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Why Breathwork is Psychedelic: Body Vibrations, Intentional Breathing, and Powerful Music

October 5, 2021

blog post illustration

Why Breathwork is Psychedelic: Body Vibrations, Intentional Breathing, and Powerful Music

My life is divided into two spans: before breathwork (BB), and after breathwork (AB). This is why breathwork is psychedelic and how a class typically goes.

October 5, 2021


photograph of Ryan Williams

Ryan Williams

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Through my computer screen, I am looking at a group of breathwork students.

People lay on foam yoga mats, colorful rugs, or carpeted floors. White painted walls, windows facing the setting sun, and vinyl record collections are visible in their video backgrounds.

One person has a dog sniffing around their yoga mat, another person lays next to their teenage son who is also taking the class. Others have the lights turned off, practicing in complete darkness.

This particular group of breathworkers hail from Washington state to New York to California and a few places in between.

Pushing play on Queen and David Bowie’s song, ”Under Pressure,” I start teaching my breathwork class: The Breath is Psychedelic.

Today’s music playlist also includes songs such as Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition,” Nina Simone’s “Sinnerman,” and Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwoʻole’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” You can listen to the playlist by clicking here.

Guiding my students into the breathwork

Hey everyone, please close your eyes, relax on your back, and rest your arms by your side.

Let’s take three cleansing breaths to help end your day. Your day is now over. It’s time to focus on your heart, mind, body, and lungs.

At the count of three, take a deep breath and sigh.

One. Two. Three. Sigh.

Let’s do two more deep breaths and sighs.

One. Two. Three. Sigh.

One. Two. Three. Sigh.

I love that you are here, practicing breathwork today.

To start the class, you’ll need to ground yourself with an intention.

Let’s feel connected to the ground as we create an I am statement for the session.

For today’s intention, I recommend focusing on a statement that is something like: I am loved. I am peaceful. I am whole. I am relaxed. Those usually work well.

I personally like to use the I am statement I am loved. Say the I am statement in your head three times.

I am loved. I am loved. I am loved.

Why breathwork is psychedelic

Today we will enter into non-ordinary states of consciousness. This style of breathwork was pioneered in the late 1960s by Holotropic breathwork teacher, Stan Grof, and it helps us get out of our normal way of thinking.

In the late 60s, America’s “War on Drugs” era began. Medicines such as LSD, psilocybin (magic mushrooms), DMT and other psychedelics were prohibited and criminalized by the government.

A Czech-born psychiatrist, Stan Grof started teaching a style of breathwork called holotropic breathwork, as a way to mimic the effects of psychedelics because the medicines became outlawed. Before prohibition, he guided over 4,500 psychedelic therapy sessions with psychedelics like LSD.

Breathwork helps us move beyond our regular state of mind. From Greek origins, the word “holotropic” translates to “moving toward wholeness.”

With your breath, powerful music, and your own inner wisdom – the goal today is to help you heal.

We will be practicing today in order to reach meditative, mystical, and psychedelic states.

Yet, we will use just the breath to reach these levels.

When you practice breathwork, it is a three part breath. We will breathe rhythmically like this for around twenty minutes:

Inhale through the belly.

Inhale through the chest.

Exhale it all out.

Again, we will breathe today by this three part breath:

Inhale through the belly.

Inhale through the chest.

Exhale it all out.

If your body vibrates from head to toe, that is expected. You may feel tingling in your wrists and hands, or vibrations in your tailbone – that is all totally normal.

Today the breath will be psychedelic for you.

I teach breathwork to help people open up their hearts, minds, and lives.

Holding space in breathwork

My role is to help support the students through the class. I am holding space, which means I’m facilitating the class while they are doing the work to help heal themselves.

Whether mental and emotional fitness, physical relaxation, or calming the mind, breathwork is a medicine that can help soothe the body.

Through an altered state of consciousness, breathwork helps process stress and pain. Setting an intention before the class helps to heal the spirit.

At certain times I urge the students to yell or laugh. Sometimes people even cry.

If you practice breathwork, you may feel vibrations from your cheeks to your wrists to your ankles. You’ll feel tingling sensations throughout your body.

Breathwork is an emotional rollercoaster in which the one breathing is at the helm.

Towards the end of the breathwork session, we listen to Nina Simone’s “Sinnerman.” As a teacher, my adrenaline is pumping, and my heart is thumping. We continue actively breathing until the final cool-down.

As Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwoʻole’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” plays, everyone returns to a normal breathing pattern though their nose. We can all relax and soak up the experience.

Tonight, one person cried thinking about their childhood and their relationship with money.

Another person had a runner’s high and felt like they just ran a race.

The mother and her teenage son both loved the session. The son thought it was “cool,” while the Mom felt vibrations and tingling sensations in her arms and hands.

Nothing makes me feel better than hearing that someone has a breakthrough.

Big thanks to my editors: Adam Thomas, Jessica Kasmer-Jacobs, Tom White, Lyle McKeany, and Viv Rosenthal.

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If you’re feeling stressed out with work, over-exhausted from the pandemic, or seeking a way to treat your insomnia c breathwork is easy to learn. Sign up below and I’ll show you the way.

I have been teaching breathwork online with a breathwork studio called Frequency Mind. Join me every Wednesday at 7:30 pm ET (4:30 pm PT) for the Breath is Psychedelic class.

You can become a founding member of Frequency using the special code RW2021 for $9.99 a month for unlimited live and on-demand breathwork sessions. Redemption Link

updated on October 5, 2021


photograph of Ryan Williams

Ryan Williams

My life is divided into two spans: before breathwork (BB), and after breathwork (AB).
View Classes

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