Holotropic breathing has gained quite a momentum recently. You’ve probably come across social media posts where advocates and practitioners praise this technique for taking their quality of life to a whole new level. If you’re curious about holotropic breathwork, this post is for you.

What is holotropic breathwork? What are its benefits? Read on to learn more about this technique, how to practice it, and who should avoid it.

What is Holotropic Breathing?

Holotropic breathing is a therapeutic breathing technique or a breath-based therapy whose main objective is to promote personal growth and support emotional healing. This type of breathwork is considered to induce an altered state of consciousness to facilitate physical, spiritual, and mental benefits.

The term holotropic stems from the Greek words “holos” (whole) and “trepein” (to move toward). The literal meaning of the word holotropic would be to move toward wholeness.

To answer the question “What is holotropic breathwork?”, it’s essential to address its history. Holotropic breathwork practice was developed by a Czech psychiatrist Stanislav Grof and his wife Christina, back in 1975 at the Ellen Institute in Big Sur, California. The couple specialized in psychoanalytic therapy, so they investigated how an altered state of consciousness could affect standard therapy. They carried out experiments and found that intense breathing techniques exhibit a positive impact on the brain.

What is holotropic breathwork trying to accomplish? It enables people to practice accelerated breathing to enhance self-awareness and help them cope with trauma.

The main characteristic of this type of breathwork is that it involves hyperventilation during voluntary and mindful sessions supposedly brought about by music and elective bodywork. A paper from the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine reports[1] that holotropic breathwork sessions are largely nonverbal, and they may last anywhere from one to three hours.

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How does Holotropic Breathing Works?

Holotropic breathing technique is considered a spiritual practice more than a therapeutic one. Developers of this technique, the Grofs, argued that the non-ordinary states of consciousness could trigger inner radar that looks for material in our psyche with the most powerful emotional charge and pushes it to the surface where you can process it.

The main concept behind the holotropic breathwork technique is to demonstrate that we have the ability to heal ourselves. This practice is simpler than you might imagine and primarily involves group sessions, although individual sessions are also available. The length of each session can last up to three hours, with some sessions possibly extending beyond that duration.

During each session, participants are grouped in pairs. One person is a “breather,” and the other one is a “sitter”. Breathers lie down on a mat and cover their eyes. They need to relax and take deep breaths. At the same time, the sitter observes and monitors the breather to make sure there are no distractions. The sitter also provides safety and reassurance to the breather, who can become emotional during the session.

The trained facilitator oversees the session and guides the participants on their journey to self-awareness. The energy of the group carries participants and motivates them to keep going.

What are the Benefits of Holotropic Breathing?

Although holotropic breathwork has been around for decades, studies regarding its efficacy are scarce. Thorough research is necessary to elucidate both short- and long-term effects. Holotropic breathwork can help you in several ways, such as:

  • Character development: The abovementioned study from the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that holotropic breathwork exhibits positive effects on a person’s character development due to increased self-awareness.

  • Depression management: Studies show[2] that different breathwork techniques can aid the management of anxiety and depression because breathing triggers a relaxation response. Additionally, an altered state of consciousness could help you manage the underlying problems that contribute to your depression. Combine this type of breathwork with Nuu3 Green Pura to further improve your brain’s cognitive abilities.

  • Migraine relief: Studies show[3] that practicing deep breathing techniques can help alleviate the intensity of migraine headaches. One such technique is Holotropic breathwork, which involves a form of mindful and deep breathing. Furthermore, carrying excess weight might exacerbate your headaches, and studies have suggested that losing weight can help reduce their intensity[4]. Therefore, it can be beneficial to incorporate Nuu3 Apple Cider Vinegar Gummies into your daily routine. These gummies can promote healthy digestion, support weight loss, and boost energy levels with regular use.

  • Relaxation: Evidence confirms[5] that practicing breathwork can have a positive impact on stress levels and can help regulate the hormone cortisol. If you are experiencing anxiety or stress, this breathing technique may be beneficial for you. By becoming more self-aware, you may be able to quieten irrational thoughts that contribute to your stress and anxiety. In addition to holotropic breathwork, Nuu3 Keep Calm Gummies are a natural supplement that can aid in reducing stress and promoting relaxation. These gummies can help calm your mind, boost your energy levels, and improve your overall quality of life.

Besides the abovementioned benefits, holotropic breathwork can help you by relieving premenstrual tension, managing chronic pain, and treating avoidance behaviors. Additionally, holotropic breathwork helps people reclaim their purpose, process trauma, and develop greater compassion for others.

How to Perform Holotropic Breathing

To perform and get the most from holotropic breathing technique, it’s necessary to:

Find a facilitator: Make sure the facilitator is trained and reputable. Search for facilitator suggestions online or reach out to people who already practice holotropic breathing. Get a few suggestions, do your research, and choose the one you’d be most comfortable with.

  • Identify the type of session you need: Some people prefer group sessions, whereas others feel most comfortable with individual sessions with a facilitator. Or you can try both. There is no right or wrong option here. It all comes down to your preferences.

