Holotropic Breathwork Guide

Guide on Holotropic Breathwork

In our hectic modern lives, finding moments of inner peace and self-discovery is essential for our overall well-being. Various trendy treatments have come up to help people deal with mental health conditions. Holotropic breathwork is one such technique that has gained popularity. Holotropic breathwork is an alternative and powerful approach to psychotherapy and self-exploration. This method enables you to access altered states of consciousness and tap into inner wisdom. It also brings forth emotional and physical healing. Combining controlled breathing, evocative music, and a safe setting in holotropic breathwork takes you on an inward journey. When practiced in a safe environment with a trained facilitator, holotropic breathwork can be a powerful tool for your personal growth and natural inner healing process. In this blog post, we'll explore various aspects of holotropic breathwork, such as its benefits, how to practice it safely, and other things you should know. So, let's get into it.

What is Holotropic Breathwork?

Holotropic breathwork is a breath-based psychotherapy that combines fast breathing, evocative music, and bodywork to induce altered states of consciousness. Through rhythmic and intensified breathing, you enter a trance-like state where you can access repressed memories and emotions. This therapeutic breathing practice can boost emotional catharsis and physical healing. Holotropic breathwork is a powerful tool for those seeking personal growth, healing, and spiritual awakening. It offers a unique and profound opportunity for individuals to delve into the depths of their being. This immersive and cathartic process allows you to get in touch with your innermost self and access the healing power of the subconscious mind. The evocative music supports your journey, serves as a guide, and helps you process your experience.

Brief History of Holotropic Breathwork

Holotropic breathing was developed in the 1960s by psychiatrist Dr. Stanislav Grof and his wife, Christina Grof, the co-founder of transpersonal psychology. The term "holotropic" comes from the Greek words "holos" and "trepein." The word "holos" means "whole," and "trepein" means "moving towards" or "turning." Holotropic breathing can be understood as a method of controlled breathing patterns that facilitates movement toward wholeness. In the 1950s and 1960s, Grof began experimenting with psychedelic substances, such as LSD, as a tool for psychotherapy. However, due to legal restrictions on these substances, he and his wife, Christina Grof, began exploring alternative methods of achieving similar transformative states of consciousness. During their experiments, he explored that rapid breathing could positively affect the body and mind. Drawing from their experiences and knowledge, they developed holotropic breathing as a safe and effective means to induce non-ordinary states without using psychedelics. Holotropic breathwork gained popularity throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Workshops and training programs were established worldwide to train facilitators and spread the practice to a broader audience. Holotropic breathwork was not limited to therapeutic settings but also found applications in personal growth, spiritual exploration, and self-discovery.

Elements of Holotropic Breathwork

Holotropic breathwork is performed in a group setting with at least two participants. The participants are paired off during the session. One partner acts as a "breather" and the other as a "sitter." The breather is a participant that focuses on breathing, while the sitter provides physical and emotional support to the breather. The participants alternate their roles after the completion of a holotropic breathwork session. The session involves the following five elements that enable you to achieve a non-ordinary state of consciousness:

Holotropic Breathing

Holotropic breathing is a type of conscious, connected breathing. It involves lying down in a comfortable position and taking deep breaths rapidly. After establishing the rhythm of rapid, deep breathing, the focus shifts to connecting each breath with awareness. It is done by paying attention to the sensation of air entering and leaving your body. The intensified breathing pattern increases oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the body. It allows you to access an altered state of consciousness.

Evocative Music

After establishing holotropic breathing, special evocative music is played. The combination of fast breathing and holotropic music creates an atmosphere that facilitates non-ordinary states of consciousness. The music is designed to support each individual's unique journey into the depths of the psyche. It facilitates you to reach various levels of unconsciousness and discover repressed emotions, memories, and insights. The holotropic breathwork sessions begin with emotionally uplifting music, gradually replaced by more intense and powerful compositions. Five different music styles are used during the session. The opening music is used in the first stage, which slowly shifts to the more intense trance-inducing music in the second stage. In the third stage, breakthrough music brings shifts in consciousness and emotions. The fourth stage involves heart music, which is gentle and calming. The last stage consists of meditative music that helps you digest and integrate the experience into your life. If the song has lyrics, they should be in a foreign language, unfamiliar to you, as it allows you to stay focused on the sensations in your body. It is also necessary to avoid distraction from the words and their meanings.

