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What It Is, 31 Ways To Try It, Risks & BIG Benefits

Curious about holotropic breathwork? Here’s everything you need to know, from its psychological roots to benefits and risks.

holotropic breathingholotropic breathing

Breathing: we do it every day, every minute, without a second thought. It’s as involuntary as blinking or having your heart race when you spot someone cute across the room. But what if we told you that intentionally altering your breathing pattern could plunge you into an intense journey of self-discovery and emotional insight? Enter holotropic breathwork, a practice that flips the script on what you thought you knew about the humble inhale-exhale routine.

Intrigued? Let’s exhale the skepticism and inhale the facts.

What is Holotropic Breathwork?

So, for those of you who haven’t heard of it, you might be wondering what this ‘holotropic breathwork’ buzz is all about.

Well, think of it as a breathing exercise on steroids *not literally, of course*. Holotropic breathwork involves a specific pattern of controlled breathing, often harmonized with evocative music, to help you achieve altered states of consciousness.

Imagine going on a soulful journey without even having to leave your yoga mat. Cool, right?

Now, let’s sprinkle some science onto this. This whole idea falls under the umbrella of transpersonal psychology, which is all about exploring those mind-bending experiences that go beyond our everyday ego. You know, the ones that make you question if you’re living in a simulation or something. Yeah, that deep.

And a quick dive into history—holotropic breathwork isn’t some New Age fad that popped up on Instagram last week.

It’s been around since the 1970s, thanks to the creative minds of Stanislav and Christina Grof. They were on a quest to find an alternative to psychedelic therapy because, let’s be honest, not everyone’s keen on tripping to find themselves. [Read: How to be emotionally stable and find your zone of complete calmness]

The Holotropic Breathwork Experience

Ready to give holotropic breathwork a whirl? Let’s paint a vivid picture of what the experience is like before you even step foot in a workshop or sprawl out on your own living room rug.

You can expect to be in a relaxed setting, often with low lighting to set the mood. Music? Oh yeah, that’s a staple—usually something ambient or instrumental that won’t have you singing along and losing focus.

1. Setting the Stage

First off, holotropic breathing sessions can last up to three hours. Yep, you heard that right. We’re talking about a movie marathon length of time but for your soul. So you’ll need to create a calming atmosphere.

Dim the lights, make sure the room temperature is comfortable, and have a playlist of atmospheric, instrumental music at the ready. [Read: 32 secrets to be in the present and live life when everything is speeding past you]

2. The Preparatory Phase

Before diving into the deep waters of your subconscious, it’s good to prepare your body and mind.

Physical Warm-Up

Gentle stretching to get the blood flowing. Maybe even a little yoga, if that’s your jam. [Read: 20 Sexy yoga poses that look super-hot & make you feel really good too!]

Mental Prep

A guided meditation or some simple mindfulness exercises to set your intentions can be super helpful here.

3. The Breathing Technique

Here’s the bread and butter of the practice:


Lie flat on your back on a comfortable mat or rug. Pillows for head or knee support are a plus!

Breath Pattern

You’ll be doing a series of rapid, deep breaths in and out, aiming to inhale and exhale in a circular pattern—meaning no pause between inhale and exhale.

Open Mouth

Breathing through your open mouth allows a fuller breath and maximizes the oxygen intake.

4. Let the Music Guide You

As you get comfortable with your breath pattern, hit play on that ambient playlist you’ve prepared.

The music is more than just a background track, it serves as an emotional and spiritual guide through the different phases of the experience.

5. Journeying Through Altered States

You’re now entering the core phase of the holotropic breathing experience. During this time, you’ll likely encounter various sensations, emotions, and even visions. [Read: Plutchik’s wheel of emotions: How to read & decode your emotional wheel]

The key? Let go. Don’t fight these experiences as they’re part of the journey.

6. Coming Back to Earth

After you’ve ridden the rollercoaster of your inner world, it’s time to gently bring yourself back to reality:

Slowing Down

Gradually reduce the intensity of your breaths.


