There’s a wonderful world of alternative therapies out there just waiting to be discovered. This month, we shine a light on holotropic breathing.
If you’re looking to boost your personal empowerment, or hoping for a bit of self-exploration, then this is the therapy for you.
It was first developed in the mid 1970s by psychotherapist Dr Stanislav Grof and his wife after he was involved in earlier tests of the therapeutic potential of LSD. When psychedelics were banned in the 1960s, Grof developed holotropic breathing as a way to stimulate the psychedelic experience of LSD without the drug itself. He defined holotropic as ‘that which leads to wholeness’ which comes from Greek word ‘holos’ meaning whole and ‘trepein’ meaning moving in the direction of something.
The process combines accelerated breathing with calming music in a special setting – each person holds their own breath and uses breathing and music to enter an extraordinary state of consciousness. This activates the natural healing process and brings the breather to uncover a set of internal experiences – so although you can have similar themes, there are no two sessions of holotropic breathwork that are exactly the same.
Many report out-of-body experiences after a session of holotropic breathwork. As the breather is lying down on a mat, it is difficult for them to come to harm so the body can do whatever it needs to during the therapy. Unlike meditation, where the exact posture for practice is described, in this you can express yourself physically in any way you need to and therefore intense spiritual and physical experiences can be relatively common.
Before trying holotropic breathwork, you should consult your doctor particularly if you are pregnant, have cardiovascular problems, high or low blood pressure, glaucoma, epilepsy, asthma or mental illness.
To find out more, and locate a therapist near you, visit holotropicuk.co.uk
Everything you need to know about your first session.
Occuring in a quiet room that can be darkened, the breather lies on a mat and is then led through a meditative visualisation to create a sense of relaxation. At the end of this, lights are dimmed and music plays to block out external sound. The breather accelerates their rate of breath and this continues for two to three hours. Afterwards, the music fades and you gradually normalise your breathing and open your eyes to allow light in the room to return to normal. Then you’ll take a pen and draw a mandala to represent the experience.
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