Breathwork… Easily the most sought-after and popularized wellness practice since yoga hit the mainstream in the ’60s. This reemerging discipline is making a big splash in the West and has become an incredible catalyst for conscious expansion, physical optimization, and emotional healing for your average American. But can it prepare you for, and help integrate afterwards a psychedelic experience?
It is safe to say that the reemergence of breathwork in the modern world is allowing your typical everyday person to expand their consciousness, heal their past traumas, and optimize their body, all with the power of their breath.
From your mom of three you meet at the grocery store, to your favorite professional athlete, it seems that everyone is bringing modern application to this ancient modality.
Even if you’ve never done breathwork, it’s likely that you know someone who has, and that you’ve heard the crazy story from their breathwork “journey.”
And the world isn’t simply practicing the breathwork of old, i.e. Pranayama. But what we are seeing today are brand new, cutting edge breathwork “gurus” and techniques such as the Wim Hof method and Holotropic Breathwork, created by Stanislav Grof.
The fact is, breathwork is rapidly becoming a household word and practice, and that my friend, is a very good thing. And then we have psychedelics… Another reemerging ancient tool that has been graciously given to humanity by Mother Earth in order to heal, expand, and evolve our species in every way.
Psychedelics as Catalysts for Change
With organizations like MAPS ( Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, founded by Rick Doblin) leading the way with psychedelic research, psychedelics are becoming more and more accepted and appreciated by society. Pair this with the influx of multi-generational shamans from all over the world, and the emerging of “Neo-Shamans” in the West, psychedelics, more so intentional psychedelic ceremonies, are now becoming a right of passage, as well as a way of life for your average westerner.
This is a very unprecedented and auspicious reality that we are currently living in, and in my opinion, is the potential catalyst for us (humanity) to get on the right track and not completely destroy ourselves.
With researchers showing that our oceans will be empty of fish by 2048, our soil for farming totally shot, our air more polluted than ever, it’s never been a better time for a wake-up call.
And a wake-up call is exactly what both breathwork and psychedelics provide. A wake-up call that insists we better ourselves and our planet. To live in harmony with the people around us, and the Earth we walk upon. To right our wrongs, and do our best to live intentionally, compassionately, and holistically.
To be frank, THANK GOD for these powerful tools and other consciousness-expanding tools that are becoming more and more sought after and utilized. We simply need these tools more than ever.
So… How do breathwork and psychedelics come together in a synergetic way?
As a facilitator of both psychedelic medicines and breathwork, I have found that breathwork, (as well as many other wellness modalities) is a powerful tool for both preparing and integrating psychedelic or plant medicine experiences.
One example of breathwork being great for psychedelic preparation is a breathwork practice I created 2 years ago called Sonic Neural Breathwork.
I designed this breathwork with the intention to create the same powerful healing and consciousness-expanding effects of 5-MEO-DMT and NN-DMT. And as many psychonauts who practice this breathwork would attest, it is quite similar to the non-dual, very psychedelic state you enter into in the DMT experience.
Why is this important?
From my experience as a facilitator of these tools, I have noticed that the delusion of the ego during a DMT experience is the primary part of the experience that can be quite jarring for the participant. This is typically the case if the participant is not properly guided through a deeply relaxing process before the ceremony, and even then, the ego delusion can be confusing and disorienting.
The practice of surrender comes into play here. When the participant fully allows for their thinking mind and ego to dissolve, they are able to experience the vastness of oneness and non-duality. So preparing the participant for this surrender is, in my opinion, essential.
When the participant is allowed to experience this surrender through a guided breathwork session and realizes that they are completely safe to let go and have the experience, the participant is then able to approach the DMT experience with much more safety, trust, and clarity.
Another great way to prepare the body for any form of stress that may occur within a psychedelic experience is through Dynamic Breathwork.
This breathwork is designed to powerfully increase an individual’s ability to easily navigate stressful experiences by intentionally inducing a stress response through breath holds. This prepares the participant to rest through any potentially “Stressful” part of the psychedelic experience and experience the journey to its fullest potential.
Integration is arguably the most important experiential pillar of the psychedelic or plant medicine experience. It has never been more evident and recognized that proper integration can make or break a potentially life-changing spiritual experience.
The “Psychedelic Renaissance” we are experiencing today has shown time and time again that individuals can become fragmented and “worse off” if they do not have the proper guidance or understanding while integrating a powerful psychedelic experience.
So how can breathwork help you integrate plant medicine?
The breath is arguably the greatest tool for managing our nervous system, and when we are integrating the energetic shift that plant medicine and psychedelics provide, we want to do our best to remain calm, relaxed, and grounded.
There are many breathwork practices to aid in remaining calm and relaxing.
A few that I suggest to clients and practice myself are Nodi Sadhana, Foundational Breath, and Cleansing Breath. All of these breathwork techniques are designed to activate the Parasympathetic Nervous System. When activated, this part of the nervous system allows us to relax fully. The common term for this state of being is Rest and Digest.
Understanding how to activate this part of the nervous system is not only essential during integration, but for everyone aspiring to live a more peaceful, balanced, and fulfilling life.
During integration, it is extremely helpful to remain in a peaceful, balanced state. This will allow space for new growth, expansion, and healing to take place. When we are in a relaxed state, our body and mind function much more efficiently, and we begin to naturally and organically heal on many levels.
As Alan Watts said, “You simply need to be relaxed, and awake”.
Learn more about how breathwork help to manage your state of being and nervous system here.
When breathwork and psychedelics come together, they create a synergetic duo arguably as delicious as peanut butter and jelly. As a facilitator of both of these modalities, I can honestly say that one is not complete without the other.
Whether you are exploring the depths of consciousness with psychedelics or optimizing your health with breathwork, both of these tools are incredible support for anyone on the path of optimization, evolution, and spiritual healing.
If you are new to these healing modalities and would like to know how you can experience them in a powerful and complete way, I invite you to consider joining a multi-day transformational retreat that incorporates these amazing tools.
This article first appeared on the author’s blog and is used here with permission.
Ben Holt is an internationally acclaimed Breathwork Facilitator, transformational retreat leader at Connect and Evolve, therapist, psychedelic guide, filmmaker, and musician. Please visit the author’s website here for more information.