and you go on skiing, there are oxygen sprays. There are hyperbaric oxygen therapy chambers that concentrate the oxygen under pressure. That's confusing to people when you say oxygen can be deleterious. What do you mean by that?
Niraj: Yeah, yeah. I know this is very, very confusing. So, oxygen–okay, let me just do it in a very simple analogy. Imagine in your cell, there's a furnace of fire. It's your mitochondria. The mitochondria in the cell produce energy in the form of ATP. What happens is oxygen burns with glucose, the wood, the coal, to produce ATP energy, which is fire. Okay. Let's say it's fire. Too much fire produces damage. Look at the California wildfires, lots of oxygen, too much fire, boom, you get cell damage from oxygen stress, free radical damage, reactive oxygen species. All of these things get produced too much if you have too much oxygen going into cells.
And if you have too little, the fire doesn't burn at all. So, what you want is super efficient mitochondria that you need the least amount of oxygen to burn efficiently. Alright? That's what pranayama is. Pranayama means energy control, “prana,” “yama.” It's two words, alright? So, by doing these special breathing techniques where you're simulating high altitude, you actually train your mitochondria to become super efficient using as little oxygen as possible. So, if you look at why did the yogis go and live in Himalayas, why is the Nepalese Army, the Gurkha Army, one of the strongest armies in the world–if not the strongest because they live up in the Himalayas and they're trained at high altitude.
So, these are all these principles. You can see, you can observe it out there already. And by dissecting that, you can understand now biologically what's going on. So, actually, by doing these breathing techniques over in soma, you actually train yourself to become super efficient using as little oxygen as possible.
So, firstly, what that does is your body adapts to having less the normal oxygen. That alone, through intermittent hypoxia, it stimulates the production of more red blood cells. It improves more blood flow around the body. Your capillaries basically wake up. You get more blood flow to your brain as well. And that can actually wake up dormant parts of the brain. You get better blood flow to your heart.
Actually, this is another phenomenon that has now been discovered that is that actually, coronary collaterals [01:18:49] ______. It's like your natural heart bypasses are produced under hypoxic conditions. Your heart basically will produce its own capillaries to go against if you get a blockage in the capillary. And actually, your heart is very adaptive. Over time, it may lose its ability. But basically, when you do these hypoxic training protocols and you simulate it through breath, by breath retention, the Russians did it through machines, hypoxic machines, which simulate high altitude training, cost loads of money, thousands of dollars and all this stuff.
But the yogis knew thousand years ago, just by holding your breath for a few minutes a day in the right way, you actually create the same effect. And through that, you become stronger, you become fitter, you become healthier, you get better blood flow, and you become really efficient using mitochondria. And the same thing with yoga asanas. So, yoga asanas, what they do is they–firstly, they also [01:19:51] ______. So, that's another side to it. But the most important thing of all is–okay, imagine if you contract your bicep. So, yoga is a static contraction where you're going to be contracting muscles to the point of exhaustion. The reason why there's a lot of problems in yoga and why it's not being taught properly is because it's been taught as an aerobic exercise when it never should have been. It should be anaerobic. So, if you contract your bicep for a long period of time–and there's another form of exercise that backs us up which a lot of people talk about. I know you've talked about this, functional isometric contraction or functional isometric training.
So, it's where you're doing like exercise where you're doing maximum contraction effort to the point of exhaustion, where your muscles are contracting and there's no more blood flow going to that muscle. So, when you shut off the supply of blood flow to that muscle, the muscle is forced to use its nutrition that it's got available, its myoglobin. All of those suppliers have to be used up. And when you do it where you're shutting off the blood supply because you're constantly contracting, it means then the body creates a hypoxic state in the muscle, and that triggers the release of stem cells out of areas of low oxygen–
Ben: Stem cells, and also growth hormone because of lactic acidosis.
Niraj: Of course.
Niraj: Yes. So, that makes the perfect chemistry for increasing strength and resilience of stress. So, yoga should always be done where you're–there's only a few asanas you need to do. You don't need to do a lot. So, in [01:21:35] ______ the very fundamental ones they need to know. But you basically train every muscle to the point of exhaustion under static contraction to become super-efficient using oxygen. So, what that then means is that you can hold your breath for even longer. The only biofeedback, so I now use personally, is my breath, the length of time I can hold my breath and how long I can hold a tone for.
