What Is “Breathwork Integration”?
The experience of a Breathwork session doesn’t end when the workshop ends. To get the maximum benefit from your breathwork experience, it’s important to devote some time and space to your inner journey — this is the process that we call “integration.”
What is Integration?
It’s where the rubber meets the road. It’s where you take the things you learned about yourself in your session and “integrate” them into your overall being, so that they become an accessible part of you, rather than something you quickly forget. It’s the process of incorporating the experience into your life in a way that truly moves you forward towards your life aspirations.
Post-Breathwork Forgetfulness and State-Dependent Memory
Will your breathwork session catalyze real change in your life? It will, to the degree that you don’t forget it… to the degree that you “integrate” the experience. But alas, it’s very easy to forget your breathwork experience. Why is that?
Neuropsychologists have documented a concept called “state-dependent memory,” which is defined as “the phenomenon through which memory retrieval is most efficient when an individual is in the same state of consciousness as they were when the memory was formed” (Wikipedia). Simply summarized: If you study for an exam while you are drinking coffee, you’d better drink coffee when you take the exam! The brain stores memories not only based on the concepts remembered, but also the neuropsychological setting in which you remember them (which includes things like caffeine, or alcohol). This is why it’s much easier to remember things you did or said when you’re drunk when you get drunk again, but not so easy when you are in your normal consciousness.
As related to breathwork, the point here is that, to maximally benefit from what you experienced and learned during your breathwork session, you’ll need to make some extra effort to “translate” that experience back to your day to day consciousness and awareness and self.
Integration as Moving Towards Wholeness
Dr. Stanislav Grof is one of the foremost consciousness researchers in the world today and the pioneer founder of Holotropic Breathwork, one of the most well-known breathwork approaches in the world. He’s been studying the benefits of breathwork and other consciousness-altering experiences for almost 60 years now! Grof coined the word “holotropic” which means “movement towards (trepein) wholeness (holos). Holotropic is a beautiful word to consider in relation to integration. One way to think about it is that, during the breathwork session, you “uncover” new parts of yourself, you become exposed to new (often fragile) aspects of your being that you may have forgotten, or that are new to your day-to-day conscious self. Think of these new parts of yourself as “pieces of your puzzle.” You need to bring those puzzle pieces back and plug them into your overall unfolding self puzzle — the one that matches your truest, most authentic self.
How Much Time Should You Devote to Integration?
So, how much time is required to integrate a breathwork session? To maximize “growth” from your experience? It depends. Ask yourself the following questions:
- How deep and/or powerful was my session?
- How much did I release emotionally and/or physically?
- How much was I surprised by it’s content?
- How “blown away” was I by it?
Generally speaking, the more your answers are on the higher end of the spectrum for these questions, the more you should plan to give yourself some integration time. And, as always, trust your intuition.
How to Integrate Your Breathwork Session and Get the Most Out Of It
There are two different ways to integrate your experiences in breathwork: actively, or passively.
In active integration, you make a conscious effort to work with your material through a variety of means, including such things as focused therapy, journaling, artwork, collage work, stream-of-consciousness, and much more. In passive integration, the general idea is to simply create as much embodied presence and self-awareness in your life as possible after a breathwork session because the deeper your self-presence, the more you’ll be realigning with the state-dependent memory which you accessed during your breathwork session, which will lead to further insights and understandings about it, and the emergence of new puzzle pieces. Passive integration can include such activities as meditation and yoga, walks in nature, massage and energy work, hot baths with candles, etc.
In Part 2 of this post, to be released in January, we’ll take a deeper dive into both Active Integration and Passive Integration and offer many suggestions on how to get the most out of your breathwork journeys.
For now, you can check out our post on “Breathwork Integration Suggestions.”