Denver Somatic Breathwork: Healer of the Month Alycia Wong

This February we are diving into the world of Somatic Breathwork with the wonderful Alycia Wong of The Way Hōm, a company whose mission is to empower collective well-being through self-care and resilience-building practices. Her Somatic Breathwork classes are a place for healing, empowerment, and connection.

Here is a quick video introducing her to our community but I would love to hear more from her about who she is and the work that she does.

Ohana: Alycia, Would you start by telling everyone some more about your background, how you got into somatic breathwork, anything you’d like to share about your heritage, and the pronouns you identify with?

Alycia: I grew up on the West Coast – born in LA and raised in Vancouver, BC, spending 7 years in San Francisco before moving to Denver in 2021. The running joke about my relocation to Colorado is that I moved to the mountains and took up surfing. I am Chinese by heritage (with potentially other Asian ethnicities in the mix depending when I check my 23 and Me results ) and use she/her pronouns.

My journey to Somatic Breathwork started with a deep appreciation for the body (the soma) and strongly valuing my health as one of many key ingredients for a life well lived. I grew up competitively dancing, and was always inspired by the body’s resilience and capacity for expression. After witnessing my father’s struggle with bipolar depression, and how dance/movement was such a transformative outlet through my formative years, I vowed to always prioritize my well-being and find ways to nurture my mental health through a variety of practices including mindful movement, nutrition, meditation, acupuncture, bodywork, etc.

As I ventured into corporate life, I found myself facing performance-related anxiety and burnout. I was looking for practices beyond physical exercise and clean eating habits that could help me manage my stress and quiet my worried mind. I found a regular meditation practice, and stumbled on breathwork in 2018 that was being led by a yoga teacher I followed back in San Francisco.

At first, I experienced curious bodily sensations like tingling, and feeling like I was floating. As I practiced in shorter-format durations, I noticed it helped me feel more alert and focused. I came across Somatic Breathwork when a friend shared her certification process through an organization called Somatic Release. The videos on their Instagram showed participants shaking, screaming, crying and expressing in ways that I had never seen or experienced in any breathwork session before and knew this was something powerful. An indescribable means of healing and tapping into the raw, human emotion that we don’t always have the ability (or safe place) to access on a day to day basis.

Building community by spreading joy and empowerment through fitness, has grounded and connected me to wherever I’ve lived. Learning and personal development have helped expand me and grow my understanding of the world and how things work. In addition to dance, I’ve taught barre, pilates and resistance-based training for 13+ years and knew the next area I wanted to dive into was breathwork. To witness the transformative impact and profound insights it’s given me and to be able to share this powerful practice with others is a gift, and a privilege.

Denver Somatic Breathwork

‘Ohana: “I vowed to always prioritize my well-being and find ways to nurture my mental health through a variety of practices including mindful movement, nutrition, meditation, acupuncture, bodywork, etc.” I love this so much. Will you give us a better understanding of what Somatic Breathwork is?

Alycia: Somatic Breathwork is an inwards journey that gives us the opportunity to free our thinking mind and come home to our feeling body. Through an active breathing process using deep, circular belly-breaths (aka diaphragmatic breathing) and a combination of mouth and nasal breathing, we activate then regulate our nervous system.

When I refer to our thinking mind, much of our thoughts, words and actions are guided by our logical brain. Rarely do we get the opportunity to listen to what the sensations in our body are trying to tell us or, we feel them but don’t have the tools to process or understand them. The breath acts as a tool to help us turn off our logical brain and feel what’s happening within our bodies: tightness, rigidity, tension, tingling sensations that sometimes translate into bursts of emotions (laughter, crying, yelling, etc.). Giving ourselves permission to feel allows emotions to surface and be released to complete the cycle our nervous systems need in order to process a stressor or traumatic event. After all, emotions are just energy in motion, and keeping them repressed, is like a pressure cooker at capacity just waiting to explode. The energy has to go somewhere, and having safe outlets to express ourselves is part of the healing cycle.

Mindfulness is also an important part of the practice. Through guided prompts and using the breath as a tool for presence, we bring consciousness and healing to the repressed emotion, patterned behavior and trauma that is held (unconsciously) in the body. We can’t heal something we didn’t know was there or aware it was in need of healing. Neuroscientist, Jeffrey Schwartz discovered that purposeful, and focused attention can lead to long-lasting personal evolution. Gabor Maté (in his book “The Myth of Normal”) also acknowledges that attention is the key ingredient to helping us rewire our brains and reprogram any negative thought patterns. When our nervous systems are stuck in survival mode (fight/flight), we’re unable to learn new information, access dream states or emotions such as joy, clarity and sense of purpose.

