What is psychedelic breathing?

Psychedelics are often seen as the gateway to unlock your mind.

When experiencing a psychedelic, you can alter and expand your consciousness, granting you amazing healing and insight.

Only one problem: they’re usually illegal.

How can you unlock your mind if you aren’t able to get the right tools?

Enter psychedelic breathing: a technique that anyone can do which promises to give you a completely natural, completely drug-free, psychedelic experience.

Crazy, right?

But what exactly is psychedelic breathing? How do you do it? Is it dangerous?

Will you unlock your brain or lose your mind in the process?

I didn’t know, so I set to find out. And what I learned seemed groundbreaking.

Stick around to learn what psychedelic breathing is and how it can help you unlock your higher consciousness.

What is psychedelic breathing?

Psychedelic breathing, or psychedelic breathwork (the two are interchangeable), is, at its core, a technique for breathing which will give you a psychedelic experience.

How do you perform psychedelic breathing?

It’s complicated, but it ultimately involves taking deep, rapid breaths in a timed manner.

I’m not an expert, so I can’t show you how psychedelic breathwork is done, but I can point you to our breathwork course, Ybytu, by contemporary shaman Rudá Iandê, if you’re interested in learning more.

Back to psychedelic breathing! Psychedelic breathing is, at its heart, focused on different types of breathwork in order to stimulate a psychedelic experience.

Radical, right?

But what is a psychedelic experience? And what form of it can you expect psychedelic breathing to unlock?

What is a psychedelic experience?

A psychedelic experience is a temporary altered state of consciousness.

It’s also known as a trip.

What are some common experiences during a trip?

  • Visual hallucinations
    • These can be with eyes closed or eyes opened.
  • Audio hallucinations
  • Time distortions
  • Mystical experiences
  • Feelings of oneness
  • Ego death
    • This is the loss of subjective self-identity and can be a profoundly life-changing experience

These are what usually encompass a psychedelic experience.

So what causes these?

Typically, these are brought about from psychedelic drugs, such as LSD, MDMA, psilocybin, DMT, mescaline, and salvia. Often, these drugs are not legal or are otherwise strictly controlled.

While many people take these psychedelic drugs for recreation, they are also used for religious and therapeutic experiences.

The wide-ranging effects of psychedelics can be quite profound.

“Psychedelics are psychoactive substances remarkable for their capacity to elicit a wide range of idiosyncratic effects on consciousness of the self and the environment, as well as changes in perception, emotion and cognition.”

Psychedelics, when used correctly, can have remarkable emotional benefits including fighting depression, anxiety, and PTSD.

The question is: can psychedelic breathing replicate those benefits?

When a patient practices psychedelic breathwork, they are aiming to reach some of these feelings but purely by controlling their breathing and not with the use of external substances.

Many people turn to breathwork, in general, to gain a deeper understanding of themselves, work through past trauma, and to have healthier outlooks on life.

By achieving psychedelic levels during breathwork, the patient should be able to reach intense feelings of euphoria and joy, as well as be able to positively change themselves introspectively.

Who invented psychedelic breathing?

Psychedelic breathing was first popularized by psychiatrist Dr. Stanislav Grof.

In the 1970s, Dr. Grof began searching for a way for his patients to experience the effects of psychedelics without using any drugs. He and his wife went on to create holotropic breathwork, which aimed at deepening the connection between the patient and his/her spiritual self.

Some of the effects his patients felt during these holotropic breathwork sessions included:

  • Reduced chronic pain
  • Less feelings of depression
  • Newfound purpose and meaning to life
  • Mystical feelings
  • An increase in creativity
  • Addiction recovery
  • Improvement in negative thoughts and habits

His patients also reported feeling more in touch with their core, having better outlooks on life, and gaining clarity on their lives.

From these studies in the 1970s, psychedelic breathing and breathwork have become more popular. Thanks, Dr. Grof!

Types of psychedelic breathing

There are two main types of psychedelic breathing: holotropic breathwork and shamanic breathwork.

They are closely related, but there are some key differences that you should be aware of.

Let’s take a look at both types of psychedelic breathing.

Holotropic breathwork

Holotropic breathwork is a common type of breathwork used to help with emotional healing and personal growth. It’s commonly used for patients who want to work through “past life” experiences and any trauma they might have experienced in their life.

Holotropic breathwork can only be led by licensed instructors from the Grof Foundation — the foundation that developed Holotropic breathwork in the 1970s. Think of it as the granddaddy (or grandmammy) or psychedelic breathing.

Research shows that holotropic breathwork can be beneficial in raising one’s self-awareness:

“HB (holotropic breathwork) can induce profound positive temperament changes, which may call for a redefinition of character and the way one directs one’s intentions.”

Through hyperventilation, the patient is able to delve into altered states of consciousness, where they can then self-heal and improve both their spiritual and psychological well-being.

How is it done?

Holotropic breathwork is usually performed in groups, with the help of a practitioner or guide. By breathing evenly and rapidly for minutes or hours, holotropic breathwork is believed to put the patient into an altered state of consciousness. A session can last anywhere from 2-3 hours.

Patients are put in pairs, so they have someone to support them through the exercise. Drumming is used to help induce an altered state of mind, and meditative music might be played towards the end of a session to help patients come back to reality.

At the end of the session, the group is encouraged to draw mandalas and talk through what they experienced. The sessions are always open-ended, and patients are free to work on whichever issues they choose to in each session.

