You might be wondering what on earth is Holotropic Breathwork, or you might think it is some new age fancy. When I heard about it, I thought both, and I set out to discover what it is all about. My main purpose was to decide if it could be useful to my anxiety or my bipolar depression.
The first thing I learned is it should not be used if you have the likelihood of developing panic attacks or psychosis. So this rules me out. However, some evidence suggests it is useful for those who need to release past trauma and need a new state of consciousness.
What is Holotropic Breathwork?
As the latter part of the name suggests, it is about breathing, but not your run of the mill breath we do every day. Holotropic Breathwork involves far more than that. It is recommended that it only be undertaken within a group setting and with a qualified practitioner, which rules it out as home therapy.
In a study from 2015 there conclusions for the benefit of Holotropic Breathwork was:
The theoretical conclusion is that HB can induce very beneficial temperament changes, which can have positive effects on development of character, measured as an increase in self-awareness.NCBI
The study shows how it can impact self-awareness, but my interest is in the therapeutic effect for those who suffer from anxiety and depression.
Holotropic Breathwork involves breathing techniques such as shallow breathing, breathing quicker, and seeing how these techniques influence your state. This is where the new age part comes in, as many use it as a spiritual practice rather than therapy.
However, changing the state of awareness about oneself can help those who have had past trauma, and this activity can bring about such a release of emotions that you should not do it alone. Hence, it would help if a practitioner guided you.
What Happens in a Holotropic Session?
As you will be in a group setting, you will be paired up with another individual; one of you will be the breather the other will be the sitter. The sitter watches you and is your safety net should your experience be very emotional.
The group is led by the practitioner who will have had around 300 hours of training for this very purpose and only through the developers of the Holotropic Breathwork, who are called Christina and Stanislav Grof. They developed the technique back in the 1970s after working with LSD in the 60s, which became illegal. They went on to develop this non-medicine based therapy.
Once the trainer has paired everyone up, music is played to help the breathing techniques, and it is usually a binaural beat to help with the rhythmic flow of breaths.
The sessions can last 2-3 hours, and in that time, the participants are guided rather than told what to experience; the session is all about your own emergence and awareness.
The problem is for those with certain conditions; if you are prone to panic attacks, Holotropic Breathwork can induce one. The reawakening of old memories might cause those with emotional trauma more harm than good.
In my own opinion, it should only be undertaken by those with mild depression and mild anxiety. Also, if you have a heart condition or any severe mental or physical condition, you should avoid this practice.
There is not enough research to say it will help those with anxiety and depression, but it might be worth a shot just for the experience if you are not on medication.
If I could, I would like to try it as I like new experiences, but the fact is it would do me more harm than good. I will stick to meditation.
Let me know in the comments if you have tried Holotropic Breathwork or if you have ever considered it.
Peace & Blessings