Become aware of your surroundings, feeling the floor beneath you and listening to the ambient noises around you.


Don’t skip this part! It’s essential to spend some time reflecting on what you experienced. Jot down your thoughts, share them with a guide or a friend if you’re comfortable, and try to make sense of any insights or revelations you may have had.

The Benefits of Holotropic Breathwork

If you’re diving into something as immersive as holotropic breathwork, it’s natural to ask, “What’s in it for me? Why can’t I just stick to my regular ol’ inhales and exhales?”

Excellent questions, my inquisitive friends! Let’s get into why holotropic breathing is more than just, well, hot air.

1. Psychological Benefits

First up, let’s talk about your noggin. Holotropic breathwork isn’t just for kicks, it’s rooted in transpersonal psychology and has shown significant potential in reducing stress.

Imagine letting go of weeks’ worth of tension in just one session. Plus, it can serve as a powerful tool for emotional release. [Read: Repressed anger: 22 healing ways to release anger & focus on the positives]

You know those pesky feelings you’ve bottled up? They could very well find their way out, allowing for a cathartic experience that leaves you lighter and more at peace.

2. Self-Discovery

Now, let’s shift gears to something a tad more existential: self-discovery. If you’re wondering who you are beyond your social media profiles and how you’re connected to the bigger universe, holotropic breathwork can serve as your personal tour guide.

It’s like a mirror that reflects not just your face but your inner complexities, helping you discover facets of yourself you didn’t know existed. It offers you a space to explore your inner world in a deeply profound way.

You might unlock hidden memories, confront suppressed emotions, or simply gain a clearer understanding of what makes you, you. [Read: 25 self-discovery questions to bring you closer to learning who you are]

3. Enhanced Creativity

Ever hit a creative block and wished you could just kickstart your brain into Picasso mode? Holotropic breathwork could be your ticket to creative freedom.

By entering altered states of consciousness, you unlock areas of your brain that may be dormant or underutilized.

This can result in an explosion of creative ideas—whether you’re an artist looking for inspiration or someone who just wants to think outside the box.

4. Improved Physical Wellbeing

While the primary focus of holotropic breathwork is on emotional and psychological wellness, your body also reaps some benefits.

The increased oxygen flow during the practice can improve your blood circulation, making you feel more energized and alert.

Plus, by decreasing stress levels, you’re also likely lowering inflammation in the body, contributing to overall physical health.

5. Spiritual Connection

For those inclined towards spiritual growth, holotropic breathwork offers a path to a deeper sense of interconnectedness.

It’s like opening a door to a spiritual dimension where you can feel more aligned with the universe, or whatever higher power you believe in.

Many people report mystical or transcendental experiences that stay with them long after the session is over, enriching their spiritual lives in an enduring way. [Read: Spiritual connection: The science, how it works, and 33 signs you’re connected]

6. Enhanced Emotional Resilience

If life’s throwing curveballs at you left and right, holotropic breathwork might be your secret weapon for dodging them like Neo in “The Matrix.”

This practice can enhance your emotional resilience by helping you process your feelings in a supportive setting. Think of it as a practice run for confronting challenges in your everyday life.

You’ll build a thicker skin emotionally, better equipping you to face hardships with a sense of poise and grace. [Read: How to be emotionally independent & stop using others for happiness]

7. Improved Focus and Concentration

In our world of incessant notifications and perpetual distractions, a little focus goes a long way. Holotropic breathwork requires you to be fully present in the moment, honing your ability to concentrate.

Over time, this sharpness can spill over into your daily tasks. Whether you’re acing a test or just trying not to burn your grilled cheese, an enhanced sense of focus can be a game-changer.

8. Fosters Community and Connection

Let’s get a little sentimental here: holotropic breathwork is often a group activity, offering a unique avenue for social connection.

In a world where “How are you?” often gets a default “I’m fine,” this practice provides a space to share deeper emotions and experiences.

