Given the right setting, it is possible to powerfully alter your normal waking consciousness and allow yourself to become immersed within a rich and diverse inner world of experience. The processing of this experience helps the breather to strengthen self awareness, process trauma and other unresolved life experiences and build a dialogue between the waking consciousness and what Stan Grof coined the Inner Healer (Inner Healing Mechanism).
It is this inner healer that helps to catalyse our movement towards wholeness (the literal meaning of the word Holotropic), by providing inner experiences that can thematically represent important psychological, spiritual, emotional and physical issues that may be present within us. When these elements are processed, we allow for the possibility of transformation of our fears, anxieties and other tensions. The resolution of these tensions help to ground us in our relationship with ourselves, people important to us and the world around us.
Holotropic Breathwork is conducted in a very specific set and setting. On the outside Holotropic Breathwork may look like many other forms of breathwork however there are some key differences.
Holotropic Breathwork is a low-tech breathing technique and in fact (paradoxically) how you breathe is perhaps the least important element in a Holotropic Breathwork session. The key instruction for breathing Holotropically is to "Breathe a little bit faster and a little bit deeper - ensuring that your breathing is continuous and without pause".
Any Holotropic Breathwork is done with at least one sitter and ideally with a facilitator. Holotropic Breathwork is a relational breathwork modality and at it's core is the understanding that we heal through relationship with the other. The sitter is a crucial element in the Holotropic container as they ensure that the process can unfold in a safe and undisturbed way, they can offer support to the breather if it's required and can help to ensure that the breathwork process itself is completed as much as possible in that moment. With any type of non-ordinary state work, completing the process will help to avoid any potential for fragmentation after the session has ended.
All Holotropic Breathwork sessions are conducted knowing that the breather is the expert in their process. In that the breathers Inner Healer knows how to provide an experience that will best allow for the opening and resolution of material. This means that the role of the facilitator is simply to help provide a container that is wide enough and deep enough to hold the experience. Importantly, Meaning making is not a part of the facilitators role in Holotropic Breathwork. Moreover their primarily role is that of supporting the breather and helping the process to unfold in a way that facilitates the dialogue between the breather and the inner healer.
Another key element of the non-directive nature of the process is that there is no hierarchy of experience. By this I mean that grand, transcendent light filled experiences are just as important as difficult, emotional and sometimes painful experiences. The key part of any experience is the successful completion of the process regardless of the material.
The music is a key element of a Holotropic Breathwork session as it helps to hold the experience of the breather. It is played at a high volume so it can be used as a support for the breathers process. The arc of a breathwork set is like a wave:
A Holotropic Breathwork session typically runs for 2.5 to 3 hours.
You can find a curated list of music used in Holotropic Breathwork sessions on my website Music for Breathwork.
Holotropic Breathwork has been a fundamental influence on how I approach all aspects of my life and indeed since the late 1990's it has been the primary tool I have used in order to gain greater insight into my life.
My work with Alf Foote was foundational in terms of demonstrating the transformative potential of the breath. And from 2006 to 2013 my training to become a Holotropic Breathwork facilitator via GTT further grounded my understanding of the healing power of non-ordinary states of consciousness.
Since 2013 I have been running Holotropic Breathwork Workshops in Melbourne with Ruth Langford and others and have also been on staff as a part of the Grof Transpersonal Training programs in Australia.
For a schedule of upcoming workshops and groups please visit the Melbourne Breathwork website. Workshops will re-commence in February 2021.