Part 2: Breathwork & Ayahuasca Your Guide to Preparation & Purification

Breathwork & Ayahuasca

In this article, we will explore the important role that preparation plays leading up to an Ayahuasca ceremony and highlight how breathwork can be a potent tool for physical, mental, emotional, and energetic purification as a part of this process. 

Breathwork is an incredible tool for navigating plant medicine ceremonies, serving as an anchor to ground your experience and a means to digest and integrate the teachings and insights gained in the days, weeks, and months that follow; allowing what you receive to really ‘land’, as well as helping you integrate new ways and states of being. 

Whether you’re considering Ayahuasca for the first time or are a seasoned ‘plant medicine person’, this guide will help you prepare, one breath at a time, by showing you how breathwork

can be an important and powerful ally in your journey into the magical world of plant medicine.

For more detail on this fascinating topic, you might like to explore my other articles: Breathwork for Ayahuasca – Part 1: The Ceremony, and Part 3: A Calming Pre-Ceremony Breathwork & Yin Yoga Practice, and Part 4: Breathwork for Ayahuasca Integration. 

New to breathwork? This great article is the ideal place to start: Getting Started With Breathwork – A Beginner’s Guide.

We’ll also delve into a trending breathwork technique called Breakthrough Breathwork to find out how it can enable you to access your subconscious mind and altered states of awareness, to process and release trapped emotions, blocks and traumas –  essentially ‘lightening the load’ before you work with Ayahuasca.

The Importance of Preparation

The Importance of Preparation

The commitment you make to preparing for ceremony and to meeting ‘the medicine’ will help establish and build an ongoing relationship with the Spirit of Ayahuasca, as well as other plant spirits who may be called into ceremony to help you. 

This relationship can begin ahead of time, there’s no need to wait. Ayahuasca works in dimensions where there are no limitations, separation, space, or time. So, start working with your intentions to connect with this powerful Master Plant Teacher in a meaningful way as you go about your preparations. Genuine preparation shows Ayahuasca your intentions – and lets her know whether you are committed or not. Let’s look at what this involves, followed by how breathwork techniques can be a part of your protocol.

Don’t Skip This Part!

Don’t Skip This Part!

If you are new to plant medicine and are working with powerful Master Teacher plants like Ayahuasca for the first time, then you might not be aware that the preparation stage is traditionally, and in most modern contexts, seen as being necessary and integral to the healing and integration process – in other words, it’s not to be skipped!

Indigenous Traditions

Indigenous Traditions

In indigenous wisdom-keeping traditions such as the Shipibo Konawa, ‘dietas’ are entered into as serious affairs in which the Onanya (in Shipibo), Maestro or Maestra (meaning doctor in Spanish), or ‘shaman’, prepares and purifies their body, mind and spirit to show respect and to ‘make space’ in their physical and energetic body for the plant spirit to be able to enter into a transmission of their teachings, sacred information, and sacred healing and protective songs which are called icaros.



This involves restricting the diet so that it is bland, minimal, and basic (often boiled plantain, river fish, and rice, without salt) and living in isolation for extended periods of time, away from external stimulation and from family and community. This is usually anything from months to years and demonstrates to the plant spirit the genuine commitment and desire to foster a relationship. 

Dieting is also about detoxifying the whole being, making oneself worthy of receiving the transmission of knowledge from the plant or tree spirit– and is in essence, asking that the plant become an ally for teaching and healing.

Mirroring Traditional Preparation

Mirroring Traditional Preparation

What we are often required to do is something similar. Our preparation can mirror this commitment without us going into the jungle for months or years at a time. It’s important not to overlook proper preparation, because it can literally save your life. It has a very practical side as certain foods, drugs and behaviours can have negative interactions on a physical and energetic level with the medicine, and therefore should be avoided for a period prior to and after ceremony. It’s really no joke, as some drug interactions can be fatal.

Things to Avoid

This is how it usually flows in the reputable retreat centres. There is a 2-week restriction either side of the ceremony on the following, however having said that, feel free to do deeper and longer purification if you feel called as it will only be of benefit. 

Prior to Ayahuasca, there is a restriction on: 

  • Sex and physical intimacy 
  • Self-pleasuring, sexual thoughts, porn
  • Heavy, greasy, oily foods
  • Processed food
  • Spicy food
  • Salt
  • Alcohol 
  • Marijuana and street drugs
  • Dairy
  • Meat and meat products
  • Pork especially
  • Prescription drugs including antidepressants
  • Chemically based beauty and body care
  • Watching or reading heavy negative material (i.e., horror, war, political, news)

Avoid Chemicals in Products & in Foods

Traditional societies don’t use the chemical products that westerners tend to be so fond of such as synthetic deodorants, perfumes, body creams, fluoride toothpaste, body wash and soaps, laundry products and softeners, sunscreens, bug sprays, hair care products, hair colouring products etc. It is best to detox your body from these in the weeks leading up to your retreat. Choose natural alternatives.

Likewise, regarding foods, choose organic, if possible, whole foods over processed foods, home-made over take away, light, simple, and fresh over heavy, hard to digest and therefore ‘clogging’ foods. 