You might just walk away with more than just self-insight; you could gain friends who have shared a similarly transformative experience.

9. Boosts Self-Esteem and Confidence

Feeling a bit down on yourself lately? Holotropic breathwork offers a nurturing environment for boosting your self-esteem.

When you successfully navigate the emotional rapids and come out the other side stronger, it’s a massive confidence builder. [Read: 55 secrets & self-love habits to build confidence and realize your worth]

Plus, the insights you gain into yourself can replace self-doubt with self-assurance, leaving you standing a bit taller in your own shoes.

10. Increases Mindfulness and Self-Awareness

If you’re on a quest to live more consciously, holotropic breathwork can be your trusty sidekick. By diving deep into your internal landscape, you become more attuned to your thoughts, feelings, and sensations.

This heightened self-awareness can translate into a more mindful approach to life. You’ll find yourself making decisions more intentionally and navigating your emotional world with greater finesse.

The Risks of Holotropic Breathing

While we’ve been singing the praises of holotropic breathwork, it’s time to pump the brakes for a moment.

Because hey, it wouldn’t be fair to send you off into the psychedelic realm of your subconscious without a word of caution, right? So, let’s talk about some of the not-so-groovy risks involved in this practice.

1. Physical Risks

First off, let’s get physical—but not in the fun, Olivia Newton-John kind of way. Holotropic breathwork involves rapid, deep breathing, which can sometimes lead to hyperventilation.

That’s a fancy way of saying you might breathe so fast and shallow that you disrupt the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your body. This can lead to symptoms like dizziness, lightheadedness, and even fainting.

Additionally, the increased oxygen flow can jack up your heart rate, which might be problematic for individuals with certain heart conditions.

2. Psychological Risks

Now, let’s dig into the emotional sandbox. While holotropic breathwork can be a great tool for emotional exploration, it can also unearth feelings or memories that you might not be prepared to handle.

In psychology lingo, this can lead to “emotional dysregulation,” essentially throwing your emotional equilibrium out of whack.

Especially for individuals with a history of psychological issues, such as PTSD or severe anxiety, this practice can sometimes be more triggering than therapeutic.

3. Lack of Scientific Evidence

Okay, let’s talk science—or rather, the lack of it. While many folks will enthusiastically share how holotropic breathwork changed their lives, it’s important to note that these are mostly anecdotal accounts.

The empirical evidence, the kind that gets published in peer-reviewed journals, is still pretty scant. So while it’s tempting to get swept up in the personal success stories, remember that your mileage may vary. Always consult with healthcare professionals before diving in. [Read: Positive vibes and 17 ways to draw positive energy into your life]

Yep, you heard that right. In some jurisdictions, holotropic breathwork is considered a form of psychotherapy.

That means if you’re thinking of leading a session, you could run into legal issues if you’re not properly credentialed.

So before you invite over a bunch of friends for a DIY experience, make sure you’re aware of the laws in your area.

5. The “Bad Trip” Phenomenon

Much like other practices or substances that induce altered states of consciousness, there’s a risk of experiencing what’s colloquially known as a “bad trip.”

These are experiences filled with negative emotions, fears, or even hallucinations that can be deeply unsettling. And unlike pausing a movie, you can’t just “stop” a holotropic breathwork session once it’s underway. [Read: 33 truths to overcome regret, deal with our bad choices & learn from it]

It requires mental preparation and the presence of trained guides to navigate such scenarios safely.

6. Expense

Let’s talk money, honey! Holotropic breathwork sessions aren’t exactly a dime a dozen. They can be quite costly, especially if you’re planning on attending multiple sessions or workshops.

Financial considerations are crucial, especially if you’re on a budget. You wouldn’t want to break the bank in the name of enlightenment, would you?

7. Dependency Risks

Ah, the sweet allure of higher consciousness! But beware, some people find the experience so thrilling or rewarding that they might become psychologically dependent on it.

While it’s not “addictive” in the chemical sense like some substances, a dependency can still be a serious concern. In extreme cases, this can detract from your ability to find pleasure or satisfaction in other aspects of life.