So, me and my friends, we have competitions at how long can we sing a single note for. My record at the moment is 54 seconds upside down in a headstand. So, there are little fun things that we like to do, but that is actually the true measure of your health because it's called your vital capacity. And doctors actually use this because it's–if your body capacity goes down dramatically, all your breath the whole time goes down dramatically to like–if it's below 30 seconds or 20 seconds and below, there's a sinus and problems going on with your heart, your cardiovascular system, and you need to check in with that, whereas, average breath retention time is around 30 seconds. Athletes, probably yourself, would be 45 seconds a minute from just rest holding your breath. But if you can, every morning, just check in how long can you hold your breath for at rest without doing any kind of breathing beforehand–
Ben: You know, it's similar to Dr. Patrick McGowan's or Author Patrick McGowan's books in which he identifies the–what's he call it, the CP–do you know what I'm talking about where you–
Niraj: Yeah, the control pause.
Ben: Control pause. You take a light exhale and you should be able to hold that ideally for optimal health, 40 up to 60 seconds.
Niraj: Yeah, yeah.
Ben: This sounds slightly different than that.
Niraj: Yeah. No, it's the same principle. So, Buteyko was the doctor that Patrick McGowan gets his info from. And Buteyko is a Russian doctor. They were really advanced in this knowledge because they studied the Himalayan yogis. The Russians had a strong relationship with the Tibetan region of–Nepal and Tibet and the Himalayan region. They used to study yogis, superhuman yogis. That's what they did because they wanted to make their athletes the best in the world. Buteyko was one of those Russian doctors who is doing a lot of work around that area at that time.
So, they're just borrowing ancient knowledge that's been hidden up there in the Himalayas for a long time and just kind of recycled it. His method is like, do a control pause and measure how long you can hold your breath. It's a measure of your cardiovascular strength and health. I do the extended exhale, how long can you hold a single note for. That also is another way to measure it. And you're fine when you do some of these soma practices and do the yoga in this way. Your length of time you can hold your breath for is insane. That's so much longer.
Ben: When you hold the note, do you breathe in as much air as you can and then begin to hold the note?
Niraj: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Ben: Okay. Interesting. I can try this. Well, what do you say a good time is for that?
Niraj: I can get over 50 seconds to a minute sometimes. I did practice a little bit, but I've done upside down on my head [01:24:58] ______ my flow.
Ben: I practice a lot of this stuff when I'm out on a walk. I'll do a lot of chanting, a lot of humming, a lot of breathwork, a lot of breath holds, a lot of nasal breathing for me. I'll strike out on a one hour walk sometimes and just put in a good audiobook or some nice relaxing music and just do breathwork for an hour while I'm walking. I find it incredibly relaxing.
I know that we're getting a little bit long in the tooth here and I know that you kind of designed all of this into an actual protocol that people can do. It's a 21-day protocol. And then you also have a webinar where–and correct me if I'm wrong, during the webinar, are you just kind of like walking people through the basic principles, and then during the 21-day, you're taking a deeper dive?
Niraj: Yeah, yeah. So, in the webinar, I pretty much show you the techniques, some of the foundational techniques.
Ben: And the webinar is free, right?
Niraj: Yeah, it's completely free. It goes into a lot of the science behind it, and I'd show you like how to raise your heart rate and lower your heart rate, all that kind of stuff. It gives you the foundations. And you even get a taste of this soma awakening exercise with music. So, music is a big passion of mine. I'm a music producer. One of the things I unlocked when I quit my job as a pharmacist was the creativity and getting back into music, which I believe is such an important thing for your health is to find some kind of artistic out of yourself.
Ben: Yeah, I agree. I have officially bitten the bullet and I hired a guitar instructor who trains me now every single week. So, I'm hummed deep into music theory and I'm incredibly happy with it. It feeds my soul. Actually, my aunt just wrote me this morning and showed me a bunch of pictures of all the watercolor paintings that I used to do until I was about 13 because they were there down at my grandma's house and she's sending those up to me; so between watercolor painting and playing the guitar and then doing this kind of breathwork and spiritual disciplinary practice that you teach in the soma breathwork course. My goal is to really nourish and foster my spirit and my relationships for much of my life because I let a lot of that kind of get neglected on the back burner of my very kind of yin or yang hard-charging athletic, just completely brutal masochistic lifestyle. And I'm realizing now that man, life is so much happier and the body feels so much better when you skip out on a few CrossFit sessions and you do this kind of stuff instead.
So, what I'm going to do is I'll link to that free breathwork meditation webinar that you have. And then if people want to try the 21-day protocol, we have a discount code you can use for that, and I'll link to that in the shownotes as well. Niraj is giving all the listeners 20% off the full protocol, which is the one that I went through that I got that hour-long breathwork protocol out of. And then finally, you train instructors as well?