  • Get ready: Since this is a two-person technique, your sessions will include breathers (people taking deep breaths) and sitters (people who observe and support breathers). You are the breather, whereas the facilitator or a group member is the sitter. To get ready for a session, you’ll need to lie down on a mat with your eyes covered. Music will be playing in the background and mark the start of your voyage into an altered consciousness.

  • Take deep breaths: The facilitator will guide you through the entire process and instruct you to take deep breaths in a circular pattern. That means there will be no pauses between each inhalation and exhalation, i.e., you shouldn’t hold your breath at any point. For example, when breathing in and your lungs are almost full, you should immediately start breathing out. When your lungs are empty, you immediately start to breathe in again. Make sure each breath is full and deep. You may be instructed to breathe faster than you usually do, but it shouldn’t be so fast to create tension in your body. During the session, you can move or make sounds.

  • Summarize: Once the session is over, you will be asked by a facilitator to discuss feelings, emotions, or sensations you experienced. Discuss your experience with as many details as possible to truly depict how you felt. In addition to talking about the experience, you may be asked to draw or color a mandala image to further express your experience.

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Who Should Avoid Holotropic Breathing?

Although holotropic breathing has a wide range of benefits, it’s not suitable for everyone. This type of breathwork may induce intense feelings, and physical or emotional releases that could worsen certain conditions. You may want to avoid this technique if you have the following:

  • Cardiovascular problems: People with high blood pressure and heart disease should avoid the holotropic breathing technique because rapid and deep breathing could strain the cardiovascular system[6].

  • Panic attacks: Rapid or deep breathing can worsen existing anxiety and thereby contribute to panic attacks.

  • Seizure disorders: Intense breathing practices could potentially trigger seizures.

  • Psychosis: This technique may cause strong emotional experiences that people with psychosis could find overwhelming.

  • Recent surgery or injury: Engaging in intense breathing could strain the healing process, especially in people who recently had abdominal surgery.

  • Respiratory issues: Problems with the respiratory system and intense breathing techniques aren’t a good combination. Intense breathing could further strain your respiratory system.

  • Any condition that involves regular use of medication: Certain medications can accelerate your heart rate and thereby interact with intense breathing. Moreover, medications for issues with the respiratory system could interact with altered breathing patterns induced by this type of breathwork and exacerbate discomfort and other issues.

If you have health concerns described above, make sure to consult with a doctor first. Your doctor will inform you whether it’s okay to try holotropic breathwork or not.

You may exercise caution and avoid holotropic breathing if you have these health problems too:

  • Glaucoma
  • Retinal detachment
  • Osteoporosis
  • Family history of aneurysms

IMPORTANT: Pregnant women should avoid holotropic breathwork. This technique can affect blood flow and oxygen levels, which may not be suitable for pregnant women and mothers who are breastfeeding their babies.


How does it feel to breathe like this?

Holotropic breathing feels like an emotional rollercoaster or it can be very relaxing. When employing this technique, people usually experience emotional release that may take the form of sadness, fear, and anger. As you release these emotions, you may feel relieved and notice tears in your eyes. During the process, you may feel a sense of detachment from reality or a deep connection with your inner self.

What to expect after holotropic breathwork?

Experiences with holotropic breathing techniques vary from one person to another. You may expect to feel warmth and vibrations in your body. Your energy levels are likely to increase and cause euphoria, but some people feel physically drained. Other things to expect include emotional catharsis and increased mental clarity.

Can you do holotropic breathing by yourself?

This technique is usually performed in groups where an expert answers the question “What is holotropic breathwork?”, explains its benefits, and guides you through the process. Group sessions are advantageous since trained facilitators supervise the process and not all people perform the breathwork at the same time during the session. “Sitters” also play a role in ensuring the comfort and the smooth flow of the session. However, it’s also performed in one-on-one settings.

While you can do it in the comfort of your home, experts don’t recommend it. Doing so deprives you of the support you’d get from trained facilitators and may heighten anxiety.


Holotropic breathing is a practice that relies on circular breathing and music to increase your self-awareness by helping you reach the point of altered consciousness. This practice is simple and is performed with the guidance of a trained professional. The benefits of holotropic breathwork are numerous. If you struggle to process trauma or deal with depression and similar problems, you may want to give it a try.


1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4677109/
2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9954474/
3] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34054116/
4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9828383/
5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5739951/
6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4386588/

Amna Eltawil

Amna Eltawil

Amna Eltawil is an Egyptian journalist who grew up on the coast of the Mediterranean in Alexandria, Egypt, before moving to Cairo and getting her bachelor's in journalism. From there, she went on to cover new stories and entertainment news for several local and international platforms. Amna enjoys visiting cities on the Mediterranean reminiscent of her childhood city Alexandria, like Barcelona, and she can never have enough of Paris, where she simply likes to walk the streets of the city and enjoy a simple Parisian crepe or have a chill picnic.

Written by Amna Eltawil

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