What Is Holotropic Breathwork

What Is Holotropic Breathwork? A Complete Guide

What Is Holotropic Breathwork

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In modern times, holotropic breathing is becoming the new craze for attaining personal growth and wellbeing. A lot of us are still unfamiliar with this rising therapy. To be fair, only those who have experienced holotropic breathwork know how it does wonders for mental health. So, if you want to know in detail what is holotropic breathwork, you have come to the right place!

Basically, we are all constantly in search of inner peace and satisfaction. This new concept of breathing involves a technique through which you can consciously control your breathing patterns. As a result, this will cause some changes in your body and bring you the desired peace!

As a beginner at this, you must first understand the idea and origin of holotropic breathwork. Then you have to know how to do the same and about all its benefits and drawbacks. In this article, I shall discuss all these relevant facts in detail. So, to take a deep dive into the realm of holotropic breathing, please read the entire article.

The Idea Of Holotropic Breathing

Actually, the entire idea of holotropic breathing is based on a whole new independent way to embark upon healing. It is amazing how your control over your breathing patterns can influence your physical, spiritual, and mental well-being. Moreover, it is an effective and very therapeutic process too.

Let’s start with the very basics first. Holotropic comes from two Greek word roots. In Greek, “holos” means whole, and “trepein” means moving towards some destination. In this regard,

Holotropic breathing refers to a kind of breathing that can lead you to wholeness or completion. That is to say, you can achieve a state of harmony through this divine maneuver!

In fact, even now, there are several thousand people who are not even familiar with this concept. If you are new to this, you must be thinking about how breathing patterns can render you peace! Yes, it is as magical as it sounds. You can now even find instructors and guides who can direct you to the concept of holotropic breathing.

Basically, it is a different kind of yoga or meditation for your soul. Here, you learn to master the ways in which you can control your breath consciously. There are specific patterns you need to follow so that you don’t end up holding your breath. This produces some biochemical changes in your body, which ultimately influence your physical and spiritual environment.

Furthermore, the use of music along with this meditation can greatly accelerate your process of attaining healing. It is an excellent way to shake off stress, anxiety, and misery. But this is possible only if you do it in the correct way.

Sometimes, it may happen that you are practicing for a long time without any comprehensible or visible effects. In that case, you must make sure you are doing it the right way. It is super easy, and you can practice this in your free time as well!

With the amount of stress you bear throughout the day, you can let it all out with each breath you exhale during the process. If your body can endure trauma or pain, it can liberate the same too!

Breathing is closely related to all kinds of changes your body goes through. Indeed, it is the fuel that keeps us alive. The oxygen we breathe in keeps every single cell alive in the body. So, some closely monitored changes in this breathwork can induce changes in your body as well. Even if it sounds weird, it is true!

The History Behind Holotropic Breathwork

The origin of holotropic breathing comes from the use of hallucinogenic substances. These substances can make you feel euphoric, happy, and relaxed. Holotropic breathwork is based on the same principle.

In the case of holotropic breathing, instead of using some psychotomimetic drugs, you depend on some inherent bodily mechanisms that make you feel the same way. These are natural processes, so they are safe for you.

On the other hand, most psychedelic drugs are toxic. These substances and medications can be addictive. So, rather than depending on some addictive choices, it’s better to practice something natural.

In the middle of the 20th century, most states gradually started to ban LSD. Considering its harmful effects, it was finally declared illegal then. So, the beneficial or therapeutic effects of LSD gradually started to lose their popularity.

Later, in the 1970s, Stanislav Grof and his wife conducted intensive research work on holotropic breathing. They developed an idea that the changes produced as a result of this kind of breathing work could mimic the same therapeutic effects as a bolus dose of LSD!

Basically, LSD is now just another item of drug abuse. However, its beneficial effects cannot be denied. It can produce an altered state of consciousness, which can make you feel happy and content. This can provide you with a temporary state of relief from anxiety. But it comes at a great cost in toxic effects on your health!

So, the Grofs got the idea of devising a technique by which you could get the same benefits without experiencing any such toxic effects. Thus, they started to learn more about how the same kinds of biochemical changes can be produced by changing the patterns of respiration.

