The technique of Holotropic Breathing was developed by Dr. Stanislav (Stan) Grof, a well known pioneering researcher in the clinical use of LSD in psychotherapy. Following the suppression of LSD in the late 60’s, his keen interest in the application of LSD as a catalyst exhibiting potential to heal the psyche, lead him to seek alternative ways of inducing a psychedelic state of mind sans drug ingestion.
The word “Holotropic” has a Greek root: Greek ὅλος holos “whole” and τρέπειν trepein “to turn or direct towards a thing”; meaning “moving toward wholeness.” One of the basic techniques of Holotropic breathing involves the process of taking fast but deep breaths, while the eyes are closed. Normally this technique is carried out in pairs, with one “sitter” and one “breather.” The function of the sitter is to ensure the breather is comfortable throughout the session. The breathing technique gradually invokes a ‘non-ordinary state of consciousness’ which is accompanied by visions. The breather is given no cues, the entire focus is on the self, and the messages the inner self wishes to convey to the conscious self. The session is supported by soothing music, which propels the state of consciousness.
This is a little different from the shamanic tradition because it functions without the usual artifacts of a shamanic experience such as invoking a spirit guide or power animal, or even visualizing the entry to the shamanic world. The breather is allowed to be her/his own teacher and healer. The mind is allowed to wander freely without having a particular destination. Deep seated issues rise to the surface, via the means of vivid visions. This mode of handing power to the self, often leaves the breather feeling empowered rather than believing in the healing abilities of a master.
Here’s a quickie:
This one is big one, if you have the time:
Image source: Psychedelic Skull by Laura Barbosa (fineartamerica.com)