8. Exclusion Criteria

This one’s important: holotropic breathwork isn’t for everyone. Individuals with certain medical conditions, like cardiovascular issues, severe mental health disorders, or certain types of respiratory problems, are often advised to steer clear.

Make sure to consult your healthcare provider for a full medical evaluation before embarking on this journey. When in doubt, sit it out!

9. Time Commitment

Your time is gold, and holotropic breathwork is a bit of a time-gobbler. A single session can last up to three hours, and that’s not counting any additional time for preparation or reflection afterward.

If you’re juggling a busy schedule, this might not be the most convenient form of self-improvement for you.

10. Lack of Trained Professionals

Last but not least, it’s crucial to consider who’s leading your session. The field is still relatively new, and the number of highly trained and credentialed professionals is limited.

An inexperienced or inadequately trained guide can increase the risks mentioned above, from physical symptoms to emotional distress.

[Read: Soul gazing: The science, 32 steps and secrets to create an eye gaze bond with someone]

When Not To Do It

So, we’ve chatted about the dazzling allure of holotropic breathwork and the caution flags you should keep an eye on.

Now, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty—when should you absolutely, positively NOT embark on this cosmic journey of breath?

1. During Pregnancy

First on the no-fly list is pregnancy. While becoming one with your inner self sounds great, pregnancy is generally a time to avoid anything that could potentially stress the body or the baby.

Holotropic breathwork, with its intense emotional and physical states, can introduce too much unpredictability into an already delicate situation.

Therefore, it’s strongly recommended to skip these sessions when you’re expecting a bundle of joy.

2. Pre-Existing Medical Conditions

If your medical history is more complex than the plot of “Inception,” holotropic breathwork might not be the wisest choice.

Conditions like cardiovascular issues, high blood pressure, or severe respiratory problems can be exacerbated by the intense breathing exercises involved.

Always consult your healthcare provider for a full medical evaluation before you go searching for your inner spirit animal.

3. History of Severe Mental Health Issues

For those who’ve battled severe mental health issues, such as PTSD, bipolar disorder, or severe anxiety, holotropic breathwork might be more destabilizing than liberating.

The practice can unlock a Pandora’s box of emotions and memories, and without proper psychological support, this could be a risky endeavor. A mental health professional’s advice is invaluable in such scenarios.

4. Children and Adolescents

If you’re not old enough to legally vote or order a cocktail, you might want to steer clear of holotropic breathwork for now.

While the age restriction varies from one facilitator to another, many experts agree that the adolescent mind is still too much in flux for this sort of intense emotional exploration.

Better to wait until your brain is fully baked, so to speak.

5. Lack of Expert Supervision

Can’t find a certified facilitator in your area? Then it’s a no-go, buddy. The presence of a trained professional is crucial for safely navigating the emotional ebbs and flows induced by holotropic breathwork.

An unqualified guide can significantly up the risk factor, making the experience potentially dangerous rather than enlightening. [Read: How to reduce stress: 17 fastest hacks to a calmer and happier life]

Being Well-informed is Just as Important as Being Willing

While holotropic breathwork offers a unique avenue for self-discovery and emotional healing, it’s not a path to tread lightly. The experience can be profoundly impactful—positively and negatively.

If you’re intrigued by the transformative potential of holotropic breathwork, that’s fantastic! Your curiosity could be the key to unlocking deeper layers of your psyche.

But hey, don’t dive headfirst without checking the depth of the water. Your safety and well-being are paramount, so it’s essential to consult with healthcare providers and certified experts before taking the plunge.

Keep those eyes wide open as you explore the intriguing world of holotropic breathwork. It’s an adventure worth taking but do so with all the necessary precautions in place.

[Read: 48 real secrets to change your life and find the right path when you feel lost]

So, ready to breathe your way to a new you? Just remember, in the realm of holotropic breathwork, being well-informed is just as important as being willing.

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