How to Embrace the Effects of Psychedelics Without the Drugs

Experts say psychedelic breathwork can ‘blow your socks off’

Tessa Love
Elemental
Published in
7 min readAug 10, 2020

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Illustration: Tsjisse Talsma

In an attempt to escape the ever-increasing stress of life in 2020, I laid down on the floor of my Northern Californian cabin on a recent Saturday afternoon and did something not uncommon in this corner of the world: I tried to enter a psychedelic state of consciousness. The catch is, I didn’t take any drugs.

Following a guided video, I did a practice known as “psychedelic breathwork,” a method of controlled breathing that’s meant to stimulate a psychedelic experience and spark a greater awareness of one’s emotional state. According to Field Trip Health, the company offering the sessions, the practice, coupled with a 50-minute integration session with a licensed therapist, could help relieve the particular anxieties brought on by life in the times of Covid-19 — and much more.

Based in Ontario, Canada, Field Trip offers in-person ketamine-assisted psychotherapy for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). But like most clinical psychedelic studies and treatments (and, well, everything else in the world), the global shutdown has put their work on pause, potentially at a moment in time when people might need it the most. In response to this bad timing, Field Trip wanted to offer something virtual, legal, and easily accessible to help people cope. Enter psychedelic breathwork.

Using breathing techniques to release stress is not a novel concept. These days, things like mindful breathing, deep breathing, and measured breathing are all purported as helpful ways to deal with the anxiety and uncertainty brought on by the pandemic — or any stressful situation. A growing number of studies show that breathing techniques can help combat anxiety and insomnia on both physiological and psychological levels. Breathing can stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which reduces stress, as well as divert the breather’s attention away from destructive thinking patterns.

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