There are so many other techniques practiced for altered states of consciousness related to breathing. For example, holding your breath for a few seconds is one of the most ordinary techniques practiced worldwide. Or you must have heard about people breathing in through the nose but exhaling orally.

However, holotropic breathing seems to be one of the most sophisticated methods. Actually, it is a modified form of most of these techniques put together.

Stanislav Grof is well known for his research on psychosis, drug abuse, etc. His infamous work on psychiatric diseases has led to this discovery. To this day, he will remain most famous for his work on holotropic breathing.

How To Practice Holotropic Breathing?

The technique of holotropic breathwork isn’t very hard to practice if you have proper guidance. Basically, most people hire instructors or take part in workshops to learn about holotropic breathing. This could be the most pleasant experience you have ever had!

The process is very simple and short. In fact, you don’t need much equipment to practice this. Actually, it is a modified form of yoga. So, the processes are kind of similar. Even if you don’t have an instructor, let someone with good experience guide you. In this way, you can have an enjoyable experience too!

So, it is more like a workshop or therapy. You can try for twenty minutes or at least two to three hours. There is one breather and one sitter in every session. Here, the breather is the person who does the act of heavy breathing, and the sitter is the one who guides you through.

Also, in many areas, people practice this in groups. In this case, there is a small group of people and one instructor who guides the entire group altogether. Or, there can be many pairs of breathers and sitters in one group. The sitter must make sure that the breather feels safe and comfortable in the room with others.

Moreover, choose a calm and quiet place to conduct the session. It is a relaxing therapy for your mind. So, the ambiance should be very cozy and comforting. You can also dim the lights or light some scented candles to make the environment more relaxing.

Now, the sitter has to instruct you throughout the session. So, they must maintain a good and friendly relationship with you. Firstly, the session will start with some deep and intense breaths for a few minutes. The instructors will tell you how. Then you must begin a slow, deep inspiration.

Take in a full breath, breathe in and breathe out. With each breath you take, you escape all your worries. Also, the breather has to lie down on his back, making sure his back is fully supported. The sitter needs to sound as reassuring as he can. So, he must keep reassuring the breather constantly.

Lying is by far the most comfortable position to practice holotropic breathing. Next, you can add some music to this vibe. Add a piece of slow, relaxing music. The rhythmic patterns of the music soothe the mind of the breather. So, he enters into a state of altered consciousness soon. Medically, this mimics a kind of state called vivid dreams.

Besides, you can also change the music genre as per your choice. Sometimes, the sound of drum beats can prove helpful. Change it to be more like meditating music. In the case of some people, initially, the person produces uncontrollable laughter. It may mark the beginning of biochemical changes in the body.

Hold the breath or just keep using different sets of respiratory patterns. Do not rely on only one set of patterns. Take deep inspiration.

After this, there may be voluntary and involuntary body movements, especially movements of the limbs. The breather is not stopped to do anything. Actually, this is part of the process. Doing this can help the breather reach his destination, however he wants to.

How Does It End?

In this ultimate process, the breathers learn to get the true meaning of life. The goals were different for each person. Some require healing from a horrible past, and some require moving on. At the same time, some require closure or an escape. This is your pathway to achieving the ultimate goal you have in mind.

The next part is the most interesting part of the whole process. The breathers are asked to draw a mandala or color one. A mandala is a kind of art that can have no specific pattern. It is a kind of symbolic art. The breather can color the mandala. It is very soothing and is often used for therapeutic purposes for people dealing with anxiety disorders.

If you are practicing this in a group, it is even better. You can exchange views at the end of the session with other people. Basically, the beauty of this entire process is that the breathers are not forced in any way to do anything or even asked to follow any definite patterns. The breather is at full liberty to do what he wants.

What You Learn At The End

So, in most cases, the breathers get instant results. They start to understand the bodily changes occurring within their body. However, not everyone can understand these changes instantly. It takes at least two to three sessions to observe visible effects.

You will feel happy and relaxed. Whatever is bothering you will go away soon. Your stress, anxieties, and the past you are running away from will all start to disappear. You can rediscover yourself and find the true purpose of your life.

Holotropic breathwork workshops have been life-changing for most people. In fact, the world-famous guides and trainers on holotropic breathing were once so moved by the effects of this breathing workshop. Ultimately, it led them to choose this as a career opportunity.

Moreover, you will leave the session as a much wiser and much more mature person. If you are practicing at a retreat, it can be a lot of fun! Practicing alone is not a bad idea either. But it is better to have a guide or an instructor with you throughout the process.

Also, you can search for the experiences of other people all over the world. I am sure you won’t be disappointed! So, embark upon your journey today! There is nothing to be scared of. The entire process is very natural and depends on your own bodily mechanisms.

The Good Sides Of Holotropic Breathwork

Holotropic breathwork is a very healthy way to unleash your thoughts and achieve a momentary escape from reality. It doesn’t have to be very complex. Keep it simple and easy, and you will love your experience!

Now, let’s get to know why you should practice this divine breathing yoga. Instead of choosing any other kind of yoga, why would experts recommend holotropic breathing for you? Truth be told, while other kinds of yoga connect with you on physical or spiritual levels only, holotropic breathing connects to both and creates a whole new dimension.

Although there haven’t been direct reports that it can cure depression, it is definitely a boon to your mental ailments. This effectively transforms a person fighting anxiety disorders or post-traumatic stress disorders.

It teaches you to trust and rely on others, to work in unison, and to support each other in good and bad times. Holotropic breathing shows you how you have the potential to change your own fate without the help of others. You can realize that it has stayed within you until now, all sorts of power to be hopeful and to love yourself.

However, nobody would recommend this as a substitute for any kind of psychotherapy or social counseling. Practice this alongside other different kinds of therapies, you know. It can be used as a supplement for your soul rather than your only food.

There have been several reports that people struggling with panic attacks could get relief from their miseries because of holotropic breathing. Panic attacks can be your worst enemy. They mimic death and give you the fear of impending death everywhere! It is extremely uncomfortable. It can give rise to bad thoughts and ideas.

Holotropic breathwork can provide you with some form of mental satisfaction and cure your panic attacks. Basically, it helps you to attain your personal growth. So, if anything is bothering you, or you are looking for ways to rediscover yourself, this can be your go-to therapy.

Holotropic breathing is now gaining popularity in most places in the world. It’s not very far away from you now. You can also practice yourself and gain all the experience you need.

Sometimes, your mental health can take a toll on you. It can be difficult to concentrate or focus on daily life affairs due to a tragic past that you are repressing. Or maybe some sort of anxious thoughts that are holding you back. A holotropic breathwork session can be your escape from this. It can provide you with some momentary pain relief.

There are innumerable benefits of holotropic breathing. If you really care about your mental health, try a session yourself and see the difference it makes! It will be beneficial for your mental peace and prosperity. So, take a chill pill and try it out for yourself today!

Take Caution In These Cases

Although holotropic breathing is the ultimate therapy, which I am rooting for, there are certain facts that you need to be careful about. It modifies your breathing pattern in a way that is outside the normal rhythm of your body. So, there can be some serious effects too.

Actually, the most important effect is the production of hyperventilation syndrome. When a person breathes heavily, he or she takes in lots of oxygen and liberates a great amount of carbon dioxide. The concentration of carbon dioxide in our bodies is the ultimate stimulus that creates the drive for respiration.

Due to heavy breathing, an excessive amount of carbon dioxide is produced. As a result, it causes the respiratory rate to increase many times more. A normal adult breathes 12 to 15 times per minute. On the other hand, a hyperventilating person breathes much more, maybe 30 breaths per minute!

This can effectively increase the concentration of bicarbonate ions in your body, thus producing metabolic alkalosis. Alkalosis is a dangerous condition that can interfere with many reactions in your body. However, the excess amount of carbon dioxide in your body is not good either.

Also, as the bicarbonate ions increase in your bloodstream, the pH of your blood rises. This can lead to dangerous situations like epilepsy. Just make sure you are not breathing in a way that is about to induce seizures!

People with respiratory problems are advised to be extra cautious. You must practice under expert guidance. In particular, people with bronchial asthma, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) must remain very careful because slight changes in the respiratory drive can prove to be extremely fatal in these cases.

