Holotropic Breathwork: A Journey of Self-Exploration and Healing

Holotropic Breathwork is a powerful spiritual practice that provides an opportunity for individuals to connect with their inner selves, access non-ordinary states of consciousness, and explore their deepest fears and desires. Developed by Stanislav Grof and Christina Grof, it is a form of self-exploration and healing that combines controlled breathing, music, and bodywork to help individuals access their subconscious minds and release emotional and physical trauma.

The Origins of Holotropic Breathwork

The term “holotropic” comes from the Greek words “holos” (whole) and “trepein” (to move towards), signifying a movement towards wholeness. Holotropic Breathwork was developed by Stanislav and Christina Grof in the 1970s, following years of research into non-ordinary states of consciousness and psychedelic therapy.

Stanislav Grof, a Czech psychiatrist, and Christina Grof, a psychotherapist, were both fascinated by the potential of non-ordinary states of consciousness to facilitate healing and transformation. They believed that these states could help individuals to access their subconscious minds, release emotional and physical trauma, and experience profound spiritual insights.

However, they also recognized the limitations of using psychedelics to induce these states, given the legal restrictions and potential risks involved. As a result, they began to explore other ways of accessing non-ordinary states of consciousness, leading to the development of Holotropic Breathwork.

The Principles of Holotropic Breathwork

Holotropic Breathwork is based on the principle that the body and mind are intimately connected, and that deep healing and transformation can occur when individuals access and release stored emotional and physical trauma from the body.

The practice involves a combination of controlled hyperventilation, evocative music, and focused bodywork, which together induce a non-ordinary state of consciousness similar to that experienced during psychedelic therapy. This state is characterized by intense physical sensations, vivid imagery, and altered perceptions of time, space, and self.

During the session, participants are encouraged to fully surrender to the experience, trusting their inner guidance and allowing whatever emotions, memories, and sensations arise to be felt and expressed. This process can be intense and overwhelming, but it can also be deeply healing, allowing individuals to release long-held patterns of fear, shame, and trauma from their bodies and minds.

The Benefits of Holotropic Breathwork

Holotropic Breathwork offers a wide range of benefits for individuals seeking personal growth, healing, and transformation. Some of these benefits include:

1. Access to non-ordinary states of consciousness

By inducing a non-ordinary state of consciousness through controlled breathing and music, Holotropic Breathwork allows individuals to access parts of themselves that may be hidden or repressed, leading to profound insights and transformative experiences.

2. Release of emotional and physical trauma

The intense physical sensations and emotional experiences of Holotropic Breathwork can help individuals to release stored trauma from their bodies and minds, leading to a sense of lightness, freedom, and self-awareness.

3. Increased self-awareness and mindfulness

Holotropic Breathwork can help individuals to gain a deeper understanding of their inner selves, their patterns of behavior, and their emotional triggers, leading to greater mindfulness and self-awareness.

4. Connection to the Divine

The non-ordinary states of consciousness induced by Holotropic Breathwork can also facilitate connections to spiritual or divine energies, leading to profound experiences of unity and transcendence.

How to Practice Holotropic Breathwork

Holotropic Breathwork is typically practiced in a group setting, led by trained facilitators who guide participants through the process and ensure their safety and comfort throughout. Sessions typically last between 2 and 4 hours and involve multiple rounds of controlled breathing and evocative music.

Participants are usually asked to lie down on a mat or cushion with their eyes closed, and to focus their attention on their breath and the music. The facilitators may provide supportive touch or other types of bodywork as needed to help individuals release tension and fully surrender to the experience.

After the session, participants are given time to integrate their experiences and may be offered opportunities for reflection and sharing with the group. It is important to remember that the experience of Holotropic Breathwork can be intense and emotional, and may bring up difficult or painful memories and emotions. However, with the guidance and support of trained facilitators, it can also be a deeply transformative and healing process.


Holotropic Breathwork is a unique and powerful spiritual practice that offers individuals the opportunity to explore their inner selves, release emotional and physical trauma, and gain profound insights and experiences of self-awareness and spirituality. While it can be intense and challenging, the benefits of Holotropic Breathwork are well worth the effort for those seeking greater personal growth, healing, and transformation.


FAQs about Holotropic Breathwork

What is Holotropic Breathwork?

Holotropic Breathwork is a breathing practice that aims to induce an altered state of consciousness. It involves deep, rapid breathing for an extended period of time to access the deepest parts of the psyche for healing and growth.

How does Holotropic Breathwork work?

Holotropic Breathwork works by inducing a state of hyper-arousal in the body, which allows the body to release any stored trauma that may be affecting the person’s mental and emotional health. The breathing process is said to increase blood and oxygen flow to the brain, which can lead to profound psychological experiences.

Is Holotropic Breathwork safe?

Holotropic Breathwork is generally considered safe, but it is important to have a qualified facilitator to guide the process. Some people may experience physical or emotional discomfort during the process, so it is important to have a safe and supportive environment to explore these experiences. It is also important to have a pre-existing knowledge of any pre-existing medical or psychological conditions before engaging in the practice.


1. Grof, S. (1988). The Adventure of Self-Discovery: Dimensions of Consciousness and New Perspectives in Psychotherapy and Inner Exploration. SUNY Press. Retrieved from https://www.sunypress.edu/pdf/61591.pdf

2. Vaitl, D., Birbaumer, N., Gruzelier, J., Jamieson, G. A., Kotchoubey, B., Kubler, A., & Lehmann, D. (2005). Psychobiological foundations of spirituality. Cross-Cultural Research, 39(1), 28-45. doi: 10.1177/1069397104271701

3. Brown, R. P., & Gerbarg, P. L. (2012). Sudarshan Kriya Yogic breathing in the treatment of stress, anxiety, and depression: Part I-neurophysiologic model. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 18(3), 267-277. doi: 10.1089/acm.2010.0737