Holotropic Breathwork™ is the act of controlling your breathing to reach an altered state of consciousness.
“Holotropic” comes from the Greek words “holos”, meaning whole, and “trepein”, meaning moving in the direction of something, which come together as “moving toward wholeness”.
Invented by Freudian analyst Stanislav Grof and his wife Christina Grof in the 1970s, the Holotropic Breathwork™ method came out of research that was originally looking at the therapeutic uses of LSD. Holotropic Breathwork™ shares some elements of setting and intention. However, it does not involve any use of drugs.
In the 1960s, the Grofs had done research to show that the effects of psychedelics, such as LSD, could be used as a tool to empower people to discover and heal trauma. By inducing a Non Ordinary State of Consciousness (NOSC), they believed that LSD acted as a catalyst for accessing the unconscious and its inherent healing potential.
However, after the US ban on LSD for non-clinical use in 1967 and the crackdown on research by the early ‘70s, the Grofs were defunded. They turned their attention towards discovering other ways to induce a NOSC. They discovered that through breathwork, many altered states of consciousness could be accessed without the use of drugs, for self-exploration and inner healing.
In 2010 Grof published a definitive book on the subject, Holotropic Breathwork: A New Approach to Self-Exploration and Therapy. Since 2015 the method has been trademarked; only those trained and certified by a Grof Transpersonal Training (GTT) program are entitled to use it.
Why Do Holotropic Breathwork™?
Breathe your way into a new state of consciousness. Sounds good, doesn’t it? That’s the basic idea of Holotropic Breathwork™, which has been called “industrial strength meditation”.
By using HB, you can be a psychonaut without the risks associated with taking untested illegal drugs (and with breaking the law).
Just as meditation, sensory deprivation, lucid dreaming, and other natural means can be used to achieve an altered state of consciousness, so can HB, only usually much more intensely so, and often with a highly therapeutic outcome.
Take yourself from a fever pitch into a relaxed and spiritual high, which will allow you to practice self-discovery and access spiritual experiences.
How Does Holotropic Breathwork™ Work?
Holotropic Breathwork™ seems as though it would involve a higher oxygen intake than usual. However, due to delicate homeostatic adjustments, the body actually ends up taking in less oxygen and less CO2. According to Grof, the situation “likely resembles that of being in high mountains, where there is less oxygen and the CO2 level is decreased by compensatory faster breathing”.
Holotropic Breathwork™ is thought to work very similarly to how substances such as LSD and psilocybin do: by reducing blood flow to our “default mode network” (DMN), a group of brain structures which are primarily responsible for our sense of self.
Neuroscientists have shown that the DMN is responsible for much of our rigid, habitual thinking and obsessions. Slowing it down can calm us and rid us of our tendency to obsess. This can even suppress the entrenched physical circuits that cause addictive behavior.
Holotropic Breathwork™, by logical hypothesis, is thought to activate the same receptors as those activated by drugs. Similarly, a state of egolessness is induced in which the boundaries between self and world, and subject and object, dissolve. Stanislav Grof describes Holotropic Breathwork™ as allowing its practitioners to “transcend the narrow boundaries of the body”.
This state is thought to activate the natural inner healing intelligence of the individual’s psyche, which brings to the surface any issues that need addressing and also helps the client to find their own ways to resolve them.
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