Breathwork Holotropic Benefits and Risks

Breathwork Holotropic Benefits and Risks

Breathwork Holotropic, more commonly called holotropic breathing (HB), is a practice that involves controlling and speeding up your breathing patterns to affect your mental, emotional, and physical state. It originated from a spiritual concept but is also a trademark that is becoming increasingly popular among those seeking to explore a unique self-healing process to achieve a state of wholeness.

This unconventional New Age practice was developed by psychiatrists Stanislav and Christina Grof in the 1970s to achieve altered states of consciousness (without the use of drugs) as a potential therapeutic tool.

In many countries, practitioners use this technique as a spiritual practice rather than a therapeutic one. Therefore, some people participate to increase their awareness rather than to overcome or cope with a mental illness.

Many proponents of breathwork holotropic believe that this technique promotes a higher consciousness.

In other words, it can take you into a different state, which may appeal to people who feel stuck and unable to move forward using other means. Often, this feeling of awakening can come from some form of catharsis.

History of Breathwork Holotropic

After LSD became illegal in the late 1960s, the Grofs, who were proponents of LSD’s therapeutic effects, developed breathwork holotropic. The technique was created to achieve psychedelic-like states without the use of psychedelic drugs. The Grofs were trained in Freudian psychoanalytic therapy and believed that the process of deep self-exploration brought about by these altered states could bring healing.

Grof began his work at the Institute for Psychiatric Research in Prague and then moved to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. His work has been with patients suffering from mental illness, cancer, and drug addiction.

What does Breathwork Holotropic do?

The practice of breathwork holotropic involves using a controlled breathing process to access altered states of consciousness. The goal is to achieve a certain kind of enlightenment. From the Greek words “halos” (whole) and “trepein” (movement to), the word “holotropic” translates as “movement towards wholeness.”

The main principle of this technique is that the treatment takes place within the person who practices breathing work. This premise is also meant to help the participant walk away with a sense of personal empowerment.

However, it is believed that an injury will be revealed during a session only if it is necessary for treatment and that it will not be known at the beginning of the session. Rather, each person’s experience of holotropic breathing is unique, self-directed, and unfolds on its own as the practice develops.

The basic premise of holotropic breathing

The basic principle of Holotropic breathing is that each person has an internal radar that can identify the most important experience at the moment, but we cannot be aware of that experience until it happens.

From this perspective, the leader does not need to tell the participants what to focus on. Instead, participants are encouraged to find out what they are good at while working.

Official Holotropic Breathwork can only be given by certified instructors who have received Groff Foundation certification after completing a 600-hour training course.

People often experience an intense “therapeutic” crisis that helps wash away negative energies and leads them to a healing place of greater understanding. It will always be characteristic of a person at that particular moment in his life.

How to practice holotropic breathing

Below is a description of what a holotropic breathing session might look like.

  • Holotropic breathing is most often practiced in a group under the guidance of a trained leader. It can also be offered in one-on-one sessions or as part of a retreat.
  • People pair up in a group. There is one “breathing” and one “sitting”.
  • The one who sits helps the one who breathes only if necessary. A breather is a person who actively practices and experiences CB. The sitter provides safety and support to the breather during the session.
  • The facilitator leads the class. An instruction is given to increase the speed and rhythm of the breath that is being breathed. The breather is told to breathe faster and deeper, keeping his eyes closed. While the rate of breathing increases, attention is paid to maintaining even breathing, which helps practitioners avoid complications associated with hyperventilation.
    In total, the session can last from 2 to 3 hours.
  • During the entire session, the breather will lie on the mat. Lying down stabilizes the breath and allows him to move freely in any position in which he breathes.
  • Repetitive music plays. The rhythmic music prompts the breather to enter an altered state of consciousness (similar to a lucid dream). The music begins with drumming and eventually peaks and switches to “heart music.” Then it eventually changes to meditative music.
  • The session is open. This means that each person is capable of obtaining their own meaning and achieving self-knowledge in whatever form makes sense to them. In addition to making movements in any convenient way for them, those who breathe are encouraged to make any sounds they like.
  • Afterwards, participants draw mandalas about their experiences and discuss what happened. It could be re-experiencing past trauma, feeling joy, or developing spiritual awareness.
  • In essence, the goal is for holotropic breathing to become a catalyst for identifying the most important problems that a person needs to solve.
  • Expired and seated roles will change for future sessions.
    There are no specific instructions or expectations as to what should happen or what issues are addressed during the session. Participants are free to work on anything that comes to mind when they enter the altered state.