Denver Somatic Breathwork

‘Ohana: And how is Somatic breathwork different from other forms of breathwork? I know that I, especially, am new to this style and hadn’t heard of it before meeting you.

Alycia: Somatic Breathwork was inspired by Holotropic breathwork (developed by Stan Grof in the 1970s) and adapted to be a more accessible practice. Holoptropic stems from the Greek words holo + tropic, meaning “moving towards wholeness.” Stan Grof’s method was typically practiced for 3 hour durations, whereas the Somatic Breathwork framework is flexible to be practiced in shorter durations from 5-10 upwards of 90 minute sessions.

When it comes to other breathwork styles, it’s helpful to think about 4 fundamental variables that in combination, affect a desired outcome:

Common styles/techniques such as Wim Hof, Tummo, Yogic Pranayama like Ujjayi, and Breath of Fire, the Physiological Sigh, Coherent Breath, Box Breathing, are all methods that just use a different combination of the above. Some are meant to up-regulate, create more energy and heat in the body; others to soothe, and calm the nervous system. Each style has its own place and purpose. One practice or style is not better than the other, it’s just a matter of context.

‘Ohana: Wow! This is a lot to take in. There is so much to breathwork but I love the 4 fundamental breakdown of it. That really helps me better understand how each style differs. As you’ve worked with clients 1:1 or in workshops like your upcoming one at ‘Ohana, what affects has this healing modality had? Can you give some examples of what a somatic breathwork practice has done for others?

Alycia: Absolutely. Clients in both 1:1 and group sessions have encountered a wide variety of experiences, and even with repeat visits, no two sessions are alike. Some examples of what past clients have experienced:

  • Heightened states of consciousness – seeing colors and shapes
  • Envisioning/scenario play – watching scenarios with self and loved ones play out either in 1st person or like watching it unfold like a TV program. Some have relived past memories from a different vantage point or outcome, along with seeing and interacting with their child self. The latter has definitely happened for myself when I’ve received a session.
  • Pain relief – a couple of clients who suffer from chronic pain have experienced pain relief or felt the pain ease during and immediately after. Similar experiences for clients whose thoughts run rampant and have difficulty quieting their thinking mind have been able to find peace and leave feeling calmer, and relief like it’s the first time in recent memory their thoughts weren’t in the driver’s seat.
  • Clear blockages/limitations – multiple clients have struggled with imposter syndrome and feeling inadequate relative to the task at hand or not feeling worthy of being in the same company as other high-performing peers. The practice helped them release their anxieties and gave them the opportunity to reconnect with their confidence and remember their inherent worth.
Denver Somatic Breathwork

‘Ohana: You’ve guided Somatic Breathwork workshops at ‘Ohana. But are there ways for students to practice somatic breathwork from home or is this best done with a guide like yourself?

Alycia: Such a great question. There are definitely ways to practice this from home/on your own, though I find longer format journeys are most helpful with a guide to help share prompts that recenter the wandering mind and/or provide opportunities to dig deeper. The following is a great self-guided tool as a quick morning or mid-day reset (with or without music). Recommended while sitting/lying down, not recommended while driving or if in a body of water in case of light headedness…

  • 30 inhales through your mouth
  • 20-30 second breath hold at the top (lungs full of air)
  • 30 inhales through the nose
  • 20-30 second breath hold at the bottom (lungs fully emptied)

I’m also working on a 30-day guided practice with 6-10 minutes audio clips to guide you on a similar and more accessible jourmey to weave into your daily routine. Aiming to launch this spring and will announce via my instagram @youaretheway_ and email newsletter.

‘Ohana: As we wrap up this month can you tell us how we can learn more about Somatic Breathwork and the different ways this community can work with you?

Alycia: To learn more about Somatic Breathwork/The Way Hо̄m, I’m most active on Instagram for all things workshops, schedules, and educational content. Folks can also subscribe to my monthly newsletter.

You can join me for a small-group sessions or DM me if you’re interested in a 1:1 session!

A special thank you to Alycia for taking the time to talk to our community on Discord about Somatic Breathwork and her offerings. We’re highlighting a different Denver Healer each month within our Discord community. Come join the conversation there and feel free to share your experiences, ask questions, and make new friends!

Katie Leigh Jackson Denver Artist and Illustrator

Katie Jackson is an Ohana YTT Graduate and Artist in the Denver Area. She creates artwork and wallpaper that showcases the magic in the ordinary and helps others live a simpler more peaceful life. Get tips + resources to create a calmer life and home with her free slow living library