Niraj: Yeah, yeah, yeah. We have almost 100 instructors now around the world and we've partnered a lot with yoga studios around the world as well. It's creating a lot of abundance to people and people are having so much passion as breath coaches. Sooner or later, it was really a coaching program that really helps people.
Ben: So, if somebody wanted to and they didn't want to do the 21-day breathwork protocol because maybe they're a doctor or a personal trainer or yoga instructor or nutritionist who actually wants to work with people, would it be redundant to do the 21-day protocol and the instructor course? I mean, like if you take the instructor course, you're going to learn everything that's in that 21-day protocol course?
Niraj: Yeah. No, the instructor course includes the 21-day. So, everyone goes through this 21-day protocol like if they're an instructor because you really don't understand the method and there's a lot more to it than just a breathing technique.
Ben: Okay. And it's online. You can go through your own pace.
Niraj: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, actually, you can do it live as well. So, we have two versions. We have one which you just do on your own, self-study, and we have the one where you do it with an instructor, which I really recommend is to do it with an instructor.
Ben: Yeah. I love it. I'm actually thinking about doing it myself just to be able to teach this to people at more effect because a lot of times, I go to these events where I'm in charge of teaching the workout or I'm in charge of leading the morning class and it'd be fun to be able to just bring people through some of these breathwork protocols without worrying that I'm going to cause too many people to faint or get too hypoxic. I need to make sure–
Niraj: Well, yeah, that would be amazing.
Ben: Yeah, cool.
Niraj: I love that.
Ben: Cool. Yeah, yeah. I love it too and–oh, go ahead.
Niraj: Yeah. Plus, you learn five other breathing techniques. Pranayama is like a school of breathwork. I basically have taken the five most evidence-based ones and given that to you. So, I've taken away a lot of the fluff out pranayama. There's a lot of other stuff that go out of layer, but the core foundational techniques are in there. One of them which I think you're going to be really blown away by is this drinking air technique. It's called Kati Mudra, where you basically drink air into the guts. And air oxygen, basically, kills anaerobic gut bacteria, and it also satiates the appetite. It's a really good thing to do when you're fasting. It cleanses the bowels out. I'll show you this technique. It's really, really fascinating. I think you're going to love that one.
Ben: Oh, dude. Okay. I'm writing a note to myself to ping you later on about this. Do you think it's something that–I don't know if you ever gotten this question before that kids could do, like if I wanted to bring my twin boys through the course with me?
Niraj: How old are they?
Ben: Ten, but they get a good head on their shoulders.
Niraj: Yeah. I think I saw them, right?
Niraj: Yeah, you could try the first couple of weeks and maybe like–because we follow this intermittent hypoxic training protocol. So, it gradually gets more and more intense with the amount of hypoxic episodes you're getting each day. But I was looking at a study recently where actually, you'd have to do over 15 hypoxic episodes a day. So, that would mean like 15 repetitions of doing this rhythmic breathing followed by breath retention. We only do three or four, which is way beyond. So, I think you'll be completely safe, your kids and yourself.
Ben: Yeah. Well, cool. Well, for anybody who wants to try this–and also, I'll put a link to everything we talked about, like the infographic on the Coke and the Diet Coke, that book I mentioned by Vani Hari, the food babe. I'll put a link to the colostrum that Niraj uses that we talked about, the documentary, some of the books, the blue lotus extract, everything. I'll make sure you guys got some really good rich shownotes to take a deep dive into this stuff because it's just–I love this whole world. I'm going to put that all over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/renegade. You can go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/renegade for the shownotes. And Niraj, dude, thanks for all this information. This is wonderful.
Niraj: Yeah. No, it's been an honor, man, to be able to share it. I could just go on for hours and hours. Obviously, you got a limited time.
Ben: Next time. We'll hook up in a sauna for around two sometime.
Ben: Awesome. Well, folks, go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/renegade, like I mentioned, for the shownotes and until next time. I'm Ben Greenfield with Niraj, the Renegade Pharmacist, signing out from BenGreenfieldFitness.com and have an amazing week.
Want more? Go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com or you can subscribe to my information-packed and entertaining newsletter. Click the link up on the right-hand side of that web page that says, “Ben Recommends,” where you'll see a full list of everything I've ever recommended to enhance your body and your brain. Finally, to get your hands on all of the unique supplement formulations that I personally developed, you can visit the website of my company, Kion, at getK-I-O-N.com. That's getK-I-O-N.com.
