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What Holotropic Means for you

Holotropic probably sounds like an odd word to you. This term was coined by Stan Grof, a leading Psychiatrist in the field of spiritual psychology , otherwise referred to as transpersonal psychology.It combines breathing exercises with drums and artwork. All of which are often used in traditional psychology as positive coping skills and therapeutic approaches.

It was the theory of Grof that the transpersonal/spiritual realm is not a fantasy realm caused by drugs or delusions, it was something normally not accessible to people with a typical consciousness. Grof believed that we can work to access this and it is not only therapeutic, but it enables a person to truly dive deeper into their own psyche, into the levels of our personality being influenced by spirituality and faith.

Carl Jung, another famous Psychiatrist that brought a spiritual element into his practice and broke away from Freud, was also an advocate for this idea of the spiritual realm and spiritual archetypes influencing our thoughts and emotions which ultimately influence our behavior.

Now that we got the history out of the way, time to move into practical exercises that you can use. It is a good idea to do this with someone else or find a practitioner in your area that can lead you in this exercise. It is often performed with one person acting as the breather and another as the sitter that watches and guides them.

You may choose to have drum music playing softly near you, it should be a repetitive beat that is fairly simple.

How to Perform Holotropic Breathing

  1. Lay down comfortably or in a reclining position. If you feel safer with a blanket, find a light blanket to cover yourself. Shut off distractions such as the radio or the phone. Prepare yourself mentally and make the intention in your heart and mind about what you are about to do.
  2. Take in deep breaths. Be in a comfortable position and take a deep breath, I mean DEEP as in your stomach should extend outward. Take this deep breath through your nose and as soon as you reach capacity, push the air out as fast and hard as you can. Yes, it feels awkward. You are taking something subconscious and controlling it in an unnatural way. Keep doing this , but don’t worry if you need to take breaks. Focus on your breathing as it will help to clear your mind.
  3. Breathe faster. You read that right, keep doing the same style of breathing and now increase the speed. You are hyper-oxygenating your lungs, in other words you are not getting as much air as normal. If you start to tense up or feel uncomfortable, take a break . Your body needs to be relaxed and at ease.
  4. Continue to do this and your body will find a rhythm. Let yourself wander emotionally as this process continues and allow yourself to feel everything around you. This could last for 20 minutes or 2 hours, it depends on the person.

Once the breathing session is complete, engage in creative expression. This could be painting, coloring, writing or whatever form of creative expression fits you. Let it flow and don’t hold back.

Final Thoughts

Interestingly, many people report intense emotions associated with holotropic breathing as well as trauma memories and unresolved events coming forth in their minds afterwards. It is seen as a way to unlock the spiritual realm for some as well as a way to open unresolved emotions for many.


Holotropic breathing is a technique used within spiritual psychology that may or may not assist you. I do not endorse or go against this practice, I am merely sharing it with you . If you have ever used this as part of your daily meditation, prayers or wellness exercises, let us know in the comments how it works for you!




Photo by h.koppdelaney

What Holotropic Means for you

Monique Hassan

Monique Hassan is a freelance writer specializing in spiritual psychology. She has a passion for integrating spirituality within the framework of modern psychology. She also works as a patient advocate at an inpatient behavioral health facility and volunteers at interfaith workshops. She has a bachelors of science in psychology with a minor in biology and is certified in crisis prevention and intervention.

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APA Reference
Hassan, M. (2017). What Holotropic Means for you. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 13, 2020, from


Last updated: 3 Dec 2017
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