Proponents of this technique claim that this altered state allows people to access parts of the mind that are normally inaccessible; this may include re-emerging memories of past events.

What does holotropic breathing look like?

A common question is: What is it like to participate in Holotropic Breathwork? It may seem scary to breathe this way, and you may worry about the consequences you will experience.

Rapid breathing can feel overwhelming or unsettling, but practitioners can always back off if the sensation seems too strong. Still, breathers are encouraged to safely go through it if they can, as it is believed to be the path to enlightenment that the practice seeks to reveal.

Rather than calling it an altered state of consciousness, some prefer to call it an “unusual state of consciousness” to reflect that it does not necessarily have the negative connotations of altered states.

Overall, the concept of sleep might be a more useful metaphor.

Benefits of Breathwork Holotropic

How is holotropic breathing useful? Research supporting the therapeutic benefits of holotropic breathing for mental conditions such as depression and anxiety is lacking. However, there is some evidence that it can be useful for relaxation, stress relief, personal growth, or self-awareness.

Spending time in a trusting environment, focusing on deeper life issues, learning to support others, believing in your ability to heal yourself, and developing compassion are all potential benefits.

What are the dangers of Breathwork Holotropic?

There are some potential risks involved in holotropic breathing. There are some concerns that this technique causes distress in vulnerable people, such as those at risk of psychosis.

In addition, there are significant medical risks associated with hyperventilation. Additionally, little research has been conducted on the effectiveness of achieving mental health “enlightenment,” treatment with HB, or the overall safety of the practice.

Since the process of holotropic breathing is aimed at a “deep experience,” it is possible to experience discomfort, also known as a “healing crisis.” Indeed, this method is controversial as it suggests possible amplification of symptoms in potentially problematic ways.

Who should avoid Breathwork Holotropic

This technique can cause intense physical and emotional changes. Therefore, there is a list of specific criteria for which participation is not recommended. For those considering trying holotropic breathing, it is recommended that you discuss the potential risks with your doctor before embarking on this alternative practice, especially if you have any of the following conditions:

  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Heart attacks, high blood pressure and angina pectoris
  • Glaucoma or retinal detachment
  • Recent injury or surgery
  • Any condition that requires medication
  • Panic attacks or psychosis
  • Cramps
  • Severe mental illness
  • Aneurysms (or family history)
  • You are pregnant or breastfeeding

Given the risks involved and the limited scientific evidence, there is little to suggest that holotropic breathing should be used as a viable alternative to traditional treatments for mental illness. benefits or clarity for certain people. If you decide to take part in this method, make sure you are aware of the risks.

You can practice this technique in group classes, workshops, or retreats. Individual lessons are also possible. It is best to speak with a trained coordinator to determine what type of session is best for you. The facilitator should guide and support you throughout the process.


How do I practice holotropic breathing?

If you’d like to try holotropic breathing, consider signing up for an online course taught by an experienced instructor. You can also schedule private sessions, watch online videos, or use a breathwork app.

Can you practice Holotropic Breathwork on your own?

There are safety concerns with solo practice, including dizziness, fainting, hyperventilation, and psychological stress. Because holotropic breathing can be intense, it is recommended that it be practiced only with an experienced practitioner and in the presence of others. If you can’t work with a trained facilitator, an online course and other resources can help you work with your breath to get an idea of what it’s like.

Is Holotropic Breathing Just Hyperventilation?

The assumed breathing pattern should be even so that the participant avoids hyperventilation. However, some attribute the physical sensations of this experience to the imbalance of carbon dioxide (CO2) and oxygen (O2) in the person, which occurs with hyperventilation.

The act of hyperventilation (exhaling too much CO2, causing respiratory alkalosis or alkalinization of the blood) can lead to an altered state of consciousness as well as the physical sensations of tingling in the fingers and mouth, nausea, and dizziness.

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