Holotropic Breathwork: An Ultimate Guide to A Healing Technique

October 17, 2021
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People have practiced breathwork for centuries as a way to improve their physical and mental health. However, it wasn’t until Holotropic Breathwork was invented that breathwork gained mainstream popularity. Still, some people are confused as to how, why, and whether they should practice this advanced breathwork technique.

If you’ve been asking “What is Holotropic Breathwork?” and are even considering trying it, this article will answer all of your questions by covering the following:

  • What is Holotropic Breathwork?
  • Science of Holotropic Breathwork: how does it work?
  • Is Holotropic Breathwork safe? 8 common side effects you might notice
  • 10 amazing benefits of Holotropic Breathwork
  • How to do Holotropic Breathwork: 5 ways to practice this technique
  • Learn Holotropic Breathwork: 5 best training courses & certifications
  • 4 resources to learn more about Holotropic Breathwork

Let’s get started with an explanation of the Holotropic Breathwork technique.

If you’d prefer to learn about easier techniques, check out breathwork exercises to practice daily for improved wellness.

What Is Holotropic Breathwork?

A woman guiding another through a healing breathwork session

Holotropic Breathwork is an advanced breathwork technique that was developed in the 1970s by Stanislav and Christina Grof as both a therapeutic and spiritual practice. It is used for the purposes of self-healing and achieving an altered state of consciousness. Many have used the practice to address trauma or gain other physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual benefits. It continues to be practiced today, and has inspired several other modern breathwork techniques.

Science of Holotropic Breathwork: how does it work?

A typical session involves following a guided Holotropic Breathwork process that is designed to help achieve a new state of consciousness. This is accomplished through breathing patterns that are relatively fast, but done in a way to help avoid hyperventilation. It has been suggested that this changes the body’s levels of oxygen and CO2, which is what contributes to the physical sensations felt.

Various studies have been done on this experience and its effects on practitioners. One from 1996 found that Holotropic Breathwork successfully helped those involved reduce death anxiety and increase their self-esteem. Another, from 2013, showed that it helped those who participated manage various psychological and life issues. Yet another, from 2015, showed it helped participants increase their self-awareness and improve their mood. These studies all support the claims that Holotropic Breathwork creates a positive experience that offers therapeutic benefits.

Is Holotropic Breathwork safe? 8 common side effects you might notice 

Many skeptics have asked: “Is Holotropic Breathwork dangerous?” Let us first say that breathwork is a relatively safe practice overall. But like all other wellness practices, there will be some risk involved. Some might be at more risk than others, so be sure to talk with your doctor beforehand. Here are some potential Holotropic Breathwork side effects to be aware of:

  1. Emotional distress: Experiencing negative emotions resulting from memories or trauma.
  2. Hyperventilation: Improper breathing resulting from prior conditions or not following instructions correctly.
  3. Dizziness: Lightheadedness or woozy feelings resulting from changes to oxygen levels.
  4. Fainting: Temporary loss of consciousness due to changes to oxygen levels.
  5. Weakness: Temporary loss of strength resulting from the change in oxygen levels.
  6. Tingling or muscle spasms: Numbness or cramping felt in the hands, feet, arms, and legs due to potential changes to circulation.
  7. Seizures: Can be potentially triggered in those who are prone due to the change in breathing patterns.
  8. Psychosis: Potential for hallucinations in those struggling with mental disorders.

For more information on common side effects, check out our guide to breathwork side effects.

10 amazing benefits of Holotropic Breathwork

Those who can practice Holotropic Breathwork safely will experience a variety of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual benefits. These are some of the common benefits of Holotropic Breathwork that many have experienced:

  1. Promotes relaxation: Triggers the parasympathetic nervous system, allowing for rest.
  2. Relieves stress: Allows the body to exit fight-or-flight mode and complete the stress cycle.
  3. Promotes personal growth: Allows participants to tackle their past and understand how to better themselves.
  4. Increases self-awareness: Helps practitioners understand their identity and behavior.
  5. Reduces negative thoughts: Creates feelings of happiness and joy that promote positive thinking.
  6. Increases self-esteem: Allows participants to see themselves in a more positive and confident light.
  7. Helps manage symptoms of mental illness: Introduces positivity that contributes to mental well-being.
  8. Helps manage trauma: Creates experiences that involve confronting the past and moving forward.
  9. Helps manage pain: Reduces pain due to improved circulation and increases in positive mood.
  10. Improves breathing: Deep breathing components help to regulate breathing patterns.

If you want to learn more about the benefits of breathwork in general, check out 15 breathwork benefits.