Niraj Naik, my guest on today's show (and the same guy who invented the crazy holotropic-style breathwork protocol I do in my sauna) 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, he 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 he was diagnosed with a stress-related illness, ulcerative colitis, that left him housebound for over 10 months. He was told by doctors and nurses there existed no cure and 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 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 his 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. His specialty is helping people recover, prevent or reduce the dependency for longterm medication for the metabolic diseases of diabetes, heart disease and obesity as well as autoimmune disease where stress is an underlining factor in the cause.
Niraj is now a professional musician, holistic health expert and entrepreneur. He 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 our discussion, you'll discover:
-The story behind Niraj's famous infographic on how a can of Coke affects the human body…7:10
- Was friends with a world-famous psychic
- “Only one thing worse than bad publicity, and that's no publicity.”
- Saw a conspicuous link between sugary drinks and metabolic diseases; doctors weren't aware of it (in 2005 timeframe)
- Frustrated with the “dumbed-down” state of the healthcare industry
- First published by com; Became #1 trending article on Facebook within a few weeks
- Firms literally pay millions of dollars for the type of authority the infographic gave Niraj
- Follow up infographic on Diet Cokewas equally successful
-How Niraj used alternative medicine to heal himself of some serious health issues…16:45
- Very little awareness of the effects of diet to overall health (2009 timeframe)
- Created “Healthy shopping lists” as a pharmacist in the U.K. (employed by a major pharmacy chain)
- Niraj's boss and biggest supporter left for another job, was left to fend for himself; his practices were deemed by corporate as “too controversial” – they watered down everything he said
- Negative emotions/thoughts manifested as physical symptoms; became very ill (ulcerative colitis)
- Severely depressed; considered suicide (31 years old)
- O.D. “Gift of Desperation”
- Met a mentor who encouraged him “You'll get over this and change the lives of many people”
- Combination of colostrum, breath work, and a change in perception
-Examples of ayurvedic principles used to heal the gut…25:22
- Efficacious for improving digestive health
- Health of the mother (including mental health) affects the quality of the colostrum
- Cow colostrum translates perfectly to humans (produces 4x the amount a calf needs)
- Proper dosages:
- You need whole fat colostrum
- Big doses in the beginning (2-3 heaping tablespoons)
- Take it raw
- Use powder (a lot of it is absorbed by the gums)
- Suck it for 5-10 minutes and then swallow it
- Regain emotional balance
- Diet protocols
- Ayurvedic means “balanced”
- Modern medicine not aligned with human nature (scientific approach, averages)
- Ask Lots of questions, “Know thyself…”
- There is no pill for every ill; but there is an ill that follows every pill
- Most important question: “Do I wake up every day enthusiastic about a hard day's work?”
- B. M. Hegde
-A unique breath protocol Naij specializes in called SOMA…51:00
- SOMA is referenced over 50,000 times in the Rig Veda, the oldest known religious manuscript
- Physical elements:
- amanita muscaria mushrooms
- kush cannabis
- blue lotus(full of DNT)
- Tantra has its roots in SOMA
- Use it purposefully, for therapeutic purposes; don't use it recreationally or habitually
- Hatha yoga incorporates breath work
- We can “wake up” the internal pharmacy. We have everything that might be prescribed to us within us; breath work releases it
-Why the medical industry doesn't advocate for SOMA therapy…1:02:34
- “Unconscious capitalism”
- “Cholesterol myth” is good for big business
-A practical example of using breathing to change one's physiology…1:04:30
-The true intent of yoga and how the “yoga industrial complex” has twisted it out of context…1:10:40
- Turned it into a fitness or aerobic routine
- Meant as a “route to the divine”
- SOMA Awakening:
- Rhythmic breathing
- kumbhaka breathing (breath retention)
-What it's like to go through Niraj's SOMA protocol…1:13:30
- Bhastrikā, followed by kumbhaka rechaka
- Rhythmic breathing
- Fallacy of a scarcity of oxygen; the opposite is true
- Pranayama means “energy control”
- Body adapts to having less than normal oxygen
- Stimulates production of red blood cells
- Better blood flow to the heart
-The 21-day protocol and webinar Niraj has developed…1:25:26
- Click herefor more info.
-And MUCH more…
Resources from this episode:
–The Age Of Aging Documentary Ben mentions
-Soma Breathwork 21 Day Protocol – use code: BEN for 20% off
-SOMA Awakening Breathwork Meditation Webinar – this is completely free
-SOMA Breathwork Instructor Training – use code: BEN for 20% off
-Follow Niraj on Instagram
–Clearlight Saunas Advanced technology. For your good health. See why Clearlight jacuzzi saunas are unsurpassed. Mention discount code: BENGREENFIELD to save $500 off your order AND get free shipping!