This week, KYMÅ, a DJ, sonic wellness consultant, and trauma-informed breathwork teacher, released a sample music collection based on the rhythmic exploration of breath. The sample pack is featured on Splice, a massive music sample library used by more than 4 million producers.
My story starts with trauma. Growing up in a toxic household with substance abuse, I had to find ways of coping on my own. And music was always my healing space. I’d put my headphones on and blast music so I could go deeper into my feelings or move beyond my surroundings. I was also into making mixtapes for friends, and in time, this turned into a DJ career spinning for various nightclubs and cool parties. I appreciated it because music is such a spiritual, uniting force, but I wasn’t quite fulfilled.
In 2013, I started going to Icon Collective, an LA-based music production school, to develop my craft and learn more about music production. I was one of three women in my graduating class. I craved femininity and kinship with powerful women while attending as I was immersed in a very male-dominated industry. One day, walking around Santa Monica, I stumbled upon a Kundalini Yoga studio. My practice at the time was mostly hot yoga, power yoga, and asana-based practices. I had only recently attended my very first gong bath, but I’d never heard of this style of practice before. I wound up picking up a side job at the studio.
As I was learning how to make beats at school, I was also discovering the library of practices in the Kundalini Yoga lineage. The rhythm of the exercises grounded me and allowed me to meditate and do the breathing exercises for longer periods of time. I started weaving these two technologies together: I’d make a beat and then see if I could synchronize a breathing exercise with it, or vice versa.
At the time, I’d been working through a deep depression for six or seven years, and the practices had such a profound effect on me. They created a bit of space to think differently about what I’d experienced. I didn’t feel so lethargic anymore. The practice was a catalyst—I finally had the energy to do the things I wanted to do.
Building Resilience Through Beats and Breathwork
In 2014, I moved to NYC and took a step back from production so I could dive deeper into my spiritual practice. Eventually I started guiding group breathing sessions for friends in the industry, at corporate coworking spaces, and for various events. As a DJ, I was very particular about the beats I played in these sessions because of musical taste, and as a practitioner, I was very particular about lyrics because of the influence they have on the subconscious mind.
Each track was thoughtfully selected to compliment the breathing exercise and the energy of the group. I wanted participants to be able to anchor into the simplicity of the rhythmic sounds and breath. With this intentionality, I realized I could merge creating beats with teaching breathwork, so I started producing live beat sets for the groups to breathe to instead.
I personally felt the sensual awareness of breath helped me unlock creativity and also fortified resilience to navigate the overstimulation of our modern world. And I was getting positive feedback—participants were saying that the sessions changed their lives, helped them work through something difficult, and prompted them to start/finish projects they were putting off. That’s when I got back into production. How can I bring this breathwork to more creatives who need it?
Right now there’s a much broader dialogue about the importance of mental health awareness in the music industry, but for the most part it has been “sex, drugs, and rock and roll” as a tagline for decades. In my sessions and in myself, I saw how so many artists have this profound connection to their creative force, but the sensitivities of an artist also make us vulnerable to substance abuse in an effort to numb out feelings or to deal with trauma responses.
My experiences with large groups encouraged me to more deeply study the functioning of the nervous system in survivors of trauma. I’ve taken various online and offline certifications for becoming a trauma-informed practitioner. I’m consistently observing how the trauma-informed courses articulate traumas for different individuals and different cultures. Through my observations, I have discovered that embedded within all cultures are the remedies for trauma and that it is a systemic and systematic inaccessibility in modern society to process these traumas, which is creating the influxes in trauma response behaviors we are seeing today.
As a result of my trauma-informed practice, I’ve started working in smaller groups and one-on-one sessions, now virtual, that allow for a more intimate exploration of the individual and more curated support for their specific lifestyles and needs.
Co-creating a Sonic Experience Through the Breath
I don’t currently have a huge catalog of released tracks for these soundscapes as they have lived as live experiences. Using Splice, which has a vast database of high quality sounds, along with my own field recording samples, I’ll prepare a palette—almost like colors, with which the group will use to paint a picture with sound together.
Different breathing practices have various benefits, so the anchor is the rhythm of the particular breathing exercise we’re working with, which really guides the whole session. The group energy decides the breathing exercise we’re going to practice together along with the tones, textures or elements we will incorporate, and from there we co-create the beat. Then the rhythm of the breath leads the way for the rest of the journey.
Breathing New Life Into Music and Practice
My sample pack with Splice is a fusion of all the things I’ve learned as a DJ, music producer, and breathwork practitioner. The idea is to showcase rhythmic breath practices in a new setting: Breath of Fire made a cameo; Lion’s Breath as well. There are also some simple yet powerful inhales and exhales.
My intention for this sample pack is for respiration to be our inspiration within the music production process, which can often be behind the screen of a computer for extended periods of time. Maybe these breathing exercises will remind the listener to take a moment to take a breath, maybe an audio engineer will begin to synchronize their breath with the beat, maybe this pack will help an artist breath through a creative block. My hope is that as alchemists, breathwork practitioners, yoga teachers, musicians, and producers can use these samples as part of a palette for their own sonic explorations and transformations. We all move to our own unique rhythms, so the BPM (beats per minute) is going to be up to them.
More about KYMÅ
Åmy K., aka KYMÅ, is a multi-dimensional DJ, music producer, and sonic wellness consultant as well as a meditation and trauma-informed breathwork teacher. She is an advocate for mental health in the music industry and guides creatives to explore their life as music. Connecting to natural rhythms and inner harmonies while curiously exploring ALL of life’s frequencies, KYMÅ specializes in sonic curation for rhythmic meditation. She is the founder of BEÅTS + Breathwork and offers weekly breathwork sessions for creatives.