Stanislav Grof came up with the concept of holotropic breathwork in the 1980’s over a decade after his official career of overseeing psychedelic research in government labs had come to an end. Dr. Grof had come to the conclusion that psychedelics were no longer necessary in order to reac hanother state of consciousness. Grof had an extensive background working for both US and Czech based psychiatric centers.
Before I go on to explain how to try a session of holotropic breathwork for yourself let’s start with a disclaimer:
This type of breathing is not for people who are prone to panic attacks, have a history of psychosis or suffer from blood pressure issues, glaucoma and cardiovascular disease. Intense personal emotions can arise.
When getting started with holotropic breathing start with a short session of ten minutes in duration. The first five minutes should be spent laying down and taking deep slow breaths through the nose that cause your belly to rise exhaling completely through your mouth. The second five minutes can be the same thing, but done at a 2x speed. This form of intense breathing quickly becomes exhausting.
I was curious as to what effects on the body could measured with 10 minutes of intense breathwork. Here is what I tested both before and after. I messed up the EEG recording as the contact are difficult to hold when moving.
Within five minutes of following the breath practice I started to feel intense tingling through my body. My legs, arms and chest were intensely vibrating. Near the end I felt very relaxed despite the high effort required to do move this much air through my lungs for ten minutes.
Looking at the data afterwards confirmed that heart rate was as to be expected. It starts out slow and increases with intentional effort during the second half. My urine pH did get slightly more alkaline which agrees with with Wim Hof’s suggestion of breath causing the body to alkalinize. The more interesting shift was a slight drop in blood glucose, an increase in breath acetone and significant uptick in blood ketones from 0.8 mmol/L to 1.3 mmol/L. The blood ketones were a bit of a surprise to see such a rise over a brief period. This will be fun to experiment with in further testing.