Can Breathwork Really Cause Psychedelic Experiences?

The Exhale
July 15, 2022
5 min read

How we breathe can dramatically change how we think, feel, and behave. However, one can’t help but wonder what effects breathing practice can have on the mind, particularly regarding psychedelic experiences.

For the length of human history, breathing has been a focal point for instigating crucial experiences that helped emphasize the importance of cultural and spiritual practices. Rites of passage, baptisms, and feats of strength have employed breathing across the globe, making the experience of breathing a truly universal human experience.

In today's blog, we’ll uncover the nature of breathing practice and how breathing can expand our minds and perceptions in a way that can be similar to a psychedelic experience.

Read on!

Breathwork State of Mind

One of the key reasons we practice breathwork is to use our own bodies as a vehicle for change in our minds. Our behaviors and bodily functions are deeply intertwined and can affect each other frequently, making it vital to understand that relationship.  

Breathwork helps us understand our bodies and minds by expanding our own awareness of ourselves and the processes that make up our behaviors. With a renewed understanding and awareness of ourselves, we can work to overcome a wide range of difficulties we experience.

Effects & Science

Fundamentally, the psychedelic experiences that users report when using holotropic breathing comes down to the similar ways breathing can affect us, like well-known substances such as psilocybin.

Psilocybin, a substance commonly used to achieve a psychedelic experience, causes the body to reduce blood flow and activity in the brain's frontal cortex. As this part of the brain is primarily responsible for conscious thought, decreased activity can lead to an expansion of subconscious processes, such as dreaming and self-reflecting.

When we engage in certain breathing practices, we commonly find that one of the key areas affected is the speed and efficiency of our blood cells – which potentially creates similar conditions for the brain as a psychedelic experience, though much more controlled and safe.

Expansive Breathing

As a result of allowing ourselves a greater degree of self-awareness, many practitioners of breathwork report feeling additional sensations, whose intensity can be adjusted as the breathing exercise continues.

Holotropic breathing is the most well-known technique that works towards the goal of achieving a psychedelic experience. The technique follows:

  • Take full deep breaths with your belly moving outwards as you inhale.
  • Breathe in a circular pattern; there should be no gaps between your inhales and exhales.
  • Breathe faster than usual, but only slightly and without strain.

While it sounds simple, the practice of holotropic breathing can take longer than most other techniques to achieve the desired effect, with most sessions requiring anywhere between 15 minutes to an hour to reach their potential. As a result, if you’d like to investigate further, we’d advise doing so comfortably while laying down and having a friend, or professional breathing guide, on standby to help with any concerns.

For more information regarding how to manage your breathing for a more effective lifestyle, visit our other blogs here at The Exhale to get the latest tips and tricks. For free guided breathing exercises that you can take anywhere, try out the Breathwrk app here and enjoy a FREE 7-day trial with access to everything we have to offer!

And remember: Breathe Better, Live Better.


The Exhale