Breathwork leads to altered states of consciousness and many breathers report having visionary experiences and journeys which feel psychedelic in nature. In fact, it’s quite common to hear breathers equate their Breathwork experiences with Ayahuasca or other psychedelic plant medicines. Also, many of the commonly reported benefits associated with Breathwork parallel plant medicine exactly, including:

  • Transpersonal experiences
  • Feelings of “oneness with the universe”
  • The releasing of trauma
  • Physical and emotional healing
  • Meetings with, and messages from the divine
  • Seeing deep and profound parts of the self
  • Revisiting childhood
  • Life-changing breakthroughs
  • Spiritual awakening

Because of these shared effects and experiences, some believe the psychedelic chemical DMT is naturally released in the brain during a Breathwork session. But is this really true or mere speculation? Getting to the bottom of this proved surprisingly difficult as there have not been any direct studies on this potential correlation and researchers are only beginning to understand DMT and its role in the human body. However we did some digging, and below we will reveal the evidence that is currently available, and share our conclusion.

What is DMT?

DMT (N, N-Dimethyltryptamine) is a hallucinogenic tryptamine chemical that belongs to a class of psychedelics that includes LSD and psilocybin [1]. DMT  is most well-known as a naturally occurring psychoactive ingredient in the plant-medicine Ayahuasca, however, it is abundant in nature and found in numerous plants and animals, and even in our own bodies [2], [3]., DMT is the only psychedelic substance known to occur naturally in the human body and studies have detected DMT in human blood, brain, and cerebrospinal fluid [4],[5].,

DMT is considered the most powerful-known psychedelic on earth and the ingestion of DMT can lead to intense psychedelic and mystical experiences. DMT also simulates the near death experience, wherein people report the sensation of transcending their bodies and entering another realm, and because of this, University of New Mexico researcher, Rick Strassman, M.D. coined DMT as the “spirit molecule.” [6] Strassman states that DMT facilitates the soul’s movement in and out of the body and is an integral part of the birth and death experiences, as well as the highest states of meditation [7]. It is speculated DMT may also play an integral role in deep REM sleep and dreaming, as well as the evolution of human consciousness.

As an interesting aside, Holotropic Breathwork (which is one of the original two branches of modern Breathwork),  was created in the 1960s by the renowned LSD-facilitated therapy researcher Stanislav Grof. LSD is a potent psychedelic and as mentioned above part of the same family of chemicals as DMT; and when it became illegal Grof developed his conscious, connected Breathwork technique to achieve psychedelic-like states without using psychedelic drugs.

How DMT is Produced in the Human Body

In the mid 1990’s Dr. Strassman conducted experiments on DMT and came to the conclusion that it is the pineal gland that makes and secretes it. The pineal gland is a small organ located deep in the center of the brain that has been shrouded in mystery since it’s discovery and is referred to by some as “the seat of the soul,” or the “third eye.” Although many people still believe DMT is produced only in the pineal gland, a 2019 study published in the journal Scientific Reports revealed otherwise. According to this study, there are brain neurons that contain the two enzymes required to make DMT, and these neurons are not just found in the pineal gland but also in other parts of the brain that are important for higher-order brain functions [8].

DMT and Breathwork

Because Breathwork experiences and benefits so often parallel those of DMT and other psychedelic plant-medicines, and DMT is produced naturally in the brain, many people believe DMT is released during Breathwork. This has yet to be proven, and we still don’t know the exact mechanisms in which DMT is produced in the body or what causes it to be released. However, it has been proven that highly stressful situations can lead to a release of high quantities of DMT in the brain of rats, and this phenomenon may occur similarly in human brains [9],[10]., Breathwork sessions change the ratio of carbon dioxide (C02) and oxygen in the body and increase pH, and these rapid changes may place a mild stress on the system. In theory, this Breathwork induced stress state may lead to the release of DMT.

Another potential way in which Breathwork may cause the natural release of DMT is through inducing mild hypoxia (reduced oxygen levels in tissues). Although breathing deeply and connected should in theory lead to increased oxygen levels, the rapid breathing and consequent increase in pH and reduction of C02 that occurs may cause blood vessels to narrow (vasoconstriction) which in turn could lead to decreased oxygen levels [11],[12]., Studies have found DMT can protect human cells from death in low-oxygen environments, so it is possible the rapid changes in oxygen levels that occur in Breathwork may spur the release of DMT as a protective survival mechanism [13].

A third way in which Breathwork may cause the release of DMThas do with brainwaves and cerebrospinal fluid. Gamma brainwaves are associated with states of deep meditation, heightened awareness, and higher brain functions [14]. Breathwork and other deeply meditative practices activate gamma waves and there is a correlation between gamma waves and DMT release, with one seeming to stimulate the other [15],[16]., Preliminary research also suggests the breath is what controls the circulation of cerebrospinal fluid and this fluid contains the highest amounts of DMT outside the brain. It’s possible that conscious, connected, breathing causes an increase of the distribution of DMT throughout the brain and body by stimulating the flow of this DMT-containing fluid [17].

Closing Thoughts: Everything You Need is Already within You

While we don’t yet have any definitive answers with regards to DMT and Breathwork, what we do know is that Breathwork works and it’s transformative and healing effects are unsurpassed! It brings subconscious experiences to the surface, removes physical, emotional, and mental toxicity; and provides a path for self-discovery and spiritual awakening. Plus it’s safe, all-natural, and it empowers us to be our own healer’s.

At Alchemy of Breath, our mission is to bring Breathwork to the world and as a part of that mission we have created several free Breathwork offerings as well as a world-leading Online Breathwork Facilitator Training Certification. We invite you to join our conscious global community and to come experience the Alchemy of Breath with us. You can find out more about our free transformational Breathwork offerings here: https://alchemyofbreath.com/.

* If you want to find out more about DMT in the human body, it’s effects, and it’s potential connection to Breathwork, you can watch DMT Quest Documentary (we have no affiliation with this link or video).