It’s especially pertinent if you are going on a residential retreat where you may be working with Ayahuasca 4-7 times over a course of 10-14 days, as it’s already a very physically demanding and tiring process. So, the less toxic you are going in, the better you are likely to fare and the less purging you might be called to do.

What is Purging?

Purging is a way that toxicity is released from the system – be it physical, mental, emotional, or energetic.  Purging can include – crying, sweating, yawning, nausea, peeing, shaking, pooping, vomiting, crazy whirlwind-like thoughts, and a bunch of other things you’ve probably heard of as well. Avoiding all the things on the list above will help to detoxify and purify your body and mind so that you are in a more receptive and ready state with somewhat less to purge.

Purifying Helps with Intentions

Purification of your physical, mental, and spiritual vessel helps to be clean and ready to receive the medicine on all levels of your being. Not only that, but preparation is the beginning of embodying your intention. So, in a nutshell, the effort you make to purify and open yourself before meeting the medicine is a sign of reverence and respect and can influence how your ceremony flows. 

The cleaner your body the clearer and more still your mind, so purification can help you get really clear around your intentions.

How to Use Breathwork for Purification

As you’ve just heard, purification is a critical aspect of preparing for an Ayahuasca ceremony. It involves cleansing the body, mind, and spirit to create a receptive state for the medicine. Breathwork, as a tool for purification, can enhance this process by clearing physical and energetic blockages, balancing emotions, and setting the stage for deep healing.

Top 5 Breathing Techniques for Purification

Kapalabhati (Skull Shining Breath)

Kapalabhati is an important shatkarma, a purification in hatha yoga. The word Kapalabhati is made up of two Sanskrit words: kapāla meaning “skull”, and bhāti meaning “shining, illuminating”. According to the Gheranda Samhita it has magical curative effects.

Kapalabhati is a powerful cleansing technique that aids in purifying the body and mind, making it an excellent preparation for an Ayahuasca ceremony. Watch a video of it here. Here’s how to practise it and the benefits it offers:

How To:

  • Sit comfortably with your spine straight.
  • Take a deep breath in through your nose.
  • Exhale quickly and forcefully through your nose while contracting your abdominal muscles.
  • Allow the inhalation to happen passively between each forceful exhale.
  • Repeat this cycle for 1-2 minutes, or longer if you feel, then relax and breathe normally.



  • Cleanses the Respiratory System
  • Removes stale air and toxins from the lungs, enhancing respiratory efficiency.
  • Invigorates the Mind
  • Stimulates and energises the brain, promoting mental clarity and focus.
  • Detoxifies the Body
  • Helps in expelling toxins through rapid exhalation, supporting overall bodily purification.
  • Balances Emotions
  • Assists in releasing emotional blockages, creating a calm and balanced mental state.

Bhastrika (Bellows Breath)

Bhastrika is a dynamic breathing technique designed to invigorate the body, enhance oxygenation, and expel toxins, making it ideal for preparation before deep meditation or ceremonial experiences. 

Bhastrika is an important breathing exercise in yoga and pranayama. It is sometimes treated as a kriya or ‘cleansing action’ along with Kapalabhati to clear the airways in preparation for other breathing techniques. Bhastrika involves a rapid and forceful process of inhalation and exhalation powered by the movement of the diaphragm. 

Swami Sivananda describes the process: “inhale and exhale quickly ten times like the bellows of the blacksmith. Constantly dilate and contract. When you practise this Pranayama a hissing sound is produced.” Watch a video of it here

Here’s how to practise it and the benefits it offers:

How To:

  • Sit comfortably with your spine straight.
  • Inhale deeply through your nose, filling your lungs completely.
  • Exhale forcefully through your nose with equal emphasis on the inhale and exhale.
  • Maintain a rapid, rhythmic pace for 10 breaths.
  • Take a deep inhalation and hold – as deep an inhalation as possible.
  • Exhale very slowly and deeply.
  • This is one round of Bhastrika.
  • After completing the breaths, relax and breathe normally.



  • Increases Oxygen Supply
  • Enhances overall energy levels and mental clarity.
  • Expels Metabolic Waste
  • Helps in detoxifying the body by clearing out toxins.
  • Energises the Body
  • Provides a quick boost of vitality and reduces feelings of sluggishness.
  • Clears the Mind
  • Promotes mental sharpness and focus, preparing you for deeper states of meditation.

Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana)

Alternate Nostril Breathing is a calming technique that purifies the mind and balances the body’s energy channels, making it ideal for preparing for an Ayahuasca ceremony. Watch a video of it here. Here’s how to practice it and the benefits it offers:

How To:

  • Sit comfortably with your spine straight.
  • Use your right thumb to close your right nostril.
  • Inhale deeply through the left nostril.
  • Close the left nostril with your ring finger, then exhale through the right nostril.
  • Inhale through the right nostril, then close it and exhale through the left nostril.
  • Continue this alternating pattern for 5-10 minutes.



