We can read and hear about holotropic breathing and its effects a lot of different and sometimes quite contradictory information and theories. Some people recognize its accomplishments, but others warn of its potential dangers. Holotropic breathing is one of the methods of transpersonal psychology. It is based on research altered states of consciousness and its aim is focused mainly to the integrity of the individual. Holotropic breathing technique uses controlled breathing and evocative music to induce an altered state of consciousness and consequently the body work.
The term holotropic breathing consists of Greek word holos (whole, solid) and trepein (moving in a direction towards something) so Holotropic literally means "oriented toward completeness " or "moving toward completeness ".
About holotropic breathing method
Holotropic breathing method was developed by Professor Stanislav Grof and his wife Christina in the seventies of the twentieth century. Prof. MD. Stanislav Grof was born and studied medicine in Prague. He was one of the founders of Psychiatric Research Institute, where he devoted himself to studying the effects of psychedelic substances on the human psyche and the therapeutic use of LSD in the case of mental illness. Mr and MRS Grof used holotropic breathing method in cases where other methods proved insufficient. The method is based on inducing altered states of consciousness with the help of intense breathing or breath-holding. Altered states of consciousness induced by breathing provide some healing potential. Invocation of these states is understood as an activation of self-medication means.
What is the typical course of holotropic breathing?
On the whole process should definitely oversee an experienced therapist. Without his presence, any experimentation with this method should not in any case take place. Holotropic breathing normally takes place in a group of people when participants are divided to work in pairs. In this pair, one of them is breathing and the other one is supervising.
Initiation of the entire session usually begins with meditation. Participants work on deepening breathing and increase its frequency. Specific progress depends on each person as well as individual feelings during different sessions may differ. It is recommended to wear comfortable clothes and prior therapy does not consume any heavy meals. During the whole therapy is used loud and rhythmical music. At the end of holotropic breathing is usually debate.
Accompanying symptoms can be different and very varied. Somebody can have headaches, nausea and vomit, or various motoric manifestations, sometimes very strong. Tremor, twisting the exuding of sounds, sobbing, crying or laughing can appear during the therapy. For controlling of these symptoms is present the other person of co-working couple. Its mission is to prevent possible injuries to individuals who can be caused by their motoric restlessness and other manifestation during the therapy. The room where holotropic breathing therapy takes place, should be large enough and the floor should be soft.
These induced altered and other non-ordinary states of consciousness serves as a gateway to the opening of all levels of human experiences and feelings. It allows a person to recognize the roots of behaviour and actions and it enables to touch of repressed emotions and energies. Deep insight into our own psyche can relive certain life traumatic experiences. Such experiences facilitate removal of various mental blocks. This technique is thus understood as the possibility of self-development and self-discovery.
Altered states of consciousness
These states of consciousness called altered states of consciousness are a wide range of state our mind where the quality of human consciousness somehow altered. The subject of investigating for transpersonal psychology is such altered states of consciousness, which carry the healing, transformative, and evolutionary potential.
Transpersonal psychology assumes that people in western industrial societies are normally in contact with only a part of their essence. Our normal state of consciousness allows us to experience only a fraction of who we really are. During holotropic state is not human consciousness impaired, as is the case with organic psychoses, but there is a profound qualitative change. Ordinary reality takes on a whole new, unexpected dimension. Although one experiences the intensity of other dimensions of existence, is still able to navigate in space-time. It is not a case of losing a contact with reality. The individual who takes part in this therapy is experiencing simultaneously two different realities.
Ancient, pre-industrial and indigenous cultures hold similar procedures as is holotropic state of mind in high regard and they were using technique allowing altering of consciousness to treat individuals and even whole communities. Among such techniques which were used by ancient cultures belong - indirect and direct work with the breath, sound and musical techniques, dance and other various forms of exercise, social and sensory deprivation, sensory overload, meditation and other spiritual techniques.
Preparing for holotropic breathing
Holotropic breath therapy should be preceded by an interview with a psychiatrist or other knowledgeable professional who should decide on its suitability for a patient. If we want use this therapy to truly heal some psychological problems, it is necessary to do it systematically and regularly. The method is an appropriate procedure for those who have a deeper interest in the self-knowledge, are searching for the meaning of existence or repeatedly experience the different states of mental collapses. This technique is also used as a complementary therapy in the treatment of addictions. Holotropic breathing is not advisable for people with cardiovascular problems, for people with epilepsy or for patients after surgery and it is not very appropriate for pregnant women. It is also not recommended for people with severe mental health problems.
If someone decides to try this method he should be familiar with the fact that there is not always the result what we expect. For some people may the result of this method cause many difficulties in their life. However people who practice and devote this breathing therapy regularly find holotropic breathing as a very deep personal experience.
This effective and safe process through our direct experience leads us to awaking and discovering the natural healing powers and transformational possibilities that are inherent in every human being. Holotropic breathing is a method that is build on the millennial experience of yoga and other breathing meditation practices, shamanic rituals and indigenous healing treatments.
Music as part of holotropic breathing
Holotropic breathing combines techniques from many of these ancient traditions. Holotropic breathing uses controlled breathing and evocative music to induce an expanded state of consciousness and consequently the body work. The music was used in a very similar way as breathing during millennia in rituals and spiritual practice. The psychodynamic approach to music therapy used in current psychotherapy is very similarly to the way how is music applied during holotropic breathing therapy.
Music in this therapy is instrumental. At the beginning of therapy is used music compositions with faster rhythms, then music gradually changes into the relaxation music. Through music is possible to releasing blocked traumas, it is possible to express strongly repressed frames of mind.
Prerequisites for successful therapy
For smooth and successful therapy is an important mutual trust between the participants of holotropic therapy and therapist. Holotropic breathing therapy must be performed by experienced therapists who individually interviews each participant inspects his body and decides whether his participation in the program is appropriate.
Breathing, which is subsequently induced, is deeper and more intense than we are commonly used to in our daily life. The individual should surrender to music, relax his mind, not thinking about anything but observe what is going on in his body. The second participant takes care about his breathing partner during the therapy and oversees on him.
After this process, follows relaxation and later on both participants exchange. At the end of therapy, participants talk about what happened and what they have experienced during altered state of consciousness. Anyone can confide only what he wants to tell to the others.
Possible pitfalls and dangers of holotropic therapy
Holotropic breathing is associated with many motor symptoms and hence gives rise to the possibility of injury. It is therefore very important that the person is under surveillance. It is also important to have properly equipped and sufficiently large room.
The risk may be insufficient qualifications of holotropic therapist and home self-taught tutors. Holotropic breathing should never be done without professional supervision!
From some members of the medical community is also pointed out to fact that there are possibility of harmful effects on brain cells. During the holotropic breathing is the whole body and mainly brain hyperventilated and hyperventilated.
Experiences and benefits holotropic breathing
Most participants' of holotropic breathing therapy agree on the fact that their consciousness actually altered and deepened. They describe their experiences as deep and intense, and also very relaxing and tranquilizing. The experiences are, however, quite individual and can have a dramatic course accompanied by crying or sadness. Proponents of the holotropic breathing therapy point out that the completion of this therapy brings greater understanding of life situations and helps to solve various problems and difficulties in life. The experiences gained in the course of this therapy can contribute to mitigate mental and some physical ailments and symptoms. People are becoming more receptive and attentive to themselves and to all around us. Holotropic breath therapy mediates access to the deepest experiences of the human psyche - including psychological death and rebirth.