Psychedelic experiences can be deeply transformative within our emotional, physical, psychological, and spiritual landscapes, as they can bring about insights that pave the way for a reexamination of current ways of thinking and behaving. In the time that follows right after the journey, we reside in a space of greater mental flexibility, supporting the incorporation of positive changes into our lives.
This critical period after a psychedelic experience is what we call “integration,” and it is an essential component to the facilitation of real and lasting change. By combining psychedelics with other modalities, such as breathwork, we can achieve more profound effects, resulting in long-term therapeutic and transformative outcomes. As breathwork allows us to both revisit our experiences safely and integrate our insights, it can serve as a potent tool to support and enhance psychedelic experiences. Let’s explore how!
The Science Behind Psychedelics
Psychedelic medicines, whether extracted from a plant or manufactured synthetically, influence a person’s experience of Self and their environment, as they alter brain activity, specifically impacting the modulation of the Default Mode Network. Being that the Default Mode Network, the part of the brain that manages our ego functions and helps with organizing information from our surroundings, is deactivated when undergoing psychedelic experiences, we attribute these journeys to ego death.
Within this ego dissolution, the mind becomes more open and receptive, allowing us to rewire the brain, its neural pathways, and ultimately our habitual ways of thinking and behaving, ways that may not be conducive to our well-being. By interrupting these neural patterns that no longer serve us, we can move into spaces of deep healing and freedom from what may be keeping us from accessing our highest selves and reaching our full potential.
Psychedelics and Breathwork: A Mirrored Experience
Both psychedelics and breathwork can alter our states of awareness, shifting us away from our everyday waking reality, or our normal perceptions or experiences in the world, and into states of consciousness where the mind is more open and receptive. In this place of openness and receptivity, we can feel deeply connected to the world, as we dissolve our sense of “I” and move into “We,” and it is in this space that we can unearth insights, tune into our inherent wisdom, and find deep healing.
Although psychedelics and breathwork offer two different roads to accessing non-ordinary states of consciousness, the outcomes can be very much alike. The heightened awareness through psychedelics is subject to the ingested compound, while with breathwork, it is the breath itself that shifts the brain’s ratio of carbon dioxide and oxygen, prompting the pineal gland to release natural DMT; this is what produces the mirrored psychedelic experience.
Through breathwork, breathing more quickly and with conscious awareness, we reduce the amount of oxygen that is delivered to the brain, inducing altered or hallucinogenic states akin to psychedelics. And what is so incredible about breathwork is that it offers a safe and legal way to enter into these elevated layers of consciousness, allowing for this self-exploration, psychological reorganization and flexibility, and the release of trauma, addiction, and disease from the body.
Of note, since breathwork can activate the same channels as psychedelic medicines and can have a strong physiological effect on the body, we don’t recommend combining breathwork with psychedelics simultaneously. However, we do encourage leaning into breathwork both before or after a journey to expand the potential for deeper healing and transformation.
Psychedelic Integration: A Period to Receive
During a psychedelic journey, we can have transcendent visions, great insights, and even out-of-body experiences. As we return back to our normal waking reality and the fast-paced environment in which we live afterward, the discoveries can be lost, and it can be almost effortless to resort back to our old or habitual ways of thinking, behaving, and navigating in the world.
What psychedelics so beautifully allow us to do is to open us up to new ways of operating, physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. And with continuing support for integrating these new revelations, we can initiate changes within all realms of our well-being. Breathwork is a potent way to do just this. But why?
Following the use of psychedelic medicines, the brain has heightened neuroplasticity, meaning that the brain is able to adapt, shift, and rewire its psychological programming. As such, the integration period is of utter importance for introducing effective changes to root these insights into our lives. Through the combination of psychedelics and ongoing integration practices, breathwork, we can establish long-term shifts in our thought processes, behaviors, and habits.
Additionally, it is not uncommon to be met with emotional rawness or slight imbalance following a journey, so allowing time and space to process and be with our experiences and emotions is valuable. Breathwork, as an integrative tool, creates a sacred and safe container to feel and be with whatever we may be met with. It allows us to explore our experiences through a lens of observation, understanding, and non-attachment, tune into their meanings, and then ground and incorporate these new revelations into our world so that we can live with more ease, grace, and presence.
Breathwork can also be done in preparation for a psychedelic journey, as it opens our hearts, helps us to become embodied, and reduces any anxiety that may be present. Whether we use breathwork as a support pre or post-psychedelic journey, it supports our experience by encouraging a connection to our bodies, expanding our ways of thinking to encapsulate thought patterns not bound by stories, attachments, or limitations, and guiding us to feel safe to explore Self, the subconscious mind, and new states of consciousness and awareness.