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Using Breathwork to Access Non-Ordinary States of Consciousness Consciously

February 17, 2022

blog post illustration

Using Breathwork to Access Non-Ordinary States of Consciousness Consciously

Breathwork has the ability to take us on a journey, to transport us into non-ordinary states of consciousness that are thought to be typically accessed either with psychedelics or plant medicine.

February 17, 2022


photograph of Sydney Struble

Sydney Struble

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photograph of Vivian Rosenthal

Vivian Rosenthal

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Breathwork has the ability to take us on a journey, to transport us into non-ordinary states of consciousness that are thought to be typically accessed either with psychedelics or plant medicine.

When we access these states of consciousness in a safe environment, we are able to enter into a deep exploration of self, an exploration that can be therapeutic, healing, and transformative. Connecting with these non-ordinary levels of consciousness can be conducive to shifting our emotional, mental, and spiritual states, as it can facilitate a reorientation of old thinking patterns and bring us into deeper dimensions of presence and insight.

At Frequency, we offer daily guided breathwork classes to support your journey into non-ordinary states of consciousness consciously, and thus, into healing and wholeness. Here are some of the ways that Frequency’s Breathwork Practice can help you along this journey.

The Science Behind The Magic:

The practice of deep continuous conscious circular breathing stimulates the vagus nerve and allows for the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system, which puts us into what’s known as the rest and digest state, or more simply put, into a state of deep calm and relaxation. By moving out of sympathetic dominance into the parasympathetic, we can more intuitively connect with our inner selves and our essence, which can prompt a truly transformative shift. The stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system induces a deep rewiring of our nervous system.

The vagus nerve is a cranial nerve complex, connecting the brain to important organs throughout the body, and is responsible for inducing a feeling of safety and relaxation in the body, as its activation sends a signal to the body that it is time to de-stress and move out of hypervigilance. Deep belly breathing, or diaphragmatic breathing, stimulates the vagus nerve, serving as a critical component to maintaining balance within the autonomic nervous system. Numerous studies have shown that breathwork lowers the stress response and deactivates the sympathetic nervous system. This can be further exemplified by research that suggests that individuals with a higher Heart Rate Variability, representative of healthy vagal tone, demonstrate lower biomarkers for stress, improved cognitive functioning, and heightened physical and psychological resilience, as well as from a study in 2016 that suggested that abdominal breathing enhanced the autonomic sympathovagal modulation, which lessens the “fight-or-flight” response.

Additionally, breathwork both activates and potentiates DMT endogenously in the brain. DMT is a potent psychedelic substance that can be attributed to deep emotional and spiritual experiences. Using the breathwork allows us to access DMT and our own energy.

Breathing exercises can induce an increase in DMT in the brain, and thus, visionary experiences. Wim Hof, the pioneer of the Wim Hof breathing method, offers a practice of taking 100-200 deep breaths, and then breathing in, holding the breath, and imagining bringing the cerebral spinal fluid to the head; this stimulates blood flow and neural activity to the brainstem, releasing and opening up the depths of the mind. Just as psychedelics have been shown to improve addiction, anxiety, and depression, so too has breathwork. So, the question then becomes: does breathwork activate similar brain activity to that of psychedelics? And the answer is yes.

Studies have shown that psychedelics increase the activity of gamma waves in the brain, waves that move back and forth between the brainstem and the prefrontal cortex, bringing unconscious processing to conscious awareness. There are four common gamma brainwave signatures: delta (dreamless sleep), theta (deep relaxation), alpha (non-thinking calm), and beta (normal waking consciousness), each seen in meditation and mind-body activity, such as breathwork. And just as breathing techniques increase gamma waves, so does DMT, pointing to a direct sign that breathwork, and the Wim Hof method, upregulates endogenous DMT production.

Breathwork also shifts the balance between the body’s carbon dioxide and oxygen levels, prompting changes in states of consciousness as well as changes in our physiology. Breathing is associated with regulating carbon dioxide (CO2), exhaling to release CO2. When we hold our breath, our CO2 levels rise, while breathing deeper and faster, as we do in the Frequency breathwork practice, lowers our CO2 levels, alkalizing the blood and causing tetany, where our hands and feet can cramp up or get tingly or numb. When our CO2 levels drop, the blood pH becomes more alkaline, meaning that there is less oxygen released from the bloodstream to the tissues and vital organs. Lower levels of CO2 coupled with an increase in blood pH levels is what produces tetany. Tetany is both temporary and common amongst breathwork practitioners.

The Practice:

  1. Find a comfortable space to lie down on your back with your eyes closed.
  2. Place one hand on your stomach and one hand on your chest.
  3. Exclusively breathing through the mouth, take one inhale into the stomach, a second inhale into the chest, and then exhale to release. There is no holding or counting, just a circular connected breath.
  4. Continue to move through this pattern of breath at a rhythm that feels sustainable for you, consciously connecting the breaths.

You may begin to feel some tingling in the fingers or mouth due to shifts in CO2 levels; this is completely normal. There is also a potential to feel a bit lightheaded or dizzy. If this is the case, you can slow down your breath or return to your normal breathing pattern until it feels comfortable to pick the Two-Part Breath up again.

Final Words:

This breathwork practice offers the potential to transcend our thinking mind, and creates space for deep healing to occur, as we shift from the head to the heart. When we are able to journey into the heart, we open to these non-ordinary states of consciousness where we can access our truth, our wholeness, and self-love. Give the practice a try for yourself, and allow it to take you on a magical journey.

You can join us in person at our dome in NYC or online.

updated on March 8, 2022


photograph of Sydney Struble

Sydney Struble

Sydney is a Digital Content Manager for Frequency Breathwork, breathwork guide, 500-hour yoga instructor, and perpetual student who purposefully explores the interplay between mind, body, and spirit.
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photograph of Vivian Rosenthal

Vivian Rosenthal

Vivian is the co-founder of Frequency, a creative entrepreneur, and breathwork facilitator.
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