It is entirely possible to induce a psychedelic state of consciousness without the use of psychedelics.
A technique known as holotropic breathwork can be taught and practiced by almost anyone and was developed by Dr Stanislav Grof in the 1970s.
Humanity has traditionally sought ways to enter altered states of consciousness through the use of both natural and laboratory made substances.
Breathwork is nothing new to spiritual seekers, but is a skill that, although simple, needs to be taught to achieve the best effects rather than simply ingesting a concoction with no real conscious effort.
Holotropic breathing requires an individual to lay on a mat with their eyes closed and begin a process of accelerated breathing whilst relaxing, spiritual oriented music is played in the background.
A person can then enter into a deep internal experience which can be very healing. The environment and the persons overall emotional and psychological state play a role in how their experience unfolds.
This technique was first explored by Stanislav Grof whilst studying the correlations between LSD trips and a persons neonatal and fetal experiences. This is where early traumas may be hidden in the subconscious which later evolve into psychological or physical disorders.
Empowered with the knowledge that altered states of consciousness had enormous positive benefits of humans and the with ban on LSD in the 1960’s, Grof continued his work through the development of breathing techniques that could induce LSD-like experiences.
Over the years, Grof had witnessed people recover from addiction, gain clarity and insights into persistent life problems, overcome negative thinking, stress and even the fear of death.
Overall, people experienced an increased connection with themselves and developed a greater purpose for their lives. Today there are over 619 accredited facilitators worldwide have trained through the Grof Transpersonal Training.
More recently there have been peer-reviewed journals which have cited holotropic breathing which can be found here.
What Happens During Holotropic Breathing?
There’s more than simply laying down on a mat. Each participant has a designated “sitter”, or facilitator, who’s there to ensure their safety and guide them through their breathing. As the process unfolds, deeper levels of relaxation are attained which can last up to 3 hours.
A participant can receive visuals as well as feel various sensations that range from joy, peace or even re-experiencing a trauma, the birth process or past-life experiences, Some people state they had major spiritual awakenings and transformations.
With more natural psychedelics such as a mushrooms or Ayahuasca, being caught up in the “war on drugs”, this technique certainly represents an alternative route to achieve similar goals. It also may be a more gentle, less intense experience, than what some psychoactive plants offer.