Humans have a unique appetite for experiencing altered states of consciousness, and this inclination is evident in many facets of social culture today, such as our attraction to alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, psychedelics, and more.
But is it possible to access these altered states without the help of a substance? Do we all possess the inner mechanisms to heal our latent traumas?
Dr. Stanislav Grof, a 83-year old Czech-born psychiatrist fascinated by the healing capabilities of non-ordinary states, has just the answer to these questions.
Stanislav teaches a powerful technique called holotropic breathwork, a practice he’s been developing and teaching to clients since the mid-70s.
What makes holotropic breathwork particularly fascinating is its remarkable ability to induce psychedelic states.
The process itself is quite simple: it combines accelerated breathing with evocative music in a special setting. While laying on a mat with their eyes closed, each person uses their own breath and the music in the room to enter a non-ordinary state of consciousness.
This state activates the natural inner healing process of the individual’s psyche, bringing him or her a particular set of internal experiences. With this inner healing intelligence guiding the process, the quality of the experience and the content brought forth is unique to each person, and to that particular time and place. While recurring themes are common, no two sessions are ever alike.
How LSD Inspired The Holotropic Breathwork Technique
During the early stages of Stanislav’s career, LSD had just exploded into the realm of scientific research and psychotherapy.
While working with LSD, Stanislav developed a theoretical framework for prenatal and perinatal psychology and transpersonal psychology in which LSD trips and other powerfully emotional experiences were mapped onto a person’s early fetal and neonatal experiences.
Nevertheless, his work was halted after LSD and other psychedelics were banned in the late 1960s under the Controlled Substances Act. Stanislav knew that these altered states had a profound power to help people, and this knowledge fueled him to develop a technique that would allow people to access these states without drugs.
Enter holotropic breathwork, a technique which could be seen as Stanislav’s magnum opus.
Why Try Holotropic Breathwork?
It is said that subconscious traumas of our past hide in the deep corners of our psyche. Here, they fester, eventually surfacing as physical or emotional ailments later in our lives, but often masked by our egos.
This is where holotropic breathwork comes in handy. The technique has been known to help relieve chronic pain, shift depression, release anger, improve medical conditions such as asthma, migraine, or premenstrual tension, support recovery from addiction, receive intuitive insights, or simply provide clarity in troublesome areas of our lives.
In addition, participants report that it has helped them find meaning and purpose in their life, let go of negative thoughts, diminish their fear of death, release accumulated stress and trauma, as well as feel a sense of greater connection with physical, emotional,
and spiritual parts of themselves.
Furthermore, research into HB has been substantial over the past 3 decades. These studies and analyses have provided positive results in the potential of HB. To see what peer-reviewed journals are saying about HB, see Stanislav’s HB website.
What To Expect During A HB Session?
The process involves a participant and a ‘sitter’. The sitter’s job is to simply be available for the participant, but otherwise does not bother them. The same goes for the facilitator who gently leads the session with music.
The participant lies down on a mat, and is first taken through deeper and deeper levels of relaxation. Then the facilitator will help guide the beginning of the breathwork, advising them on their breathing pace while also encouraging them to find their own rhythm.
For the next 2-3 hours, participants experience various levels of altered states as the evocative music takes them deeper and deeper into their own psyche. Some sit still, others rock, cry, or move to the music.
Experiences can include a variety of physical sensations, deep feelings of joy or serenity, “yogic sleep,” or meditative states. Some re-experience trauma or the birth process, while others report encounters with mythic or archetypal storylines, past-life experiences, or direct spiritual or religious awakenings.
Many see emotionally charged visual images, feel energy moving through their bodies, receive intuitive insights, and clarify troublesome issues in their lives.
As you can see, holotropic breathwork provides each participant with a unique experience.
HB May Be The Right Tool For You
With over 619 facilitators trained and certified by Grof Transpersonal Training, offering workshops in 36 countries, experiencing the benefits of HB is possible for many.
Be sure to check out the website for the international association for holotropic breathwork for more information.
What are your thoughts on this technique? Do you know of other ways to induce altered states of consciousness without the use of a substance? Share with us below!