  • Balances Hemispheres of the Brain
  • Promotes mental clarity and emotional equilibrium by balancing left and right brain activity.
  • Calms the Nervous System
  • Reduces stress and anxiety, creating a state of calm and relaxation.
  • Purifies Energy Channels
  • Cleanses and balances the nadis (energy channels), enhancing overall energy flow.
  •  Enhances Focus
  • Improves concentration and focus, aiding in the setting of clear intentions for the ceremony.

Ujjayi Breath (Victorious Breath)

Ujjayi Breath is a soothing yet powerful yogic breathing technique that calms the nervous system and increases oxygenation, perfect for preparing the mind and body for an Ayahuasca ceremony. Watch a video of it here. Here’s how to practise it and the benefits it offers:

How To:

  • Sit comfortably with a straight spine.
  • Inhale deeply through your nose, slightly constricting the back of your throat to create a soft, ocean-like sound.
  • Exhale slowly through your nose, maintaining the throat constriction.
  • Continue this controlled, rhythmic breathing for 5-10 minutes.



  • Calms the Nervous System
  • Promotes relaxation and reduces stress, creating a peaceful mental state.
  • Detoxifies the Body
  • Increases oxygenation and helps in the removal of toxins.
  • Enhances Concentration
  • Improves mental focus and clarity, aiding in meditation and intention setting.
  • Balances Emotions
  • Stabilises mood and emotional responses, fostering emotional resilience.

Deep Diaphragmatic Breathing

Deep Diaphragmatic Breathing is a foundational breathwork technique that promotes relaxation and detoxification, making it ideal for preparing for an Ayahuasca ceremony. Watch a video of it here. Here’s how to practise it and the benefits it offers:

How To:

  • Lie down or sit comfortably with your spine straight.
  • Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen.
  • Inhale deeply through your nose, allowing your abdomen to rise while keeping your chest relatively still.
  • Exhale slowly and completely through your nose, allowing your abdomen to fall.
  • Practise this deep, diaphragmatic breathing for 5-10 minutes.



  • Enhances Lung Capacity
  • Promotes efficient breathing and increases oxygen supply to the body.
  • Promotes Relaxation
  •  Activates the parasympathetic nervous system, reducing stress and inducing a state of calm.
  • Detoxifies the Body
  • Helps in the removal of carbon dioxide and other toxins.
  • Stabilises Emotions
  • Supports emotional balance and helps in managing anxiety and tension.

By incorporating these breathwork techniques into your preparation for an Ayahuasca ceremony, you can enhance your physical, mental, and emotional readiness, which can potentially assist you to have a deeper and more profound experience. Breath by breath, you’ll find a powerful ally in your quest for transformation and enlightenment!

Breakthrough Breathwork for Trauma Release in Ayahuasca Preparation

Breakthrough Breathwork is a powerful technique for trauma release, making it an ideal preparation for an Ayahuasca ceremony. This type of breathwork involves deep, rhythmic, intentional breathing ‘flows’ as a part of a breathwork ceremony experience, that help to process and release stored traumas, emotions, and tension from the body and mind. 

If you take the opportunity to engage in Breakthrough Breathwork sessions in the weeks or months leading up to an Ayahuasca ceremony, you will be able to enter the ceremony with a clearer mental state and reduced emotional baggage, making it easier to integrate the profound experiences and teachings of plant medicine.

Breakthrough Breathwork operates by engaging both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, which can help release deeply buried memories and emotional blocks. 

This process often involves cycles of deeper than normal breathing (‘superventilation’) followed by breath holds, and slower than normal breathing, allowing participants to reach altered states of consciousness where they can confront and process past traumas. This can result in a sense of resolution and emotional freedom, setting a solid foundation for the transformative experiences during the Ayahuasca ceremony.

The benefits of incorporating Breakthrough Breathwork into your preparation routine are numerous. It can lead to a greater sense of emotional balance, reduced anxiety, and enhanced overall well-being. The technique is also known to promote mental clarity and resilience, essential qualities when embarking on the intense and often challenging journey of an Ayahuasca ceremony.

I would highly recommend attending a Breakthrough Breathwork Ceremony or two either in

person or online before delving into plant medicine work. It can really

help to lighten the load by giving you access to trapped emotions, traumas, and

emotional blocks, helping to integrate and release what is no longer serving

your journey. You can read more about the role of breathwork in trauma release HERE.

For a deeper explanation of the technique, you can read this article Breakthrough Breathwork Explained HERE.

Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts

Breathwork can be an amazing ally for anyone working with Ayahuasca in ceremony, whether it’s your first time or your hundredth. By incorporating breathwork techniques like Kapalabhati, Bhastrika, Nadi Shodhana, Ujjayi Breath, and deep diaphragmatic breathing, you can purify your body, enhance mental clarity, and set clear intentions for the ceremony. 

These conscious breathing techniques not only prepare you physically and mentally but also play a crucial role in the post-ceremony integration process. By regularly practising breathwork, you can better assimilate the profound teachings and insights gained during the Ayahuasca experience, leading to lasting personal growth and transformation.

Anya is a yoga & IRest meditation teacher, breathwork instructor, divemaster and writer, ocean lover and solo adventurer.

She thrives on change and transformation, and spends part of her year working and living in the Amazon with indigenous doctors, learning about their system of healing, and helping to facilitate transformational retreats.

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