July 15, 2021

July 13, 2021

The Power of Breathwork in Healing

Breathwork has ancient roots and is likened to psychedelic experiences making it an ideal tool in psychedelic therapy. With SOMA Breath, MINDCURE's iSTRYM digitally optimizes a traditional practice.

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Breathwork & Psychedelic Experiences

For thousands of years, many cultures have leveraged the power of breathwork with dance and music to transform consciousness. With roots in Eastern practices such as Buddhist meditation and Tai Chi, breath manipulation techniques have helped individuals achieve trance states of consciousness to facilitate physical and psychological healing, meditative relaxation, and spiritual awakening. 

Research shows that today, guided breathing practices are capable of producing similar effects to psychedelic substances. As psychedelics enter mainstream therapy, MINDCURE’s immersive digital therapeutics (DTx) platform, iSTRYM, provides therapists and clinicians with easy access to exclusive breathwork protocols to support psychedelic therapy and aid healing.

The power of breathwork in healing lies in exploring the origins of a commonly repeated mantra during therapy: “Take deep breaths.”While this repeated advice grounds us in times of panic and pain, it also helps facilitate emotional and physiological development.

A Historical Account of Breathwork

The historical significance of breathwork is found in multiple contexts and societies dating back thousands of years. Globally, Indigenous cultures have used multiple forms of circular breathing techniques as a rite of spiritual passage. For example, ceremonial breathwork journeys by the Kalahari Kung Bushmen of Africa incorporated elements of moaning, chanting, music, and dancing with shallow breathing to achieve “!kia,” a transcendental state of euphoria.

Similarly, “breath prayer” practices in Christianity can be dated back to 600 AD. By dividing and manipulating one’s breath around an even worded phrase from sacred texts, whole congregations would achieve an intimate spiritual connection. In another historical account, it was found that the practice of baptism involved submerging people multiple times underwater for prolonged periods to the point of drowning for spiritual awakening.

Meditation in Buddhism and yoga strongly emphasize the importance of attentive breathwork. Revered Buddhist monks like Thích Nhất Hạnh believe breath to be the most exalted life force and the ultimate connection between being and consciousness. For centuries, breathwork practices such as Pranayama have helped unlock ethereal pathways to strengthen the mind-body connection, release tension, and support healing.

Contemporary Breathwork Practices 

Today, breathwork journeys have evolved to incorporate multiple elements of Western psychotherapy. By blending various breathing techniques with components of talk therapy, and artistic representation through music and bodywork, breathwork therapy has become a catalyst for mindfulness and mental health treatment.

While modern breathwork therapy may have roots in Eastern and traditional meditative practices, its inception can be traced back to the conscious-raising era during the 1960s and 1970s. The research on consciousness and the healing power of psychedelics by transpersonal psychologists Dr. Stan and Christina Grof lead to the birth of holotropic breathwork. In the “Principles of Holotropic Breathwork,” they discuss how “non-ordinary states of consciousness” can be accessed via a guided session of fast and shallow breathing combined with “evocative” music. By altering the composition of oxygen and carbon dioxide, the attendees enter a state of transcendental consciousness whereby the body’s self-healing mechanism kicks in. 

Holotropic breathwork group sessions are facilitated by professionals that guide the healing process and help attendees achieve “wholeness” of psychological and psychological modalities. The group setting and elements of talk therapy also facilitate a sense of community as people work together in dyads to support and promote communal well-being. 

Results from research done with holotropic breathing have remained consistent throughout the years. For example, a systematic review done in 2018 found that holotropic breathing can help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Similarly, a study in 2017 found that holotropic breathing can help reduce symptoms of PTSD, including anger and confusion. Another study done in 2015 found that prolonged practice of holotropic breathing can positively alter temperaments and improve self-awareness and esteem levels.

The Future of Breathwork in Psychedelic Therapy

Although the different types of breathwork practices formed during the conscious-rising era have similar foundations, holotropic breathwork remains most closely associated with altered states of consciousness and the exploration of psychedelic effects.

Despite this, the primary goal of breathwork in any therapeutic environment remains the same: support healing and encourage self-awareness. Advocates of healing through breathwork such as Niraj Naik believe that mindful meditation practice built upon breathwork and music can activate a “profound brainwave state” necessary to enhance focus and drive creativity. Built upon the principles of Pranayama techniques, his company SOMA Breath empowers people with tools and techniques that promote well-being.

As the field of breathwork continues to evolve, MINDCURE’s exclusive partnership with SOMA Breath helps disseminate principles of breathwork therapy with essential and exclusive breathwork protocols through the iSTRYM platform. Built specifically for therapists and clinicians, its vast catalog of digitized resources also includes several music playlists that support healing via psychedelic therapy. As we enter a new age of therapeutic healing, digital tools such as iSTRYM provide data-driven insights and resources necessary for ensuring a safe and transcendental psychedelic experience.

Written by

Naveen Rashid