Releasing Bodywork

The holotropic breathwork session leads to the physical response of the body. The answer varies depending on the individual. Some theories propose that the chemistry of the body changes during intense breathing. It releases the blocked emotional and physical energies associated with traumatic experiences from the body. It sometimes initiates a stage of hyperventilation where the body experiences tension or convulsive movements. As these convulsive movements peak, they lead to deep relaxation. If deep relaxation is not achieved, the sitter may use passive bodywork, such as gentle touch or massage, to release body tension in the breather's body. The sitter also monitors any breathing difficulties and provides support during emotional breakthroughs. The breather may react unusually to release blocked energies associated with trauma. Some breathers speak foreign languages, talk like animals or babies, cry, laugh, or cough. The session ends when the breather gradually returns to a relaxed state, and the sitter and breather agree to end it.
holotropic breathwork

Mandala Drawing

Mandala, derived from Sanskrit, translates to "circle" or "sacred center." Mandala drawing during a holotropic breathwork session serves as a creative outlet, enabling individuals to express their innermost emotions, thoughts, and experiences visually. After the breathing session, the facilitators ask participants to draw a circle and meditate on their experiences. Participants use colors and shapes to represent emotions they experienced during the session or anything else that comes to mind. The meditative drawing session helps integrate the experience, offering a visual and physical representation of the journey.

Sharing Sessions

The sharing session, which follows a holotropic breathwork session, helps participants verbalize and discuss their experiences. It gives them an opportunity to share what they felt and gained from the session with others. The sharing session also allows participants to ask questions and connect with fellow members. During this time, participants can receive support and advice from one another, creating a sense of community. It also helps them feel less isolated in their spiritual pursuits.

Benefits of Practicing Holotropic Breathwork

The holotropic breathing benefits for physical and mental health are not understood completely due to minimal research. Extensive studies are required to comprehend the effects of holotropic breathing on the body and determine its effectiveness as a clinical therapy. However, several preliminary studies indicate several benefits of holotropic breathwork. Here are some benefits you can experience by regularly practicing holotropic breathwork:


Holotropic Breathwork opens the doors to self-awareness and understanding. It helps clear energy blockages, allowing you to better understand your emotional, mental, and physical state. It can also help you better connect with yourself and boost your self-confidence. By tapping into the unconscious mind through this powerful breathing technique, you can explore and gain insight into your inner self. It allows you to develop greater emotional intelligence, foster empathy and compassion, and improve relationships with others. Expanded awareness allows you to explore different aspects of yourself, develop your self-worth, and experience deeper levels of relaxation. Holotropic breathwork serves as a portal to self-exploration and personal growth. By quieting the mind and allowing the subconscious to emerge, individuals can gain profound insights into their beliefs, patterns, and motivations. A study in 2015 in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine revealed that holotropic breathwork enhanced participants’ self-awareness and spiritual experience.

Spiritual Awakening

Holotropic Breathwork has been used as a tool for spiritual exploration and transcendence. By transcending the limitations of everyday consciousness, practitioners can access mystical and spiritual experiences. This profound connection to the spiritual realm can lead to a sense of interconnectedness, a deep understanding of universal truths, and a heightened spiritual awakening. Many individuals report a renewed sense of purpose and a deeper connection to something greater than themselves.

Assistance in Addiction Recovery

Holotropic Breathwork provides a gateway to tap into our innate healing intelligence. Through controlled, intentional breathing, individuals can access the wisdom of their unconscious minds and use it to help them heal from addiction and trauma. Recovering from addiction involves confronting and processing various emotions. Holotropic Breathwork offers a safe and supportive environment for emotional catharsis. A report from the International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction shows the results of a study on alcohol and substance abuse addicts. The addicts participated in holotropic breathwork sessions and reported a decreased need for alcohol and drugs. As addiction is related to low spiritual development, holotropic breathwork can help to restore spiritual balance and harmony. Researchers highlighted that the practice can improve the spiritual well-being of recovering addicts and reduce the risk of relapse.

