ColumnsThe Seeker

The Seeker: Inhaling Chocolate

Katie Grant

As a self-proclaimed wellness enthusiast, I am constantly exploring both physical health and spiritual wellness trends. As a seeker of non-traditional self-love techniques as well, the chance to experience a sacred cacao ceremony partnered with shamanic breath work at Okra yoga studio recently presented an opportune moment.

Raw, ceremonial-grade cacao has been used for centuries to unlock euphoric states, release negative emotions and connect to pure heart chakra energy — all things that I seek on a fundamental level. So, I signed up.

Even though I can count the times I’ve done breath work on one hand, I still had enough experience to create an inkling of what to expect. However, the raw cacao element was unfamiliar. While similar to the more well-known cocoa, “these days ‘cacao’ usually refers to raw vegan chocolate products which come from unroasted cacao (chocolate) beans and are minimally processed with no additives,” according to food blog The Spruce Eats.

Cacao’s supposed physical benefits include high amounts of antioxidants, iron, magnesium and calcium. It’s also a natural mood lifter. As a person lacking in the naturally good mood department, raw cacao sounded promising.

Upon rolling out my mat alongside other breath workers, the yoga studio smelled of hot chocolate, just like the kind you drink on a snow day. Each breath worker received a ladle full of molten cacao, which we quietly sipped as our guide honored the cacao spirit with shamanic prayer.

Without the addition of sugar, spices and milk to suit our modern palates, the unrefined element of ceremonial raw cacao is not for everyone. Trying not to dwell on the consistency and qualities of the cacao, I laid down to mentally prepare for the breath work segment.

Our guide coached us through the shamanic breathing technique. By repeatedly and audibly inhaling through our mouths (more loudly for some, as I would soon discover) we were led toward a multitude of hypothetical experiences: relaxation, laughter and clarity. Falling asleep was even in the mix.

I plunged into the breath work with zero expectations and quickly found that forcing myself to breathe hard was more difficult than it sounds. Trying to meditate in a room full of people who were gulping down air like they’d just finished a 5K made things even harder. I made a mental note to bring ear plugs next time.

The breath work session lasted about an hour. Once our vigorous breathing lulled and each person had energetically completed their journey, our guide prompted each of us to express our current state using one word. The word that came to me was “grounded.” The breath work helped ease my chattering mind and provided a sense of balance at the end of a work week. Both are pluses in my book.

While I didn’t meditate as deeply as I’d hoped, mostly due to the cacophony of the other breath workers around me, I did experience a few revelations. One of them was the desire to make a more valiant effort toward eating healthier. Or was this just a glutton’s guilt surfacing after having yucca fries and beer for lunch?

So where did my journey take me? I wouldn’t dare say my introductory sacred cacao ceremony or shamanic breath work magically healed all of my dysfunctional thought patterns or festering emotional wounds. If I’m being honest, it will most likely take years to untie my emotional knots.

But it’s this type of humanistic personal discord that brings us together. It united a room full of strangers, all on their unique paths towards mental, physical and spiritual harmony, with some cacao to help along the way.

That’s a good start.

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