Is Breathwork Safe: Common Side Effects and How to Practice Safely

Published on
February 7, 2024

Breathwork, an increasingly popular practice that involves intentional manipulation of breathing patterns, offers a wide array of mental and physical benefits. However, as with any wellness practice, it's important to approach it with knowledge and caution. This article will explore the safety of breathwork, its common side effects, and how to practice it safely.

At One Breath Institute, our certified breathwork facilitator training puts safety as a central focus of effective practice. Our instructors are trained and experience guides to help you through your journey into somatic breathwork training safely and gently. Our approach is to take one step at a time, letting you set a pace that you are comfortable with.

Understanding Breathwork

Before diving into the specifics of safety, let's understand what breathwork is. Breathwork involves various techniques that alter the breathing pattern to influence mental, emotional, and physical states. It ranges from simple exercises like deep breathing to more advanced practices like holotropic breathwork.

Benefits of Breathwork

The benefits of breathwork are extensive and include reduced stress, improved concentration, enhanced emotional well-being, and better control over physiological responses. It's a powerful tool for relaxation and can aid in deeper self-awareness and mindfulness.

Is Breathwork Safe?

Generally, breathwork is considered safe for most people. However, its safety depends on the individual's health condition, the type of breathwork being practiced, and the guidance they're under. It's crucial to understand your body and any underlying health conditions before starting a breathwork practice.

Common Side Effects of Breathwork

While beneficial, breathwork can have side effects, especially when practiced without proper guidance or with intense techniques. Common side effects include:

  1. Dizziness or Light-headedness: Rapid or deep breathing can lead to a decrease in carbon dioxide in the blood, causing dizziness.
  2. Numbness or Tingling: Changes in breathing can affect nerve signals, leading to sensations of numbness.
  3. Emotional Release: Deep breathwork can unlock suppressed emotions, leading to unexpected emotional responses.
  4. Hot flushes: Some participants in a breathwork study published in the scientific journal Nature experienced hot flushes, but none of the participants dropped out of the practice as a result.

For further reading on these side effects, this article from WebMD covers the basics.

Considerations for Specific Medical Conditions

Certain medical conditions require extra caution when practicing breathwork:

  1. Cardiovascular Issues: Individuals with heart conditions should consult their doctor.
  2. Respiratory Diseases: Those with asthma or COPD should practice under guidance.
  3. Psychiatric Conditions: Individuals with a history of psychological disorders should approach breathwork carefully.

Resources like WebMD provide detailed information on these considerations.

It's worth noting that breathwork is a popular alternative therapy for cancer patients, and is generally deemed safe for practice, although whenever suffering from any serious medical condition, pratitioners should first consult their doctor.

How to Practice Safely

To ensure a safe and beneficial breathwork practice, follow these guidelines:

  1. Start Slow: Begin with simple techniques and gradually progress.
  2. Try an introductory session: One Breath Institute offers a free (and safe!) Sunday breathwork session every week for practitioners of all levels. Sign up and try it out this week.
  3. Seek Professional Guidance: Work with a certified breathwork instructor or experienced coach.
  4. Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to how your body reacts and stop if you feel discomfort.
  5. Medical Consultation: Consult with a healthcare provider if you have any medical conditions.

Finding a Certified Instructor

A certified instructor or coach can provide personalized guidance and ensure you're practicing safely. One Breath Institute is one of the nation's top certification providers for breathwork facilitators, and have trained some of the nations top practioners and breathwork coaches. To get connected with a breathwork trainer, contact us.


Breathwork can be a safe and transformative practice when approached with awareness and proper guidance. By understanding its benefits, recognizing potential side effects, considering personal health conditions, and practicing under professional supervision, you can safely explore the profound impacts of breathwork on your well-being.

Remember, while breathwork can be powerful, it's not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment. Always consult with a healthcare provider for personalized advice and treatment plans.

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