Side effects of breathwork can be risky for some people, here is a list of medical and psychiatric contraindications. For safety reasons, it’s recommended that these people don’t participate in breathwork sessions unless they get approval from a medical professional. In general, breathwork requires good physical and mental resilience, especially if there’s no therapeutic support available. The greatest challenge with breathwork contraindications is that there is only limited research available on safety. When it comes to altered states of consciousness, there is an element of unknown and some effects can be undetectable. Until there is more scientific research, the best strategy is being very cautious and taking the possible drawbacks seriously.
Pregnancy: During deep breathing, a breather experiences specific psychological changes in the body, including blood becoming more alkaline. This same blood goes through the fetus then. Pregnant women are not allowed to do the breathwork only because there haven’t been any studies on this impact on the fetus’s health. Moreover, premature contractions can be triggered in later periods of pregnancy.
Asthma: If you’re diagnosed with asthma, especially some types of breathwork could be beneficial, but you must have an inhaler available throughout the whole session. Because asthma is a psychosomatic illness, the psyche may intensify the symptoms as it tries to ameliorate the condition. It’s not a contraindication, just a warning to always have an inhaler available with you.
Severe cardiovascular diseases and/or irregularities, including prior heart attack: Strong emotional release or physical movement can stress the cardio system.
Glaucoma: during a breathing session, a breather may stress and strain internally, which could temporarily increase intraocular pressure that would worsen glaucoma symptoms. Moreover, if the breather experiences blurred vision, this may be an undiagnosed case of glaucoma, and a person needs to examine his eyes before continuing breathwork.
High blood pressure: Strong emotional release during breathwork can exacerbate the issues connected to high blood pressure and raise it even higher.
Detached retina: Breathing faster and deeper reduces intraocular pressure. This increases the risk of permanent vision damage for a person with a detached retina.
Psychosis: Any people that are psychotic or if they recently discharged from an addiction treatment centre shouldn’t do breathwork, as they are not grounded enough to come back in their everyday experience. They go into their psyche and can’t return on track and anchor in reality. According to Grof (1998), an average of good physical and mental resilience is required when practicing breathwork.
Epilepsy: There is a slightly increased chance of having a seizure during breathwork due to faster, deeper breathing.
Bipolar disorder or schizophrenia (prior diagnosed): Breathwork could trigger a manic episode; that’s why those people shouldn’t participate in breathwork sessions.
Hospitalization for any psychiatric condition or emotional crisis in the past 10 years, such as an attempted suicide or nervous breakdown: In this case, written approval by a healthcare professional is needed before practicing breathwork. As a facilitator, you want to ensure that this person is grounded enough to handle any intense emotional or physical releases during the session.
PTSD in severe cases: Many breathers have experienced profound healing experiences regarding PTSD. In severe cases, written approval by a healthcare professional is needed to ensure a person is grounded enough to handle what might come up during the session, including possibly reliving the experience which caused the PTSD to release it out of the system. The greatest danger in severe psychiatric conditions is that breathwork can bring up memories that the person is not ready to face yet and this can cause retraumatization.
Osteoporosis; Recent hospitalization; Severe bone and joint problems; Recent injury or surgery: In altered stats of consciousness during breathwork, a person can start moving uncontrollably and hurt themselves if they are facing the issues stated above.
History of strokes and seizures: The amount of oxygen that enters the body is altered which may result in a seizure. Before attempting any breathwork activities, be sure to talk about how they can affect your condition.
Family history of aneurisms: Blood circulation and the amount of oxygen in the body are both impacted by breathwork. Those who are susceptible to aneurysms may be affected differently from those who are not. Be sure to discuss with your doctor whether or not breathwork is a concern for you
Hypoglycaemia and Diabetes: Caution is needed due to changing oxgyen and carbondioxide levels in the blood.
Severe infections and unwanted complications: A doctor’s approval is needed to avoid any unforeseeable complications.
Prescription blood thinning/anti-clotting medications such as Coumadin: Blood thinners prevent blood clots from forming. Using these medications may be a contraindication because hyperventilation can be caused by blood clots for example a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or pulmonary embolus.
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