Key takeaways.

  • Does microdosing have benefits for physical and mental health?

    There's very little research, but it shows that microdosing psychedelics might improve attention, depression, mindfulness and well-being.

  • How do the benefits of microdosing stack up to the benefits of yoga?

    It seems that the same kind of people gravitate towards microdosing and yoga and for similar kinds of reasons. Preliminary research suggests that those with anxiety gravitate towards yoga while those with depression gravitate towards microdosing psychedelics. People seem to experience similar results from both microdosing and psychedelics.

  • Can you microdose and do yoga?

    In one study, subjects who did both microdosing and yoga showed better scores on anxiety, depression, and wellbeing. So preliminary studies suggest that combining the two may be beneficial.

Microdosing is taking off all over the world — and especially here in Canada. Remember before yoga was ever a thing how if someone did yoga, everyone wondered if they had travelled all the way to India to learn. It used to be that way with mushrooms too, but microdosing psychedelics is now comparable to yoga as a wellness concept.

People often gravitate towards activities like yoga to address mental health and stress more than physical health — and for the most part, that’s also true of psychedelics. The fact that people seem to use both yoga and psychedelics for similar reasons gives us a chance to compare their efficacy.

There are only a few existing studies that explore microdosing and their effects so we’ll have a look at those in detail in this article. The purpose of this article is to compare the benefits of microdosing psychedelics with those of yoga. As it turns out, psychedelics might be just as good for you!

Microdosing; the current evidence.

A sketch of a young woman surrounded by flowers and psychedelic mushrooms, looking mystical.
@rtnsc

In a 2019 study, Vince Polito from Macquarie University, NSW Australia, recruited 98 participants in a study exploring the effects of microdosing. The study tracked the participants over a period of 6 weeks, measuring them first at baseline and then again after a period of microdosing. The researchers used a battery of tests including depression and anxiety (DASS), mind wandering (MWQ), wellbeing (QOLI),  mindfulness (MAAS), personality, creativity, etc. 

For the most part, the study results were consistent with anecdotal reports — users reported a decrease in anxiety and depression from baseline after the microdosing period. They also scored higher on contemplation, connectedness, creativity and focus. 

Interestingly, the researchers also observed a slight increase in neuroticism which they said they weren’t expecting. It’s also worth noting that the researchers did not include those with any mental health afflictions. All volunteers were healthy volunteers.

In another study conducted just last year (2020), researchers investigated the different cognitive effects at different doses of LSD. To put things into context, a “dose” of LSD is somewhere around 100ug. Researchers explored the effects of 5ug, 10ug and 20ug. They found that low doses of LSD enhanced sustained attention and mood. However, they also observed a reduction in information processing speed and an increase in anxiety and confusion.

It’s already clear from the little evidence we have that the effects of microdosing seem to vary between different psychedelic options. But it’s also obvious that in the absence of clinical trials, and being at the very beginning of this kind of research, that we can expect a lot of inconsistencies in the research. 

In March this year (2021), Vincent Polito from the research mentioned above conducted another study on the effects of microdosing on mood, personality change and emotional awareness. In contrast to their first study, the participants experienced an increase in conscientiousness and a decrease in neuroticism. He also observed that those with more experience in microdosing were more likely to report a decrease in neuroticism.

Psychedelics and yoga; psychedelics or yoga?

A painting of two amanita muscaria mushrooms doing yoga, a concept of yoga and microdosing psychedelics.
@lefthandedandcolourblind

Out west of Australia, in Perth, Stephen Brights undertook research at Cowan University exploring the relationship between regular yoga practise and microdosing psychedelics. More specifically, he wanted to investigate how each of these wellness trends affects well being and personality variables. 

All up, the study included 339 participants all of whom were engaged in yoga, microdosing, or both of them. This study also included a control group, taking it a step up from the other observational studies that we’ve mentioned in this article thus far.

The primary measures were well-being and absorption. Absorption is a person’s capacity to have intense imaginatory experiences. In the context of psychology, this is important because it can actually alter health outcomes. For example, different mind-body treatment interventions can be used on those who have increased absorption capacity. In this study, both the yoga and microdosing groups scored higher on well-being and absorption.

Interestingly, those in the yoga group reported higher stress and anxiety than the microdosing or control groups, but the microdosing group reported higher depression scores than the yoga and control group. It’s not entirely clear why this is, but it suggests a possible gravitation towards yoga for the anxious kind and towards psychedelics for the depressed kind.

Those who used both microdosing and yoga had lower anxiety scores than the yoga only group and showed lower depression scores than the microdosing group. The researchers didn’t draw any conclusions about the effects of yoga and microdosing on depression or anxiety but commented that the subjective benefits between the two are comparable. They also concluded that combining the two might also be beneficial.

Same book, different page.

A painting of people walking on a path into the mind which is full of space and planets. A concept of psychedelic, microdosing, and yoga.
@rapid_space

So what are we learning exactly in these initial days of research? To be honest, we’re mostly learning why people gravitate towards microdosing and psychedelics and what their subjective feelings are about doing it. That’s to say — we don’t have much objective data about the effects of microdosing as all of our studies have been observational. 

What’s emerging is that mental health and well-being are among the primary reasons to seek out therapies such as microdosing with psychedelics or yoga. There seems to be a thread in the demographics that use these practices that even underlying physical health conditions are mental health afflictions that can be well managed.

Whatever the effects of yoga and microdosing psychedelics are, they seem to be comparable. The same kind of benefits seem to come from microdosing psychedelics as the practice of yoga. Interestingly, Vincent Polito believes that psychedelics seem to help with psychological well-being by reducing neuroticism. He also believes that microdosing improves mental performance by increasing conscientiousness. 

Think about that for a minute; a reduction in neuroticism (i.e. tranquility), and an increase in conscientiousness (diligence). This sounds a lot like the mental health outcomes that everybody is looking for, irrespective of the psychological affliction. It’s what all of us are trying to achieve on the yoga mat or by microdosing and taking psychedelics.

Given that similar kinds of people gravitate towards these two therapies, it’s not far fetched that their outcomes are similar — otherwise why would so many people gravitate towards them! We look forward to the day that there is more objective scientific data for us to work off and better understand the benefits of microdosing. Until then, the research suggests that microdosing might be just as good for you as regular yoga practice!

Have you ever mixed microdosing with yoga? We’d love to hear your experiences — drop them in the comments.

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