How to do Holotropic Breathwork: 5 ways to practice this technique

A woman sitting on a yoga mat while looking towards a fireplace

For those wondering how to do Holotropic Breathwork, there are several different options. These are the different ways you can try Holotropic Breathwork.

1. Practice Holotropic Breathwork on your own at home

Since it’s an advanced breathwork practice, many have asked: “Can you do Holotropic Breathwork alone?” Due to the intensity of this technique, it’s often recommended that you try it in the presence of others and under the guidance of a trained facilitator. However, you can get a taste of what it’s like by following shorter Holotropic Breathwork meditations from audio or video online. There are many great breathwork apps for those who want to practice beginner’s techniques in the privacy of their home, but there aren't currently any dedicated Holotropic Breathwork apps.

Pros of Practicing on Your Own Cons of Practicing on Your Own
  • Privacy
  • Can practice whenever and wherever
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Very limited options
  • Best to have a trained facilitator present to guide you through the experience

2. Get a private Holotropic Breathwork session

Booking a private Holotropic Breathwork session is an option for those who would prefer to avoid large groups. Some trained facilitators will offer 1-on-1 sessions so they can maintain focus on you and help you through your healing journey. These allow the facilitator to tailor each session specifically to you, which can create a sense of comfort if you’re new to practicing Holotropic Breathwork.

Pros of a Private Session Cons of a Private Session
  • Guided by a trained practitioner
  • More focus on your healing
  • More privacy than in a group
  • Miss out on community experience
  • Might have to wait for availability if practitioner is booked up

3. Join an online Holotropic Breathwork class

Another great option that has recently been made possible by the Internet is to join online Holotropic Breathwork classes. They allow you the comfort of practicing Holotropic Breathwork at home while still being guided by a trained facilitator. Plus, you also get the opportunity to connect with other practitioners. Many of these classes are available to you regardless of location and experience level.

Pros of Joining an Online Class Cons of Joining an Online Class
  • Participate from home
  • Accessible from anywhere
  • Live guidance from a facilitator
  • Some opportunity to connect with others
  • Virtual settings can limit interaction
  • Facilitator might be unable to help individuals fully

4. Go to a Holotropic Breathwork workshop 

In-person Holotropic Breathwork workshops provide a great opportunity to gain the full experience of a session with like-minded people. These workshops are led by experienced facilitators who will be able to guide the group through the entire session, while providing individual assistance if needed. Those who are worried about safety might also find the group setting to be a source of comfort.

Pros of Attending a Workshop Cons of Attending a Workshop
  • In-person instruction
  • Opportunity to connect with others
  • Only have to commit to a few hours of participation
  • Facilitator might not be able to help each person closely
  • Can be uncomfortable for those who are self-conscious
  • Might be limited based on local availability

5. Attend a Holotropic Breathwork retreat

Those wanting the ultimate healing experience should consider attending a Holotropic Breathwork retreat. Like in-person workshops, these retreats are taught by trained professionals in a group setting. However, they take place over a few days and often involve traveling to an exotic location in the world. Participants are able spend the full duration of the retreat focusing on their healing journey, including bonding with other participants.

Pros of Attending a Retreat Cons of Attending a Retreat
  • In-person instruction
  • Travel the world
  • Opportunity to bond with others
  • Multiple days of self-healing
  • Can be expensive
  • Several days away from home
  • Can be uncomfortable for those with limited experience

Learn Holotropic Breathwork: 5 best training courses & certifications

A group of people lying on the grass in a circle

If you’re interested in how to learn Holotropic Breathwork – or even become a facilitator – there are plenty of great programs that will teach you what you need to know. Here are some of the best Holotropic Breathwork training opportunities.

1. Grof Transpersonal Training Facilitator Certification Program

The Facilitator Certification Program from Grof Transpersonal Training allows you to learn all about Holotropic Breathwork from the organization that founded the technique. The program has two tracks: “Educational” for those who want to simply learn the technique, and “Practitioner” for those who want to run their own workshops. Working towards this certification gives you the opportunity to learn from practitioners who’ve already completed the program, as well as participate in various events. One of these events is a capstone retreat that is sure to provide a wonderful healing experience.

Provided By: Grof Transpersonal Training

Course Structure & Duration: You must attend seven 5.5-day modules and a 2-week intensive closing retreat, earn 10 hours of consultation with a certified practitioner, and attend 10 additional Holotropic Breathwork workshops before or after training to earn an Educational certification. Apprenticeship at 4 workshops with certified practitioners is required to earn a Practitioner certification and host workshops independently.

