What is Holotropic Breathwork?

Holotropic Breathwork™ − a “technology of the sacred”

Holotropic Breathwork™ offers a powerful, experiential way in which to explore aspects of your self that may be hidden from everyday awareness. In this simple, safe method, the combination of focused breathing and compelling music supports a shift into a non-ordinary, or slightly expanded, state of consciousness. This form of breathwork, both the experience itself, as well as the theory and context, can bring valuable contributions to the process of personal learning, healing and change.

Although trained facilitators hold the session, it is your body and your breath that guide you. Each participant’s experience is uniquely personal. You may experience physical or emotional release, have surprising insights, and feel a depth of connection with yourself that you may not have encountered in more traditional forms of therapeutic or healing work.

However, it is important to recognise that Holotropic Breathwork™ is not a ‘quick fix’ but, rather, part of your commitment to an on-going personal journey. Real change happens not only through the experience of the breathwork itself, but through your reflection on it and how you integrate the insights you gain into your daily life.

The Grofs and Holotropic Breathwork™

Holotropic Breathwork™ was created by Stan and Christina Grof in the mid-1980s during their time as Scholars in Residence at the Esalen Institute. They saw it as a means to continue Grof’s exploration of expanded states of consciousness and the potential his findings could hold for the practice of psychiatry.

The development of Holotropic Breathwork™

Holotropic Breathwork™ grew out of the Grofs’ interest and experience with a wide array of practices from across many different cultures and traditions. Meditation, chanting, dancing, drumming and other forms of indigenous and religious practices informed their search for non-drug-induced means of enhancing consciousness.

A powerful catalyst in many of these methods is the increased depth and intensity of the breath. During the 1980s the Grofs began to experiment with long periods of intensified breathing, supported by drumming and other forms of strong rhythmic music, as a means of activating more expansive states of consciousness.

Over time – and with the support of a community of pioneering colleagues in the fields of humanistic and transpersonal inquiry, spiritual traditions and the arts, as well as science and philosophy – Holotropic Breathwork™ gained recognition as an innovative method for self-exploration and healing.

Since then, Holotropic Breathwork™ has been further developed and refined. Today, certified facilitators hold workshops in many countries around the world. Facilitator training is now offered through Grof Transpersonal Training with programmes in Western and Eastern Europe, Russia, India, Australia, and North and South America. 

About Stanislav Grof

During the 1960s, Grof led pioneering research into the clinical use of LSD and other psychedelic substances. His work as Chief of Psychiatric Research at Maryland Psychiatric Research Center and as Assistant Professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (as well as his personal exploration with these substances), revealed evidence that the ‘map’ on which modern psychiatry was based missed vast areas of the ‘territory’ that clearly influences and shapes individual and collective consciousness.

You can find out more on Stanislav Grof’s website

For further information

‘Holotropic Breathwork: An Introduction’ (article by Marianne Murray and Holly Harman developed from a presentation at Breaking Convention, 2015). Click here to download.

‘Holotropic Breathwork: a New Approach to Self-Exploration and Therapy’. The Grofs’ book provides an in-depth review of background theory as well as a detailed introduction to Holotropic Breathwork™.

You can search for Holotropic Breathwork workshops and facilitators in your geographic area through the Holotropic Breathwork Community.

For information about the international facilitator training program go to the Grof Transpersonal Training website