Holotropic Breathwork Technique & How Does It Works

Holotropic Breathwork Technique & How Does It Works

Holotropic breathwork (HB) has turn out to be more and more well-liked amongst these looking for to discover a novel technique of self-healing to realize a state of wholeness. This unconventional New Age follow was developed by psychiatrists Stanislav and Christina Grof within the 1970s to attain altered states of consciousness (with out utilizing medication) as a possible therapeutic device.

Holotropic breathwork entails controlling and quickening respiratory patterns to affect your psychological, emotional, and bodily states. It is a follow that’s derived from a religious framework, however can be a trademarked exercise.

Holotropic Breathwork Practitioners

Official holotropic breathwork can solely be lead by licensed instructors that acquire a certification from the Grof Foundation after completion of a 600-hour coaching course.

In many nations, practitioners make the most of this system as a religious follow fairly than a therapeutic one. In this fashion, some individuals take part to broaden their consciousness fairly than to beat or handle a psychological well being situation.

Many proponents of HB suggest that this system strikes you ahead to a better consciousness.

In different phrases, it could shift you into one other state, which might be interesting to individuals who really feel caught and unable to advance utilizing different means. Often instances, this sense of awakening can occur by some type of catharsis. However, the idea is that trauma will solely come ahead throughout a session whether it is crucial for therapeutic; and that this may not be identified on the outset of the session.1 Rather, every particular person’s expertise with HB is exclusive, self-directed, and unfolds by itself because the follow progresses.


After LSD turned unlawful within the late 1960s, the Grofs, who had been proponents of the therapeutic results of LSD, developed holotropic breathwork. The method was created to attain psychedelic-like states with out utilizing psychedelic medication. The Grofs have been educated in Freudian psychoanalytic remedy and believed the method of deep, self-exploration introduced on by these altered states can deliver therapeutic.

Stanislav Grof is called the co-founder of transpersonal psychology (together with Abraham Maslow). Grof started his work on the Psychiatric Research Institute in Prague and ultimately moved to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. His work was performed with sufferers experiencing psychiatric sickness, most cancers, and drug habit.

A Drug-Free Window Into the Self

The follow of holotropic breathwork entails utilizing a managed respiratory course of to entry altered states of consciousness. The objective is to acquire enlightenment of some type. From the Greek phrases, “holos” (complete) and “trepein” (to maneuver towards), the phrase “holotropic” interprets to “moving toward wholeness.”

The main precept of this system is that therapeutic comes from throughout the particular person training the breathwork. This premise can be meant to assist the participant come away feeling personally empowered.

During holotropic breathwork, members breathe quickly and evenly to induce an altered state from which it’s believed {that a} deeper understanding of oneself might be derived. Some describe this expertise as a extra intense type of meditation.

The Basic Premise

The underlying tenet of HB is that every particular person has an internal radar that may decide crucial expertise at a given second, however that we can not pay attention to this expertise till it occurs.

From this angle, the facilitator doesn’t want to inform those that are training what to give attention to. Instead, members are instructed to determine what emerges for them as they do the work. People usually expertise an intense, “therapeutic” disaster that helps flush away unfavorable energies and leads them to a therapeutic place of better understanding. This will at all times be particular to the particular person at that exact time of their life.

The meant respiratory sample is designed to be even in order that the participant avoids hyperventilating. However, some attribute the bodily emotions of the expertise to an individual’s carbon dioxide (CO2)-oxygen (O2) steadiness getting out of whack, which is what occurs with hyperventilation.

The act of hyperventilation (respiratory out an excessive amount of CO2, which causes respiratory alkalosis or alkalinizing of the blood) could result in an altered state of consciousness in addition to the bodily sensations of tingling of the fingers and mouth, lightheadedness, and dizziness.

How It Is Practiced

Below is an outline of what a session of holotropic breathwork would possibly appear like.