Personal Traits and Character Development

Holotropic Breathwork helps to bring balance and harmony into our lives. It encourages a sense of inner peace, and the effects can be long-lasting. In addition to helping people recover from addiction, holotropic breathwork can help individuals become more self-aware and conscious of their actions. It can provide an opportunity to gain insight into personal behaviors and traits, leading to more positive self-development. Holotropic breathwork also develops a deeper understanding and acceptance of their emotions and experiences. This self-acceptance lays the foundation for improved self-esteem, and individuals can become more empowered to take control of their lives. Furthermore, holotropic breathwork can help cultivate a sense of optimism, creativity, and resilience, enabling individuals to make positive changes. A study of 36 participants shows improvement in several areas that impact a person's personality, including self-sufficiency, socialization, and self-esteem, by practicing holotropic breathwork. Another study shows reduced death anxiety and improved self-esteem in participants who participated in experiential psychotherapy and HB sessions for six months.

Is Holotropic Breathwork Method Safe?

Holotropic breathwork is one of the most effective breathing techniques for achieving deep relaxation. However, it is not safe for everyone to practice. It involves intense breathing patterns, which may lead to physical discomfort. Rapid and deep breathing can lead to an imbalance of oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the body, which can cause symptoms such as nausea, lightheadedness, and dizziness. In addition, participants who have experienced significant trauma may inadvertently trigger intense emotions during the breathwork session. Therefore, it is important to have a trained practitioner or therapist present when engaging in holotropic breathwork. This technique is not suitable for pregnant and breastfeeding women. The intense feelings can also worsen certain health conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes, or cardiovascular diseases. Due to these risks, it is important to consult a healthcare professional before engaging in holotropic breathwork.

Can You Practice Holotropic Breathwork on Your Own?

Holotropic breathwork is a valuable tool for self-care and personal growth. However, it is best to practice this method in the presence of a trained facilitator who can provide guidance and advice. Practicing holotropic breathwork on your own can increase the chances of encountering adverse reactions, particularly if you have experienced significant trauma or have a pre-existing medical condition. Additionally, it is crucial to be familiar with the technique and breathing patterns before attempting holotropic breathwork on your own. Having a safe and comfortable environment is important if you want to practice holotropic breathwork independently. Ensure that the space is well-ventilated and free of distractions or potential hazards. It is also essential to have calming music and incense to help create a relaxed atmosphere. You can take online courses or watch instructional videos to become familiar with the technique.


Holotropic Breathwork emerges as a captivating and transformative practice. The power of fast breathing offers a unique pathway to self-discovery, healing, and expanded awareness. It opens doors to hidden realms within ourselves, allowing us to confront and work through difficult emotions. When performed in a safe and supportive setting with a trained facilitator, holotropic breathwork can be an effective tool for self-development and personal growth. Nevertheless, use caution when practicing holotropic breathwork, especially if you have had prior traumatic experiences or a pre-existing medical condition. It is also essential to become familiar with the technique and breathing patterns before attempting it alone. If you are interested in trying this practice, find a certified facilitator or take online instruction to ensure optimal results.


What is holotropic breathwork?

Holotropic breathwork is a powerful, transformational technique used in psychotherapy to help individuals reach deeper states of consciousness and self-awareness. This practice involves deep, fast breathing combined with music. It is believed to provide a safe way for individuals to confront and process difficult emotions or experiences to achieve a higher level of self-understanding and healing.

What happens when you do holotropic breathwork?

When you practice holotropic breathwork, the body and mind enter a state similar to meditation. Deep breathing combined with music helps to open up the mind and body, releasing blocked emotions and physical tensions. It can lead to a heightened awareness of one’s true self. During the session, you may experience various physical and psychological sensations. Some participants experience spasms, stretching, tearing, and shaking. Others may experience visions or feelings of peace and relaxation.

Is it safe to do holotropic breathwork alone?

No, you should never attempt holotropic breathwork alone. It is important to have a certified facilitator or instructor present during the session, as the practice can be dangerous for those with emotional disturbances. Intense breathing can lead to intense emotional and physical reactions, so having someone to provide guidance is essential.

Is holotropic breathwork through nose or mouth?

Holotropic breathwork involves breathing through the nose as well as the mouth. When the breath is deep and fast, it helps to activate the nervous system and open up blocked emotions. This type of breathing can be uncomfortable. Practice it in the presence of a facilitator to ensure that you are doing it safely and correctly.

Share this post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *