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What is Holotropic Breathwork

Holotropic Breathwork™ is a powerful, natural method of self-exploration and personal transformation. Using the breath to turn inward using Holotropic Breathwork requires extraordinary intention, knowledge and support. Holotropic Breathwork uses sustained, deep breathing and a musical soundscape to direct attention away from the everyday mind and into the deep psyche. A session generally lasts from 2 to 3 hours. Focused energy release may be part of a session. A mandala drawing is done upon completion.

Within the container provided by the workshop setting, the Breath intensifies inner experiences and provides access to states of mind, body, psyche and even the collective unconscious that are normally inaccessible. No two sessions are the same, though themes may recur. Your experience during a Breathwork session can be expected to be as unique as you are because your own inner wisdom is activated to guide you toward a set of internal experiences specific to your personal evolution to greater wholeness.

Listen to an intro talk

Part 1

Part 2


'Holotropic' is a word of Greek derivation meaning 'moving toward wholeness'. The term was adopted by consciousness researcher Dr. Stanislav Grof to refer to the natural and healthy inclination of mind, body and spirit toward greater integration by accessing non-ordinary states of consciousness. Grof and his wife Christina developed Holotropic Breathwork while in residence at the Esalen Institute during the 1970s. It was based on the decades of consciousness research undertaken by Dr. Stan Grof up to that time (see reading list) and motivated by the desire to reproduce the mind-expanding experiences of the psychedelic era through safe and natural means.

Recognizing that World traditions have long used breath and music to induce trance states, the Grofs developed Holotropic Breathwork to transcend cultural, religious and psychotherapeutic boundaries. They drew on the commonalities among approaches that all used the breath, while subtracting beliefs and practices that are not universally necessary to directly experience ones deep psyche. Stan Grof was also one of the founders of transpersonal psychology, which recognizes that consciousness transcends the boundaries of the personality, time and space. Grof was the originator of the expanded cartography of the psyche that first mapped inner experiences to biographical, perinatal and transpersonal realms.

What are the benefits?

This safe paradigm is ideally suited for those seeking greater psychological opening as well as an expanded spiritual dimension to their lives. The workshop is open to people who have never experienced Holotropic Breathwork as well as those who have been in previous workshops. Because it can be both gentle and powerful, this method has been useful for those just beginning transformational work as well as those already comfortable with the deeper realms of their inner selves.

Participants are often those who are strongly motivated to deepen their personal transformative journeys. Mental health professionals often find this process useful in opening to new levels of awareness and knowledge about the healing process through their own participation in this process of self-exploration. People recovering from the addictive process in any of its forms are also attracted to this work and see it as a natural enhancement of the 12-step philosophy.

This workshop is also beneficial for persons involved in psychotherapy or who are on a spiritual path, for people exhibiting psychosomatic illness or suffering from physical symptoms which have not responded adequately to medical treatment, and for those who have done psychedelic research or are in spiritual emergence.

Who should not participate: Because of the physically demanding aspects of Holotropic Breathwork, and its potential for inducing a re-experiencing of intense emotional material, this workshop is not appropriate for pregnant women or for people with heart conditions, hypertension, recent surgery, epilepsy, glaucoma, or a history of mental illness.

Workshop format

To help build a safe container for our process, and to develop group cohesiveness, this workshop begins by coming together in a group circle for introductions and to review the principles of holotropic breathwork. During two separate sessions, you will have the honour of 'sitting' for a partner as they 'breathe', who in turn will 'sit' for you. Sitting for someone having a holotropic breathwork experience can be a deeply moving, learning experience.

The basic element in Holotropic Breathwork is deep and accelerated breathing done lying on a mat with eyes closed and the attention directed inward. Evocative music provides a soundscape for the inner journey and covers distracting sound. Spontaneous expression of the inner experience is encouraged. Focused body work may be used as an adjunct to help free old, blocked energy to transform and carry us into expanded realms of ourselves. Drawing a 'mandala' helps to express and honour the inexpressible. A closing circle is used to discuss and help integrate the often intense experiences that arise.

Turning Inward

Today's most exciting psychologies, like world mystical traditions, point to the essential wisdom and healing capacity that reside within each of us. This dynamic is described by many names, such as the Source Energy, the Vortex, Inner Healer, Therapeutic Mechanism, Higher Power and others. Holotropic Breathwork is a powerful strategy for cooperating with this inner healer. It does not require you to transfer personal power to the guidance of a facilitator, nor to submit to the reinterpretation of your experience according to an external framework of meaning.

The Breath is one of the most natural and powerful ways to access expanded states of consciousness and connect with the healer that already exists within. The Holotropic Breathwork approach is aligned with other approaches that empower one to turn inward and can enhance traditional western therapeutic approaches, classical spiritual practices of all cultures, as well as the 12-step philosophy. Cross-culturally, the native peoples of this planet have used non-ordinary states of consciousness to access this inner strength and healing.

What you may experience

Nonordinary states have a characteristic sensory vividness and transcendent quality. The usual perception of boundaries between space and time, matter and energy, parts and the whole may blur. A holotropic breathwork session can bring into consciousness any emotions, sensations or thoughts that may be unfinished byproducts of events from our personal biographies. Breathwork provides the opportunity for unproductive patterns and emotions frozen with past events to surface and transform into an experience of release. Birth/death/rebirth experiences have a particular salience in holotrophic states. Experiences may also arise from the unlimited field of consciousness called the transpersonal dimension.

Breathwork touches the deepest levels of the subconscious, helping one to access experiences which go beyond everyday understanding, such as traumatic memories, archetypes, birth experiences and, some believe, even karmic patterns. An individual's own psyche is the director of the holotropic experience. This ensures an empowering experience of the inner healer as well as avoiding miscues by someone else attempting to guide an inner experience from outside it. The facilitator's role is to be available to assist the breather -- not to interfere with or interrupt the process.