Holotropic breathwork is most frequently practiced in a bunch setting lead by a educated facilitator. It can also be provided in particular person classes or as a part of a retreat.
People are paired off in a bunch setting. There is one “breather” and one “sitter.”
The sitter solely helps the breather if wanted. The breather is the particular person actively training and experiencing HB. The sitter ensures that the breather is protected and supported through the session.
A facilitator guides the session. Direction is given to extend the pace and rhythm of the breather’s respiratory. The breather is advised to breathe sooner and deeper whereas retaining their eyes closed. While the pace of respiratory will increase, consideration is paid to maintain respiratory even, which helps practitioners keep away from issues from hyperventilating.
A session would possibly final from 2 to three hours in complete.
The breather will lie on a mat at some point of a session. Laying down grounds the breather and provides them the flexibility to maneuver freely, in no matter pose their breath takes them.
Repetitive music is performed. The rhythmic music encourages the breather to enter an altered state of consciousness (much like having a vivid dream). The music begins off with drumming, and ultimately reaches a peak and switches to “heart music.” From there it will definitely modifications to meditative music.
The session is open-ended. This signifies that every particular person is ready to derive their very own that means and attain self-discovery in no matter type which means for them. In addition to shifting in any means that they need, breathers are inspired to make any sounds that really feel proper to them.
Afterward, members draw mandalas about their expertise and focus on what occurred. This might be the re-experiencing of previous trauma, emotions of pleasure, or the event of religious consciousness. Essentially, the objective is for HB to be a catalyst for bringing to the floor crucial points an individual wants to handle.
Breathers and sitters swap roles for future classes.
There just isn’t a particular guideline or expectation of what should happen or what points are explored throughout a session. Participants are free to work on no matter comes up for them as they enter the altered state.
Proponents of this system contend that this altered state permits individuals to entry components of the thoughts that aren’t normally accessible; this would possibly embody re-emerging reminiscences of previous occasions.

What It Feels Like

A standard query is what does it really feel wish to take part in holotropic breathwork? It may appear scary to breathe on this means, and also you would possibly fear in regards to the results that you’ll expertise. Rapid respiratory can really feel overwhelming or unsettling however practitioners are at all times welcome to again off if the sensations really feel like an excessive amount of. However, breathers are inspired to (safely) push by if they’re in a position as it’s thought that that is the pathway to the enlightenment the follow seeks to disclose.

Rather than calling it an altered state of consciousness, some choose to consult with this as a “non-ordinary state of consciousness” to mirror that it doesn’t essentially have the unfavorable connotations of altered states.2 In common, the idea of getting a dream is likely to be a extra helpful metaphor.

Holotropic breathwork is an expertise that’s imagined to deliver the particular person right into a deeper dimension of the current second and to see issues in a extra colourful, insightful means than actuality would possibly seem in any other case.


Research to assist the therapeutic advantages of holotropic breathwork for psychiatric situations comparable to despair and anxiousness is missing. However, there’s some proof to counsel that it is likely to be useful for rest, stress aid, private progress, or self-awareness.3

Spending time in a trusting surroundings, specializing in deeper life considerations, studying how one can assist different individuals, trusting in your capacity to heal your self, and creating compassion are all potential advantages.

It is advisable that holotropic breathwork is undertaken alongside conventional remedy, fairly than be used as a substitute for it.

Potential Risks

There are some potential dangers of taking part in holotropic breathwork.3 There is a few concern that this system causes misery in susceptible people, comparable to these in danger for psychosis. In addition, there are vital medical dangers of hyperventilation. Plus, few research have been carried out on both the efficacy of attaining psychological well being “enlightenment,” therapeutic by HB, or the overall security of the follow.

Since the method of holotropic breathwork is geared toward a “deep experience,” it’s doable that uncomfortable emotions will come up, also referred to as a “healing crisis.” Indeed, this system is controversial as a result of it entails the doable amplification of signs in doubtlessly problematic methods.

HB may cause diminished carbon dioxide and different alterations in blood chemistry that may result in dizziness, fainting, weak point, spasms of the fingers and ft, and even seizures.

Who Should Not Practice

This method can evoke intense bodily and emotional modifications. Therefore, there’s a record of particular standards that exists to advise in opposition to participation. For anybody contemplating attempting HB, it’s a good suggestion to debate doable dangers together with your healthcare supplier earlier than embarking on this various follow, particularly when you have any of the next situations:4

  • Cardiovascular illness
  • Heart assaults, hypertension, and angina
  • Glaucoma or retinal detachment
  • Recent harm or surgical procedure
  • Any situation that requires you to take remedy
  • Panic assaults or psychosis
  • Seizures
  • Severe psychological sickness
  • Aneurysms (or household historical past)
  • You are pregnant or are breastfeeding