Instructor(s): Various

Location: Online or various worldwide locations, including the US and Australia

Cost: $428/module, around $3,000 for the closing intensive retreat (depending on location), and $75/hour for consultations

Why We Recommend it: Offers the opportunity to learn and earn certification with the founding organization.

2. Loka Yoga Breathwork Teacher Training

Loka Yoga’s online Breathwork Teacher Training is a great option for those who want to master a variety of breathwork techniques or other wellness practices. The course provides you with video lessons, audio, and workbooks to help you learn all about modern breathwork and its benefits. Multiple options are available if you’re also interested in learning about meditation and yoga.

Provided By: Loka Yoga School

Course Structure & Duration: 20 hours of content, which can be completed at your own pace.

Instructors: Yann Cadic and Taryn Weggelar

Location: Online

Cost: $349 (Breathwork Training) | $399 (Breathwork + Meditation Training) | $549 (Breathwork + Yin Yoga Training) | $599 (The Complete Experience)

Why We Recommend it: Offers the opportunity to bundle breathwork training with meditation and yoga training for an affordable price.

3. Breath Mastery’s Certified Breathwork Coach/Practitioner Training

The Certified Breathwork Coach/Practitioner Training from Breath Mastery is great for those wanting a comprehensive overview of breathwork (including Holotropic Breathwork) and the knowledge needed to teach it to others. In addition to in-depth lessons on how to do a variety of techniques, it will also teach you how to run your own breathwork coaching practice. It uses readings, videos, and live training sessions to help you master everything you need to know.

Provided By: Breath Mastery

Course Structure & Duration: Video and text lessons with live sessions and peer support. 1-year program that can take anywhere from 6 months to 2 years to complete at your own pace.

Instructor: Dan Brulé

Location: Online

Cost: $5,760

Why We Recommend it: Offers a spiritual focus on individual sessions to help grow your understanding of the experience.

4. Inspired Me Breathwork Facilitator Training

The Breathwork Facilitator Training online program from Inspired Me allows you to gain a comprehensive understanding of breathwork while feeling like part of a community. This 6-month program contains 300 hours of online lessons, live sessions, and group accountability to teach you everything about breathwork – from its history to how it’s being used to change lives. The program also gives you the chance to participate in a practicum within your group in order to earn your certification.

Provided By: Inspired Me Mediation & Wellness

Course Structure & Duration: 6 months of weekly video and text lessons, live calls, and quizzes. Students also gain access to Accountability Groups and a WhatsApp Group.

Instructor: Caroline Stewart

Location: Online

Cost: $2,150 one time payment, $385/month for 6 months, or $331.50/month for 12 months

Why We Recommend it: Uses various learning methods and creates the opportunity for better accountability.

5. Neurodynamic Breathwork Facilitator Training

The Neurodynamic Breathwork Facilitator Training is great for anyone interested in teaching Holotropic Breathwork through shorter, more frequent sessions. This program will help you learn the foundations of breathwork, along with how to effectively offer breathwork coaching as a service and facilitate workshops. Many who train with this program also learn more about themselves and engage in self-development along the way.

Provided By: Neurodynamic Breathwork Online

Course Structure & Duration: 380 hours consisting of online content including live classes, video assignments, coaching calls, and check-ins; an online and an in-person practicum; and a 7-day Facilitation Training Retreat.

Instructors: Michael Stone, Saemi Nakamura, and Glenn Girlando

Location: Online

Cost: $4,995
Why We Recommend it: Ideal for those looking to teach shorter sessions online and in-person.

4 Resources to Learn More About Holotropic Breathwork

While this guide covered everything you need to know to get started with Holotropic Breathwork, there is always more to learn. Here are a few resources for those interested in learning more:

  1. About Holotropic Breathwork: A full overview of Holotropic Breathwork from Grof Transpersonal Training.
  2. Holotropic Breathwork: A New Approach to Self-Exploration and Therapy: A 2010 book on the use of Holotropic Breathwork, written by Stanislav and Christina Grof.
  3. The Theory and Practice of Holotropic Breathwork: An article by Stanislav Grof on the use of Holotropic Breathwork as a healing practice.
  4. What Is the Difference Between Neurodynamic Breathwork and Holotropic Breathwork?: A 2020 article on the key differences between Holotropic Breathwork and Neurodynamic Breathwork.

Now you know the fundamentals of Holotropic Breathwork. However, if you’re new to breathwork, you might want to start with beginner’s exercises before jumping into the more advanced techniques. Get started now by trying the Othership app for free!