What is Holotropic Breathing and It’s Benefits

What is Holotropic Breathing and It's Benefits

What is Holotropic Breathing?

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 achieve 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 medicine) as a possible therapeutic device.

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

Holotropic Breathwork Practitioners

Official holotropic breathwork can solely be lead by licensed instructors that get hold of 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 somewhat than a therapeutic one. In this manner, some individuals take part to develop their consciousness somewhat than to beat or handle a psychological well being situation.1 Many proponents of HB suggest that this system strikes you ahead to a better consciousness.

In different phrases, it might shift you into one other state, which will 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 assumption is that trauma will solely come ahead throughout a session if it is mandatory for therapeutic; and that this would possibly not be recognized on the outset of the session.1 Rather, every particular person‘s expertise with HB is distinctive, self-directed, and unfolds by itself because the follow progresses.


After LSD grew to become 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 medicine. The Grofs had been skilled in Freudian psychoanalytic remedy and believed the method of deep, self-exploration introduced on by these altered states can convey therapeutic.1

Stanislav Grof is often known as the co-founder of transpersonal psychology (together with Abraham Maslow). Grof started his work on the Psychiatric Research Institute in Prague and finally moved to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. His work was carried out with sufferers experiencing psychiatric sickness, most cancers, and drug dependancy.

Window Into the Self

The follow of holotropic breathwork entails utilizing a managed respiration course of to entry altered states of consciousness.3 The objective is to acquire enlightenment of some form. From the Greek phrases, “holos” (complete) and “trepein” (to maneuver towards), the phrase “holotropic” interprets to “moving toward wholeness.”

The major precept of this system is that therapeutic comes from inside the particular person practising the breathwork.2 This premise is additionally supposed 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 is believed {that a} deeper understanding of oneself will 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 inside radar that may decide a very powerful expertise at a given second, however that we can’t concentrate on this expertise till it occurs.

From this angle, the facilitator doesn’t want to inform those that are practising 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 detrimental energies and leads them to a therapeutic place of better understanding. This will at all times be particular to the particular person at that specific time of their life.

The supposed respiration 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 (respiration out an excessive amount of CO2, which causes respiratory alkalosis or alkalinizing of the blood) might 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’s Practiced

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

Holotropic breathwork is most frequently practiced in a bunch setting lead by a skilled facilitator. It might also be provided in particular person periods 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 practising and experiencing HB. The sitter ensures that the breather is secure and supported in the course of the session.
A facilitator guides the session. Direction is given to extend the velocity and rhythm of the breather’s respiration. The breather is instructed to breathe sooner and deeper whereas preserving their eyes closed. While the velocity of respiration will increase, consideration is paid to maintain respiration even, which helps practitioners keep away from problems from hyperventilating.

A session may final from 2 to three hours in complete.
The breather will lie on a mat during a session. Laying down grounds the breather and offers them the power 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 finally reaches a peak and switches to “heart music.” From there it will definitely adjustments to meditative music.
The session is open-ended. This signifies that every particular person is in a position to derive their very own which means and attain self-discovery in no matter type which means for them. In addition to transferring in any approach that they need, breathers are inspired to make any sounds that really feel proper to them.

Afterward, members draw mandalas about their expertise and talk about what occurred. This may very well 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 a very powerful points an individual wants to handle.

Breathers and sitters swap roles for future periods

There is not 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 elements of the thoughts that aren’t normally accessible; this may embody re-emerging reminiscences of previous occasions.

What It Feels Like

A typical query is what does it really feel wish to take part in holotropic breathwork? It might sound scary to breathe on this approach, and you may fear in regards to the results that you’ll expertise.

Rapid respiration 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 ready because it is thought that this is the pathway to the enlightenment the follow seeks to disclose.

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

Holotropic breathwork is an expertise that is alleged to convey the particular person right into a deeper dimension of the current second and to see issues in a extra colourful, insightful approach than actuality may seem in any other case.


Research to help the therapeutic advantages of holotropic breathwork for psychiatric circumstances reminiscent of despair and nervousness is missing. However, there is some proof to recommend that it is perhaps useful for leisure, stress reduction, private development, or self-awareness.3

Spending time in a trusting setting, specializing in deeper life considerations, studying learn how to help different individuals, trusting in your skill to heal your self, and growing compassion are all potential advantages.

It is really helpful that holotropic breathwork is undertaken alongside conventional remedy, somewhat than be used as a alternative for it.

Potential Risks

There are some potential dangers of taking part in holotropic breathwork.3 There is some concern that this system causes misery in susceptible people, reminiscent of these in danger for psychosis.

In addition, there are important medical dangers of hyperventilation. Plus, few research have been performed on both the efficacy of attaining psychological well being “enlightenment,” therapeutic by HB, or the final security of the follow.

Since the method of holotropic breathwork is geared toward a “deep experience,” it is doable that uncomfortable emotions will come up, often known 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 could cause diminished carbon dioxide and different alterations in blood chemistry that may result in dizziness, fainting, weak spot, spasms of the arms and ft, and even seizures.

Who Should Not Practice

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

Cardiovascular illness

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