No matter how beneficial it is for you, you must do it under controlled conditions. The hyperventilation must be within the limits. In particular, there are some conditions in which you must try to remain very cautious. For example,

  • If the breather has a history of previous heart attacks or chest pains
  • Pregnant mothers
  • Hypertension, that is, high blood pressure
  • Eye diseases like- retinal detachment, glaucoma, etc.
  • Recent trauma or surgeries
  • Decaying bones
  • People using some regular medications

Also, there have been reports that holotropic breathing can exacerbate psychiatric conditions. In particular, people suffering from psychotic disorders, schizophrenia, mood disorders, etc., are vulnerable to changes in breathing harmony. So, holotropic breathing is not for these types of people. In fact, these kinds of yoga can actually exacerbate their conditions.

In the case of people with high blood pressure or glaucoma, holotropic breathing produces a state of vivid dreams. This altered state of consciousness can produce powerful memories of unpleasant experiences. This can momentarily affect the person’s calm and raise blood pressure. It is extremely harmful!

People with some varieties of glaucoma are vulnerable too. Because this sudden rush of images in your mind can affect your vision and increase the pressure of fluid in your eyeballs, you can end up with a bad headache. Glaucoma is a potentially blinding disease that does not have a lot of cures. So, it is a bad idea to exaggerate it more.

Average Cost Of A Holotropic Breathwork Session

Holotropic breathwork hasn’t gained much popularity in many parts of the world yet. It is yet to be explored and known by a large section of the world’s population. As it is a newer technique, it still requires expert handling and maintenance.

Understandably, holotropic breathing workshops can be a tad bit expensive. Also, you need to be under the constant supervision of an expert or an instructor. This person, or the sitter, is highly experienced in the realm of holotropic breathwork. He must have studied the matter a lot. So, the skill is required to be recognized!

The average cost of a session may range from 150 to 250 USD. A time will come when this cost will decline, and the breathwork workshop can be available to all at a much cheaper rate!

Even though it is still unfamiliar to most people around the world, those who know or have experienced holotropic breathwork know how soothing it can be. I think it is worth it if taking care of your mental health requires you to have a tad bit more money.

Should You Practice Holotropic Breathing Alone?

No, you shouldn’t practice holotropic breathing alone ever. It can be fatal to your health. It deals with issues as sensitive as your breathing, the only thing keeping you alive. So, it is always recommended that you practice this under the supervision of an expert.

Earlier, I discussed the health risks and the vulnerable categories that should not practice this technique of holotropic breathwork. Even though it is for healthy individuals, it is never wise to practice something like this alone.

As I mentioned earlier, its effects have been compared to the same changes produced by a bolus dose of LSD. So, it can be considered a natural way to get high through your breathing. Yeah, I know it sounds weird. But the science behind this is yet to be discovered.

The chemical changes produced are good for your mind in one sense, but they can prove to be harmful too. The changes ultimately affect your brain cells. So, it is closely related to delicate systems in your body.

Besides, there are videos on the internet and thousands of blogs teaching you to do it alone. But it is highly risky. Maybe you can practice this at home by yourself, but it won’t do you any good if it ends up badly. Controlling your breathing patterns without the presence of another person is almost a daredevil act!

In fact, the physiological changes produced as a result of holotropic breathwork influence every cell in your body. In the worst-case scenario, it can have negative effects on your health.

Even though it is an extremely beneficial technique for your mental health, you need to be doing it under expert guidance. The good sides have, of course, outsmarted their drawbacks. Hence, you can practice indoors, but only with some good assistance on hand.


Holotropic breathwork is the newest hype in this age of science and technology. So, if you can get the same effects of a hallucinogenic drug with your normal body mechanism, who wouldn’t want to try it once? Of course, it is healthy and safe. But you must do it under the supervision of an experienced sitter.

So, I hope I could clear your queries regarding what is holotropic breathwork and all the relevant facts that you would need to know about this. I hope this article has given you a better understanding of the subject. Thank you for reading the entire article with patience. Embark upon your journey today and start afresh with a holotropic breathing session!