Mindfulness and marijuana: How breathwork and cannabis work together

Updated: Nov 7

By Emma Stone

Being aware of the breath and regulating it can harness the transformative power of mindful breathing. For some, pairing breathwork with cannabis can lead to a deep awareness of the body, while for others it can kickstart a journey akin to a DMT trip.

“Breath work by itself is therapeutic for many of the same reasons people consume cannabis—PTSD, anxiety, insomnia or pain and inflammation,” said Dr. Simi Kaur Burns PharmD, cannabis pharmacist and yoga teacher. “Cannabis helps some people slow down, stay present in the moment, and experience heightened sensory or emotional awareness—all of which support breathwork.”

Learn more below about the similarities between practicing breathwork and consuming cannabis, and how the two can work together to create beneficial effects for individuals.

What is breathwork?

Breathwork encompasses practices that regulate or control the breath in a conscious way.

There are diverse ways to practice breathwork. Popular techniques include:

  • Yogic pranayama practices (like nadi shodhana, or alternate nostril breathing)

  • Holotropic breathing

  • 4-7-8 breathing

  • Wim Hof Method breathing

  • Box breathing

  • Diaphragmatic breathing

  • Equal breathing

  • Pursed lip breathing

  • Resonant breathing

While the details of each practice vary, all share common elements: focus on the length of inhales and exhales, pauses between breaths, and suspended breath holds.

For movement coach Griffin Coombs, a main focus is breath retention, which can enhance cognitive function and boost the immune system.

“My intentional breathwork practice is almost always centered around improving my body’s tolerance to carbon dioxide, which includes breath hold practices, reducing breathing volume, and/or lengthening the breath cycle,” explained Coombs.

The benefits of breathwork

There are only a handful of studies on breathwork, but they show the practice’s versatility in boosting diverse aspects of health and well-being.

Breathwork can lower anxiety, depression, and PTSD symptoms, enhance lung function and digestion, improve sleep, lower blood pressure, and even help reduce tobacco cravings.

For some, breathwork can even help you “get high on your own supply” and lead to altered states of consciousness.

People often turn to breathwork when seeking a wellness practice that is free, can be done anywhere, anytime, and is sustainable and self-driven. While the immediate benefits are a sense of calm and presence in the mind and body, other long-term benefits (like those listed above) can become apparent with continued practice.

“Mindful breathing is fundamental to nervous system regulation and endocannabinoid balance,” said Burns. “When we practice mindful breathing, it’s like picking up the oars and rowing—with breath practice, you can generate momentum more effectively.”


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