Psychedelic breathwork at THRIV3 involves a breathing pattern that induces an altered state of consciousness followed by a scream to release what doesn’t serve you as a tool to help you move forward on your life journey.
This post will define breathwork, highlight the benefits, and explain what happens in a session. It will also hightlight the science behind the practice and answer whether or not breathing is safe. Finally I will share why I pursued breathwork facilitator certification.
But if you are ready to just dive in and buy a session, that works too.
What Is Psychedelic Breathwork?
Our breathing pattern induces what’s best described as a hallucinogenic state that, at a psychological level, allows your psyche to speak. Psychedelic is derived from two Greek words, psyche meaning “mind” and dēloun meaning “reveal.” I think of the process as inviting your subconscious mind to reveal what your conscious mind needs to know.
Sometimes the psyche will speak through images, at other times it will be entirely about emotions. It might stir up old memories or speak through archetypes. Whatever stirs, because the breathwork bypasses your cerebral cortex, you know the message is coming not from your self-protective ego but a more authentic part of your psyche.
Integrating the breathwork experience through holistic life coaching allows your conscious mind to decide how to move forward after the experience.
What Are The Benefits Of Psychedelic Breathwork?
Research identifies forms of psychedelic breathing, when combined with therapy, can reduce death anxiety and enhance self-esteem. Another study concluded that this kind of breathing “can induce very beneficial temperament changes, which can have positive effects on the development of character, measured as an increase in self-awareness.” A more casual study, one with more than 11,000 participants over 12 years revealed that a form of psychedelic breathing “offers a non-drug alternative for the induction of psychedelic therapeutic experiences.”
As a result, breathing participants report assistance with conditions like:
- Substance use disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Negative thinking
- Chronic stress
- Avoidance behaviors
Are you ready to do the work of breathwork? Buy a session (or a five pack).
What Happens In A Psychedelic Breathwork Session?
The session opens with a brief review of the breathing pattern, an outline of some of the things you might experience physically including temperature changes, tetany, and dry mouth, as well as a reminder that if things ever get too intense or uncomfortable, you can always return to a normal breathing pattern.
Then there is a brief bio break after which you will set an intention and lay down. If it is a virtual session, you center your camera on your stomach and chest so I can watch your breathing.
The breathwork itself will be set to a playlist of music based on three emotion-evoking songs selected by you. After about thirty minutes of breathing, I will guide you through a primal scream designed to release anything that stirred up that no longer serves you. This will be followed by a few more minutes of holotropic breathing and then some time for your body to reset as you engage in a regular breathing pattern.
Following the breathwork you will have five to ten minutes to journal any thoughts or experiences you had before we start a 30-minute holistic coaching session where we integrate the experience and identify the next steps in your life journey. The entire session takes about 90 minutes and can be done in person (if you are in the Denver area) or entirely online.
What Is The Science Behind Psychedelic Breathwork?
To answer this question, let’s start by looking at the science of breathing and move on to the science specifically behind psychedelic breathwork.
The Science Of Breathing
Some of the key takeaways from this video:
- Regulated breathing can impact everything from regulating our blood pressure to boosting our mood.
- Most of the time, our breathing is regulated by the autonomic nervous system. One example of this is when the sympathetic nervous system (the part of the autonomic nervous system that controls flight, fight, or freeze) is triggered, one of the effects is opening up the lungs and prompting you to breathe faster to increase oxygen intake. However, just as the autonomic nervous system can trigger how we breathe, how we breathe can also trigger different parts of our autonomic nervous system. In other words, we can pick up the pace of our breathing and trigger a fight/flight/freeze reaction, or we can choose to slow down our breathing and engage our parasympathetic nervous system.
- Our breathing is also directly connected to our emotions. For example, when angry or stressed, we tend to not breathe as deeply. But the opposite corollary is true as well, and controlled breathing can directly affect our mood.
Science And Psychedelic Breathwork
With that background on the clear evidence surrounding breathwork and the body, let’s delve into the less clear science around psychedelic breathing, including its history.
The History of Psychedelic Breathwork
As popularly unpacked in Michael Pollan’s 2018 book, How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence (affiliate), the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics were researched throughout the 1950s and 1960s.
When psychedelics were banned, one of the leading researchers, Stanislav Grof, and his wife Christina, sought to identify another modality that would trigger a similar altered state of consciousness. Holotropic Breathwork is the result of that search, and what we do at THRIV3 is based on that research.
What Happens To The Body During Psychedelic Breathwork?
To be fully transparent, we aren’t completely sure. In many ways, psychedelic breathing ties back to ancient cultures from around the world that engaged in a variety of breathwork and other practices designed to induce an altered state of consciousness.
To the best of our understanding, the psychedelic breathing pattern, which involves two levels of inhale followed by a release of air decreases the amount of CO2 in the body creating an O2/CO2 imbalance. This imbalance can trigger entry into an altered state of consciousness.
There is some corollary evidence that this altered state is tied to an amplified release of DMT, one of the chemical compounds in many natural and synthetic psychedelics. While some claim the stems from the pineal gland, the pineal itself is too small to generate the amount of DMT necessary to produce a psychedelic effect. That said, DMT is produced endogenously in the mammalian brain and breathwork could increase production so it could be what is behind the hallucinogenic experience.
Is Psychedelic Breathwork Safe?
Generally speaking, yes. If you do start to experience undesired side effects, you can, at any time, simply return to a normal breathing pattern which will restore your body to baseline oxygen and CO2 levels.
That said, there are several conditions that should cause you to talk to your doctor before signing up for a breathwork session. This includes:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Heart attacks, high blood pressure, and angina
- Glaucoma or retinal detachment
- Recent injury or surgery
- Any condition that requires you to take medication
- Panic attacks or psychosis
- Severe mental illness
- Aneurysms (or family history)
- You are pregnant or breast-feeding
Because psychedelic breathing is designed to induce an altered state of consciousness, it should never be done alone. When doing virtual sessions, I will always ask for the phone number of someone who is at home with you, a nearby neighbor, or get your physical address so I can contact 911 in the very rare possibility that you have a response that requires medical attention.
Why Psychedelic Breathwork Facilitator Certification?
I will complete my certification to do guided breathwork through Screamwerk. My certification is a 50-hour program, half of which is done through live training and practice sessions. Why did I want to learn psychedelic breathwork?
When I completed my Holistic Life Coach certification I knew I wanted to add another element to my practice. I have come to realize through my own experience and when coaching that the self-protective ego often becomes a limitation, be it in the therapeutic or coaching process. This is a consequence of the ego, the part of our psyche that consciously interacts with the external world by projecting a certain image, being fundamentally opposed to any work that might challenge or undermine the image we want to project.
For me, this meant I could talk circles around any provider I worked with, or read a book and say exactly what I planned on doing, but at the end of the day, I was never connecting to myself at a deeper level or addressing the unconscious drives that constantly found ways to manifest in my everyday life.
Using psychedelic breathing, I can help you bypass the ego-driven cerebral cortex and allow your subconscious to speak. This allows the coaching that follows up to focus on creating the life that serves you rather than one that serves the image your ego wants to project.
What to talk more about psychedelic breathing and you? Schedule a discovery call today. Or, if you’re ready to go, purchase a breathwork session or package:
Guided breathwork pushes your ego out of the way, allowing your psyche to speak. A primal scream releases what doesn’t serve you while holistic coaching helps you integrate what does. Learn more about virtual or Denver-based psychedelic breathwork.