Stanislav Grof, M.D. , Ph.D. describes Holotropic Breathwork

“Stanislav Grof is one of the most important pioneers in the scientific understanding of consciousness. He and his wife, Christina, have contributed both to its intellectual and experiential understanding through their work with Holotropic Breathwork.”               

-Deepak Chopra

What to expect from a Holotropic Breathwork workshop

Holotropic Breathwork combines the use of accelerated breathing, music, and energy-release body work as needed. Workshop participants work in pairs with one person in the role of the “breather” and the other in the role of “sitter” for each session. Each person will experience either the role of the breather or sitter in the morning session and then switch roles for the afternoon session. The sitter’s role is simply to be available for support and to be present for the breathers session. Each breathwork session lasts for two to three hours.

Breathers lie down on mats on the floor while the sitter sits nearby. Participants are advised that it is better not to have a goal or specific agenda when beginning a breathwork session, but rather to trust that whatever happens is the best outcome for healing. The facilitators lead a guided relaxation to help the breather relax the body in preparation for their breathing session. The Holotropic Breathwork experience is, for the most part, internal and largely nonverbal, without interventions. Although facilitators suggest to breathers, at the beginning of the session, that they increase the pace and depth of the breath, breathers are also encouraged to find their own pace and rhythm. Thus, after the breathwork session begins, breathers are not “coached” in any particular way of breathing. The facilitators play evocative or rhythmic music as the breathing deepens. With the help of the breath, evocative music, a safe atmosphere, relaxation, and a willingness to embrace the experiences, breathers are guided by their own inner healing function to whatever experience will bring them healing and transformation.

The music continues for two to three hours. Sitters watch over their breather, providing a sense of shelter and support. During the Breathwork process, the breather can have quite a wide range of possible experiences. What is visible from the outside varies. Some people are very still while others rock, cry out, or move to the music. Experiences can include a variety of physical sensations, deep feelings of joy or serenity, “yogic sleep,” meditative states, or re-experiencing and releasing trauma or traumas or the birth process. Some people report encounters with mythic or archetypal storylines, past-life experiences, or direct spiritual or religious awakenings. Many see emotionally charged visual images, feel energy moving through their bodies, receive intuitive insights, and clarify troublesome issues in their lives.

Often participants report that they release accumulated stress, release emotions from old traumas, gain an increased trust in themselves and their bodies, and feel that they have understood and can now transcend old patterns of behavior that have brought unwanted results. The experiences vary from individual to individual and from session to session. The same individual will often have different experiences each time he or she does breathwork.

At the end of the session, the facilitator checks in with the breather. If the breathwork has not resolved the emotional and physical tensions activated during the session, the facilitator may offer focused energy-release body work to help release any stuck energy. When the breathwork session is complete, the breather will have the opportunity to create a mandala drawing to represent their experience. .The word mandala is Sanskrit for “circle”. Mandala drawing is an opportunity to express the Breathwork experience in a non-verbal way and to begin the integration process. Carl Jung called the mandala “a representation of the unconscious self”. The mandala drawing could be anything from the simplest arrangement of colors to something more elaborate. Each individual mandala is unique to the individual breather, much like the breathwork session itself.

There is an opportunity to talk about the breathwork experience during the group sharing process at the end of the workshop and there are also suggestions for supporting the integration process after the workshop.