“In a supportive environment and under responsible guidance, individuals can use these techniques to experience states of consciousness that are both healing, informative, and transformational. I call these states “holotropic” – meaning that they move us toward wholeness.” – Stan Grof
This edition is centered around Stanislav Grof, a Czech psychiatrist with over sixty years of experience in research of non-ordinary states of consciousness and one of the founders and chief theoreticians of transpersonal psychology.
Together with his late wife, Christina Grof, he invented the breath work technique – Holotropic Breathwork – at the Esalen Institute in 1973. The technique can produce states similar to the ones psychedelic drugs produce.
The experiences often included a journey through the “dark night of the soul,” where patients would have a “painful confrontation with themselves.” Sometimes they would vomit or suffer nervous breakdowns. However, if they got through all that, mystical visions, spiritual awakenings, and rebirthing experiences often followed. It is so powerful that patients often see their whole life flash before there eyes. Grof believed that at least some of the magic was triggered by having less oxygen in the brain. (taken from Breath)
Christina’s father was a musician, who developed the initial concept of the music they used, going through anthropological archives where native cultures had developed sound technologies. Breathing and evocative music was combined and when the breathing alone did not work, Stan went into bodywork. Today, more than 1,000 trained facilitators run Holotropic Breathwork workshops around the world.
The word “holotropic” comes from the Greek “holos” (whole) and “trep” (to turn). So, holotropic means moving or turning towards wholeness. It’s a kind of self-exploration where you engage your conscious mind. It also involves different spiritual traditions.
According to transpersonal psychology, negative symptoms and mental blocks result from forgetting or repressing things. The theory was that we could reach those things in states of expanded consciousness or holotropic states. Holotropic sessions include many different states of consciousness, sometimes returning to the moment of your birth or even farther back in time.
I have experimented a lot with breath work in the last few months and am always amazed by the physical feelings of tingling, numbness and energy that come up in my body. There are different ways to integrate breath daily, either by energising breath flows in the morning, conscious breathing during the day and a de-stress breath technique before going to sleep. You can find many short introductory videos on YouTube – I enjoy this one.
Below is a video of Stan and Christina talking about Holotropic Breathwork:
“Stanislav Grof is one of the most important pioneers in the scientific understanding of consciousness. He and his wife, Christina, have contributed both to its intellectual and experiential understanding through their work with Holotropic Breathwork. Their book on this new approach to self-exploration and therapy is a must read.” — Deepak Chopra
“The great irony of having psychedelics and heroin together on the same “Schedule” is that the former has the potential to reduce the harm done by the latter— not to mention its lower-scheduled cousins — in a way that criminalization never will.”