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About Holotropic Breathwork


Holotropic =
Moving Towards Wholeness 

Holotropic Breathwork (HB) is a potent method for self-exploration and therapy. It employs simple means (special set and setting, enhanced breathing, and evocative music) to induce non-ordinary states of consciousness, or holotropic states. When used responsibly, these states can be profoundly healing, transformative, and informative.

The term "holotropic" is Greek, literally meaning "moving towards wholeness" (holos: whole, trepein: moving towards something), reflecting the effect of holotropic states on the human psyche.

HB is a component of Transpersonal psychology, serving as an experiential therapeutic technique leveraging the healing potential of holotropic states, emotional expression, and bodywork.

At its core, HB is a self-empowering technique enabling individuals to tap into their inner healing wisdom. This innate wisdom facilitates a process of journeying into the unconscious, guiding individuals toward positive transformation and wholeness through surrender and letting go.

Abot Holotropic Breathwork
In Holotropic Breathwork (HB), safety is of utmost importance. For this reason, the structure of a holotropic event is always threefold, each part being equally important: preparation, session and integration. HB is usually done in a group setting, but individual sessions are also possible.
For safety reasons Holotropic Breathwork should never be done alone or without a trained facilitator.

Preparation in Holotropic Breathwork (HB) involves internal (set) and external (setting) aspects. It begins with feeling the call to breathe, contemplating motivations, fears, and hopes for attending a breathwork event. Filling out medical forms and having interviews are important steps that help screen potential risks or contraindications and establish connections with facilitators. The initial workshop phase covers practical guidelines and theoretical knowledge about the method as well as landing in the space and creating the atmosphere of safety and support. Safety and trust are vital, fostered towards and amongst the group, facilitators, oneself, and the process. Facilitators strive to maintain a safe environment across physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual dimensions.


Holotropic Breathwork (HB) sessions are done in pairs, alternating between the roles of a  breather and a sitter. Lasting approximately three hours, breathers lie on a mattress with eyes closed or covered, focusing inward. Sessions commence with a brief relaxation to calm the mind and connect with the body. Breathwork entails deeper, faster breathing without pauses, aimed at facilitating letting go and deepening the process. There's no fixed technique or aim towards hyperventilation; individuals find their own rhythm. Specifically curated music aids the inner journey throughout the session.

During the sessions, the approach is to spontaneously follow whatever arises and fully express it. This allows for letting go of the rational mind and surrendering to inner healing wisdom, which can lead to various experiences like emotional outbursts, singing, laughter, crying, bodily sensations, visions, insights, and spiritual journeys. Each session's content is unique and meaningful to the breather, and all experiences are met with curiosity and appreciation and encouraged to be explored further. The process is not guided from the outside in any way - Interruptions only occur if there's a risk of harm, in which case a safer way to express what is going on is sought. Breathers maintain full control over their process, with facilitators and sitters providing support.

The sitter's role is to provide support to the breather, offering basic necessities like blankets, pillows, tissues, or water, and assisting with tasks like going to the toilet. Being a sitter can be an awe-inspiring experience, observing the holotropic states unfold and being fully present for another being in a pure and compassionate way. It's crucial for sitters not to interfere, interrupt, or guide the breather's process, just as with facilitators. This ensures a safe space for the breather to fully engage in their journey.

Sometimes, empathetic touch or closeness can enhance feelings of safety or facilitate healing. Facilitators may offer simple energy-release bodywork or advice if necessary to aid the session's progress. Post-session, facilitators assess whether the breather has transitioned from holotropic states smoothly and ensure proper closure. If needed, they assist in bringing the process to a satisfactory conclusion.


Integration is integral to the Holotropic Breathwork process, emphasizing the ability to apply session experiences meaningfully in one's life. Following breathing sessions, breathers are encouraged to create mandalas, allowing for self-expression on paper. Mandalas aid in integration, often leading to insights, even weeks after the session. Additionally, sharing circles provide a space for participants to share experiences without interpretation from others. Various integration techniques like soul collage, writing, dancing, nature exposure or sound relaxation may be offered in workshops. Facilitators offer further guidance on how to continue integration in daily life post-workshop.

Understandng holotropic experiences

Understanding holotropic experiences:
Expanded cartography of the psyche

An essential aspect of Holotropic Breathwork is its expanded cartography of the human psyche, pioneered by Stan Grof. This framework, discussed in the preparation phase of workshops, draws from Grof's extensive research and integrates insights from various fields including psychology, anthropology, and spiritual traditions. It serves as a valuable tool for navigating and understanding holotropic experiences and non-ordinary states of consciousness overall.

Grof's cartography encompasses three main categories of experience: biographical, perinatal, and transpersonal domains. The biographical domain pertains to personal life experiences after birth, where much healing and transformation can occur. However, the cartography reveals deeper layers of unconsciousness beyond personal biography.

The perinatal domain involves experiences related to conception, gestation, birth trauma, and the postnatal period, categorized into four experiential matrices. This domain also encompasses psychospiritual death and rebirth sequences, which can be intense but profoundly healing.

The transpersonal domain extends beyond the personal, ego encapsulated self, encompassing the collective unconscious and archetypal realms. Experiences within this domain range from transgenerational traumas and past life regressions to encounters with spiritual guides and the Divine.

History of Holotropic Breathwork
History of Holotropic Breathwork

Holotropic Breathwork was developed by Stan and Christina Grof in the 1970s as an alternative to psychedelic therapy. Stan Grof, a psychiatrist, conducted groundbreaking studies with psychedelics from 1955 to 1973 in Czechoslovakia and the USA, facilitating over 4000 LSD sessions in scientific and psychiatric contexts.

With the global prohibition of psychedelic studies and therapy in the 1970s, Grof sought an alternative method based on the promising results he had observed. This led to the development of Holotropic Breathwork at the Esalen Institute in California in 1976, a practice that remains largely unchanged to this day. Grof asserts that the experiences and therapeutic outcomes of Holotropic Breathwork sessions are akin to psychedelic therapy, a belief that has strengthened over the years.

Holotropic Breathwork has gained worldwide popularity, with over a thousand facilitators offering workshops globally. Facilitator training is provided by Grof Transpersonal Training (GTT) across various regions, including the USA, Europe, Russia, Australia, and Asia. The worldwide Association for Holotropic Breathwork International (AHBI) and numerous local associations support the practice's dissemination.

In Finland, Holotropic Breathwork has found a home with the establishment of Holotropic Breathwork Finland ry in 2018, which organizes workshops and promotes the Holotropic movement in the region.

Useful links
Useful links

Grof Transpersonal Training

Information about Holotropic Breathwork and GTT training


European association for Holotropic Breathwork

Information about Holotropic Breathwork events and training modules in Europe


Music for Holotropic Breathwork

Examples of Holotropic Breathwork music

Master thesis in finnish about Stan Grofs theoretical framework

Holotrooppinen tajunnantila. Käsitetutkimus Stanislav Grofin teoreettisesta viitekehyksestä. (Valde Orrenmaa, Uskontotiede, Turun yliopisto 2017) 

Podcast and article about HB in finnish published by Nordic Breathing

Podcast - Holotrooppinen Hengitystyöskentely on matka oman mielen sisään 

Article - Holotropic Breathwork eli Holotrooppinen Hengitystyöskentely pähkinänkuoressa

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