Grof began teaching something called holotropic breathwork, a technique for inducing a psychedelic state of consciousness without drugs, by means of deep, rapid, and rhythmic breathing, usually accompanied by loud music
Stan Grof, one of the founders of Transpersonal Psychology, psychologist and psychiatrist from Prague, Czechia, during his research with psychedelics, realized that there were broad similarities between certain drug-induced states of mind and the experiences attained with the help of meditative, mystic, and shamanic experiences.
“Grof began teaching something called holotropic breathwork, a technique for inducing a psychedelic state of consciousness without drugs, by means of deep, rapid, and rhythmic breathing, usually accompanied by loud music” – writes Michael Pollan in his book “How to change your mind”. Holotropic Breathwork is a natural method of self-exploration that combines rapid, deep breathing, evocative music and focused bodywork. As Andrew Weil said in his book, The Natural Mind, “every human being is born with an innate drive to experience altered states of consciousness periodically to learn how to get away from ordinary ego-centered consciousness”. During a Holotropic Breathwork session, the breath, rather than an external substance, is the catalyst for entry into a non-ordinary state of consciousness. When the body and mind enter a state of non-ordinary consciousness through controlled breathing, the inner wisdom uses the opportunity to work toward physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual healing and developmental change.
As many of us know, we are entering a promising era of broad psychedelic studies. Many clinical trials, legally supervised, give hope to people suffering from trauma, PTSD, anxiety, and depression; many articles publish impressive research results; therapists are learning how to support patience in preparation for and integration of psychedelic experiences. More people consider engaging in official psychedelic-assisted therapy to attend underground ceremonies or work with guides. In light of these revolutionary changes, Holotropic Breathwork is playing a very important role in the process of transformation, supporting the psychedelic journey in different ways.
First of all, Holotropic Breathwork might be useful to prepare a person for the journey to the unknown. For people who never tried psychedelics, the first experience with the substances could be scary and/or overwhelming. Rick Barnett, Psy.D, in his interview with Emma Bragdon, Ph.D., suggests that participants have to educate themselves theoretically and practically before any psychedelic experiences, and enter non-ordinary states gradually. Holotropic Breathwork provides a great opportunity for a gentle encounter with unconscious material of any kind, and the breathers feel safe when they use their own breath as a vehicle to get into these states.
Holotropic Breathwork works to change your state of consciousness, from one of normal “waking” reality – that is our everyday experience of the world, to one where our mind is more malleable and open, or what psychonauts would refer to as reaching a state of “ego dissolution” – where our distinct sense of individual self or “I” is dissolved and we feel connected and integrated with the rest of the world. It makes this particular technique suitable for psychedelic integration because it allows people to bring the magic of these abstract experiences and openness into the day-to-day, and continue their relationship with this mystical space of expanded consciousness.