At its most basic level, holotropic breathwork is the practice of accelerated, or enhanced, breathing. It involves breathing at a controlled, rapid rate for an extended period of time. Practitioners are able to enter an altered state of consciousness where healing is possible.
This form of breathing was developed in the late 1960’s by psychiatrists Christina and Stanislav Grof. This was in response to the outlawing of LSD and the suspension of research into its therapeutic benefits. Holotropic breathwork was developed as an alternative, drug-free form of psychedelic therapy.
Holotropic breathwork is usually conducted as part of a group, and led by a trained facilitator. Practitioners are paired off with each person taking turns as either a “sitter” or a “breather.”
Set and setting is controlled. Breathers all lie on a mat, eyes closed, while calming music fills the room. The sitter’s role is to be present with the breather as they practice their accelerated breathing.
You Control Your Journey
The sitter or facilitator can assist the breather if needed, but each breather is in control of their own journey. Holotropic breathwork can activate a natural inner healing intelligence that will guide the process. Each person’s experience will be unique to them.
In a large study conducted over the course of 12 years, 82% of participants reported having a transpersonal experience. Their sense of self extended beyond the limits of personal identity.
At the end of a session, practitioners integrate their experiences by drawing mandalas and sharing with the rest of the group. One study found that holotropic breathing leads to increased self-awareness.
Another study of patients who combined holotropic breathing with traditional psychotherapy, showed a significant reduction in anxiety about dying and an increase in self-esteem.