Shamanic breathwork

Shamanic breathwork differs from holotropic as it is guided by a shaman.

A shaman is a healer who can move between different realms and states of consciousness. It’s a guide who can navigate the physical world as well as the spiritual world.

In shamanic breathwork, a shaman guides you through your psychedelic breathing session by connecting you to altered realms and states of consciousness.

This process of controlled breathing can allow the patient to awaken their inner self, and explore parts of their core being which they wouldn’t be able to reach when fully conscious.

The journey which the patient is taken on during shamanic breathwork is aimed at taking them back to their core spirit, and help dissolve past traumas whilst empowering them to have more positive thoughts and energies.

How is it done?

Shamanic breathwork can be done one-on-one with a shaman or in a group setting. The use of chakra attuned music might be used to help induce altered states of consciousness.

The shaman will direct you on how you should be breathing at different stages of the session, and as you move through different states of consciousness, they will talk you through how to move around energy within the body.

Shaman Rudá Iandé, who has extensive experience in shamanism, describes the power of breathing as:

“That’s why many spiritual traditions pay so much attention to the breath. Because our breath is the key not only for purifying and empowering our energy but also for channeling it. Through our breath, we can develop whatever we want in our lives, from spiritual enlightenment to the power for achieving our most material goals.”

Rudá Iandé, through years of experience, has developed a shamanic type of breathwork called Ybytu, which is aimed at activating the hidden potential in your core. To find out more, click here.

How do you practice psychedelic breathing?

To achieve this altered state of consciousness, you need to follow rapid breathing rhythms (ideally under the instruction of a teacher). When you breathe so heavily and quickly, you push more carbon dioxide out of your body, which will raise your blood’s pH level.

This causes some real, immediate sensations, like dizziness and tingling.

While you’re practicing this form of guided hyperventilation, your guide may chant, drum, or perform other types of rhythmic incantations which will help focus your mind.

As you get further into the psychedelic breathing episode (they can last up to 3 hours), you’ll begin to see visual distortions as you close your eyes, and be flooded with intense feelings.

This is the psychedelic experience. This is the trip.

What are the benefits of psychedelic breathing?

Psychedelic breathing is a growing field, which means that there isn’t a ton of information yet on its benefits.

There is, however, a growing body of evidence that psychedelic breathing can:

  • relieve stress
  • heighten personal growth
  • reduce anxiety and depression
  • develop compassion
  • increase creativity, clarity, and oneness with the universe

A practitioner, Julia Naftulin, described her psychedelic breathwork experience for Insider as being intense yet effective. She recounted feeling “more in touch with my mental and emotional needs” and noticed an improvement in her mental health.

What are the risks?

With any type of breathwork, it’s important to have the guidance of trained professionals. Being in a state of hyperventilation without a practitioner overseeing the session can be dangerous, and people with the following conditions should avoid taking part in breathwork:

  • Osteoporosis
  • Breathing problems
  • High blood pressure
  • A history of aneurysms
  • Severe psychiatric symptoms
  • Problems with your vision
  • Cardiovascular issues

When you perform breathwork, you hyperventilate. When you hyperventilate, you run the risk of passing out, falling over, or otherwise compromising your circulatory system. This is why you always do breathwork with a guide.

Women who are pregnant or people who have recently undergone surgery should also avoid practicing breathwork.

You should always check with your GP before starting a breathwork course, and make sure you find a reputable psychedelic breathing organization that can provide you with the right type of breathwork for your needs.

Can breathwork produce a psychedelic experience?

Definitely. When you practice psychedelic breathing, you will experience psychedelic experiences.

With that being said, most practitioners were in agreement that the hallucinations aren’t as strong or persistent when compared to psychedelic drugs.

Psychedelic drugs can last up to 15 hours depending on the quantity taken, whereas psychedelic breathwork usually only lasts for a few hours. Of course, as you continue to master psychedelic breathing, you can make these experiences last far longer.

You just have to put in the commitment to self-growth.

If we consider how holotropic breathwork was first introduced, it becomes apparent that many effects are similar.

Next steps

Psychedelic breathing is an exciting new type of self-improvement that is part of the larger breathwork field of study.

If you wish to begin your breathwork journey and learn more about this self-healing practice, check out Rudá Iandê’s “Self-Healing Breath Meditation” video. In it, you’ll learn how to bring balance to your body, boost your immune system, and make the most out of your lungs.

Rudá Iandê is a contemporary shaman who works with clients to help them connect to themselves, the world around them, and improve their feelings of self-worth. He’s a powerful and insightful healer, and this course really shows you how your lungs are an amazing organism, all on their own.

Like all types of breathwork, psychedelic breathing can be effectively practiced if you have the right guides. When you practice psychedelic breathing, you can achieve euphoria, inner awareness, and a greater appreciation for life.

While the risks are minimal, it’s important to take breathwork at your own pace, and with a trained professional who has trained specifically in that type of breathwork.

If you’re interested in taking your self-improvement to the next level, definitely check out the self-healing breath meditation course with Rudá Iandê.

He’ll help you breathe your way to peace.

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Kiran Athar

Kiran Athar

Kiran is a foodie, writer and traveler. She considers herself a citizen of the world, who gets her inspiration from the people she meets along her journeys. She's currently living in Spain, where she spends her time writing, watching the shepherds and eating tapas in the mountains of Andalucía.

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