What is Holotropic Breathwork?

What is Holotropic Breathwork?

What is Holotropic Breathwork?

Stanislav Grof, M.D., after many years of clinical work in his native Czechoslovakia and at the Maryland Psychiatric Institute in Baltimore, developed Holotropic Breathwork with his wife Christina. It is used in conjunction with more introspective methods of self-exploration like psychoanalysis, yoga and meditation and is particularly effective when employed as an adjunct to an on-going therapy or spiritual practice.

The word Holotropic is derived from the Greek words ‘holos’ and ‘trepein’, and means ‘moving toward wholeness.’

Holotropic Breathwork is a contemporary method of deliberately allowing onself access to non-ordinary states of consciousness (NOSC) by means of slightly accelerating and deepening the process of breathing consciously in a safe and supportive setting; into this environment the astonishing hidden depths of the psyche can finally emerge.

Breathing, our first act as an individual, has been practiced consciously by many ancient mystical traditions; Tantric yoga, Taoist meditation and the Indian practice of Pranayama have all valued its unique ability to subtly alter the body chemistry and lift the veil of perception.

Supervised by certified facilitators and accompanied by evocative, non-verbal music, Holotropic Breathwork participants are actively encouraged to permit a falling away of ordinary consciousness; awareness of our true Self then arises in NOSC.

This may involve insights and deep emotions related to an individualĀ¹s biography, experiences of the four stages of birth from conception to emergence as well as transpersonal experiences, including memories from the collective unconscious, encounters with the world of mythology and spirit, and mystical, numinous experiences.

As with dreams, the NOSC with which we are most familiar, the psyche delivers from the sub-conscious exactly that which most urgently needs to emerge into our ordinary awareness. The significant difference between these occurrences during sleep and during Breathwork, however, is that during Breathwork one is awake, and capable of experiencing and remembering them at the very moment of their emergence. The images and sensations, whether tumultuous or tranquil, are immediately experienced in such a way that they become a part of one’s consciousness.

By taking our experience to the deeper level of NOSC, aspects of the Self beyond ego, previously unknown, can activate profound healing.

Once the subconscious material is consciously experienced in a benevolent and welcoming environment, previously held ideas, self-limiting definitions and self-destructive impulses can cease to hold with the same power. Thus we become freer to define ourselves more by our possibilities and less by our limitations.

Holotropic Breathwork is a process of allowing, of giving permission to, of saying yes to a part of ourselves which we have denied, the true Self, and it sets no limits upon the boundless potential of consciousness.

Breathwork can touch a wellspring of memories and emotions, the subtle effects of which may continue after the individual has returned to ordinary consciousness. Mandala drawing, re-introduced as a tool of integration by Carl Gustav Jung, is used after each Breathwork session as a way to anchor the experience in the visible, tactile and material world.

Using these mandalas as a way of remembering each session for themselves and as a way of communicating the content to others, each breather is invited to share their experiences with the facilitators and other members of the group, bringing each session to closure.

But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn through the sheets of clouds
and there was a new voice
which you slowly recognised as your own,
that kept you company as you strode deeper and deeper into the world,
determined to do the only thing you could do;
determined to save the only life you could save.

-Mary Oliver