The legend of Soma tells of a sacred ritual that the ancient Rishis would indulge in during the Golden Age of the Vedic tradition. In this time period the population was much smaller and resources were more abundant. People lived peacefully and harmoniously.
This legendary ritual is thought to have involved the ingestion of a psychedelic plant. The identity of which has still not been confirmed by historians. It is claimed to be a mysterious and magical ritual that would allow the Rishis to commune with the Gods and have direct divine downloads of wisdom that would aid the betterment of society. It is also thought to be the same ritual that would allow the Rishis to create superhuman powers, overcome death and lead to immortality.
This sounds far fetched, however new emerging science is beginning to back up many of the claims held in our spiritual past.
Substance To Spirit
These inspirational visions would go on to inspire the verses of the Rig Veda, an ancient text that forms the origins of yoga, ayurveda, tantra, hinduism and buddhism. However according to legend at one point in time Soma ran out. This forced people to go inward in order to seek new ways to get to the same ecstatic states that allows connection to the divine.
The side effect of this was the realisation that we possess our own version of every single drug or medicine that exists in nature and that breath control is the method for awakening your ‘inner pharmacy’
Scientifically Soma could be described as a method to ingest a quantity of DMT (Dimethyltryptamine) and other psychoactive chemicals that would sustain for long enough inside the brain to produce visionary and psychedelic effects.
This molecule is found in very small amounts in your body and we naturally produce tryptamines like melatonin and serotonin that are structurally very similar. It has been hypothesised that either DMT or a combination of tryptamines are released when you dream, and just before you die, to explain the reason for the vivid dream like hallucinations and experiences similar to ‘near death’ you get after consuming DMT in larger amounts. This is why it has been regarded as the ‘spirit molecule’.
Releasing The ‘Soma’ Within
Could Soma be the same molecule as DMT found in entheogens, and what is responsible for creating the spiritual and visionary states described by the ancient rishis? Did they figure out how to release it through breath control, and could this mechanism explain why I have also experienced and witnessed many of my clients having a psychedelic trip after a Soma Awakening?
Dr. Steven Barker has been extensively involved in studies involving the endogenously produced hormone dimethyltryptamine (DMT) since 1976. He writes “I think DMT may primarily be synthesized in the lung during specific physiological states; controlled breathing, such as occurs in many meditative practices, extreme physical exertion, hyperventilation, near-death changes in respiration rates, hypoxia, etc. DMT synthesized in the lung would go directly to the brain, by-passing the metabolic destruction that would occur from liver metabolism.“
It is unsure exactly what is the full explanation for the spiritual visionary experiences possible through breathwork, however this is my brief explanation for why Soma possibly works:
With deeper practice and extended length of the Awakening session to around 60 minutes to 1hr you can create an effect that may be explained by the release of Soma or DMT in the body.
During extended sessions the rhythmic breathwork phase is significantly longer – up to 30 minutes. This supercharges the nervous system and may stimulate the production of DMT in the lungs.
After several cycles of breath retention you can bring your SPO2 levels down to 50% and less. You can lengthen your breath retention times to 3mins +. At this point perhaps your reptilian brain is tricked into believing that you are about to die, and it prepares to do so by releasing the same molecules that are triggered when you die?
Associate professor of psychiatry and author of “DMT The Spirit Molecule”, Rick Strassman theorizes that DMT is responsible for creating the ‘white light at the end of the tunnel’ experiences commonly reported by survivors of a ‘near death’ experience.
The awakening of sexual energy may enhance the psychedelic experience by stimulating the production of dopamine, serotonin and other tryptamines.
The rhythmic breathwork followed by brief pauses in breath is similar to the breathing patterns associated with rapid eyeball movement sleep (REM) which is when your brain is most active during the different phases of sleep and your dreams are most intense.
What I have noticed during Awakening sessions is that people go into a similar state to REM sleep while still conscious for 30 seconds to a minute. With eyelids shut, their eyes would seem to rapidly move around in different directions. Then after a few moments they would safely return back to consciousness and report remembering intense visions, total loss of time and space, or absolutely no memory of what happened, and sometimes all three!
Using brain mapping we studied the brainwaves of participants who had experienced a full SOMA Awakening. Interestingly gamma waves were significantly boosted during the peak intensity of the rhythmic breathwork phase. Gamma is associated with peak brainwave activity usually only seen in experienced meditators such as the Dalai Lama. This is what makes SOMA so unique, that it is possible to achieve the Gamma frequency without having to spend years meditating.
Moments of inspiration and profound clarity are associated at the gamma brainwave level. An alpha-theta cross was observed during the breath hold phase that is associated with the brain resolving a lot of information. This may explain why participants feel more of a sense of peace and clarity after a Soma Awakening. It is also similar to the resolutions and the feeling of spiritual cleansing after consuming a DMT containing entheogen like ayahuasca.
However at present all DMT research is either theoretical or done using rat models. The sheer fact that DMT does not last a very long time in the body, and the lack of funding for this kind of research means that research in humans in currently lacking.