Holotropic Breathwork, Second Edition

A New Approach to Self-Exploration and Therapy

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Table of contents


1. Historical Roots of Holotropic Breathwork
Sigmund Freud and the dawn of depth psychology
Humanistic psychology and experiential therapies
The advent of psychedelic therapy
Abraham Maslow, Anthony Sutich, and the birth of transpersonal psychology

2. Theoretical Foundations of Holotropic Breathwork
Holotropic states of consciousness
Dimensions of the human psyche
The nature, function, and architecture of emotional and psychosomatic disorders
Effective therapeutic mechanisms
Strategy of psychotherapy and self-exploration
The role of spirituality in human life
The nature of reality: Psyche, cosmos, and consciousness

3. Essential Components of Holotropic Breathwork
The healing power of breath
The therapeutic potential of music
The use of releasing bodywork
Supportive and nourishing physical contact
Mandala drawing: The expressive power of art

4. The Practice of Holotropic Breathwork
Use of holotropic breathwork in individual sessions and groups
Setting and interpersonal support system
Theoretical preparation of participants
Screening for physical and emotional contraindications
Practical instructions for breathwork sessions
Preparation for the session and the relaxation exercise
Conducting holotropic breathwork sessions
The spectrum of holotropic experiences
The role of the facilitators
Mandala drawing and the processing groups

5. Integration of the Breathwork Experience and Follow-Up Work
Creating conditions for optimal integration
Easing the transition to everyday life
Conducting follow-up interviews
Using various methods complementing holotropic breathwork

6. Trials and Tribulations of Holotropic Breathwork Facilitators
Encounter with the military junta in Buenos Aires
Competing with the exhibition of Doberman pinschers
Culture-bound challenges for holotropic breathwork facilitators
Technological ordeals in holotropic breathwork sessions
The pisspot, oinking piglets, and smoldering Kleenexes
Supreme ordeal Down Under
Conducting holotropic breathwork in adversarial settings

7. Therapeutic Potential of Holotropic Breathwork
Healing of emotional and psychosomatic disorders
Favorable effect on physical diseases
Effect on personality, worldview, life strategy, and hierarchy of values
Potential for healing of cultural wounds and historical conflict resolution

8. Therapeutic Mechanisms Operating in Holotropic Breathwork
Intensification of conventional therapeutic mechanisms
Dynamic shifts in the psyche’s governing systems
The therapeutic potential of the death-rebirth process
The therapeutic mechanisms on the transpersonal level
Healing as a movement toward wholeness

9. Physiological Mechanisms Involved in Holotropic Breathwork
Biochemical and physiological changes
Holotropic breathwork and the “hyperventilation syndrome”
Psychodynamics of psychosomatic disorders

10. Past, Present, and Future of Holotropic Breathwork
History of holotropic breathwork
Holotropic breathwork and the academic community
Benefits of the holotropic perspective
Holotropic states of consciousness and the current global crisis
The global psychedelic Renaissance and Grof ® Breathwork

APPENDIX 1: Special Situations and Interventions in Holotropic Breathwork Sessions
APPENDIX 2: Holotropic Breathwork and Other Breathing Techniques
APPENDIX 3: About Grof® Legacy Training

The definitive overview of this transformative breathwork.


In the second edition of this classic text, Stanislav Grof and Christina Grof describe their groundbreaking form of self-exploration and psychotherapy: holotropic breathwork. Holotropic means "moving toward wholeness," from the Greek holos (whole) and trepein (moving in the direction of). The breathwork utilizes the remarkable healing and transformative potential of nonordinary states of consciousness. These states engender a rich array of experiences with unique healing potential—reliving childhood memories, infancy, birth and prenatal life, and elements from the historical and archetypal realms of the collective unconscious. Induced by very simple means—a combination of accelerated breathing, evocative music, and bodywork in a safe and supportive setting—holotropic breathwork integrates the insights from modern consciousness research, depth psychology, transpersonal psychology, anthropology, Eastern spiritual practices, and mystical traditions. The Grofs' work with holotropic states of consciousness has introduced revolutionary changes to psychiatry, psychology, and psychotherapy. Written in a clear, easily understandable style, this indispensable book summarizes their remarkable insights. The second edition includes an expanded section on the history of holotropic breathwork, as well as information on Grof® Legacy Training.

Stanislav Grof, MD, is a 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. Christina Grof, PhDhc (1941–2014), was founder of the Spiritual Emergence Network (SEN). Together, they developed holotropic breathwork, an innovative form of experiential psychotherapy that Grof® Legacy Training is practicing and teaching worldwide under the name Grof® breathwork. For more information, visit www.grof-legacy-training.com.


Praise for the first edition

"Holotropic Breathwork elucidates a map expanded beyond the biographical and psychological realms of Western psychology into the perinatal and transpersonal realms identified by modern consciousness research and the study of ancient and tribal rituals and their cosmologies … The wonder of this book … is that this is not just a book, a map, a set of theories, or someone's research results, but that it also describes a very concrete and currently available technique one can employ for transformation." — Journal of Transpersonal Psychology

"For anyone interested in holotropic breathwork this book offers a very extensive and detailed overview … [and] offers a number of practical details of how to conduct a session." — Network Review

"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, author of Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul: How to Create a New You

"This fascinating, informative book invites you to open your mind to explore the depths of the psyche and transpersonal dimensions of consciousness. Stanislav and Christina Grof, who pioneered this powerful, innovative approach to therapy and personal growth, offer sound advice, thoroughly grounded in decades of practical experience." — Frances Vaughan, author of Shadows of the Sacred: Seeing Through Spiritual Illusions

"Take a few rapid, staccato breaths and open this book. You will have a great read, and at the same time maybe discover a new kind of consciousness, just waiting inside of you to be revealed. Stanislav and Christina Grof are modern pioneers of consciousness and this book is their map of the territory. Holotropic Breathwork reveals how the Grofs developed their revolutionary healing techniques, often told through fascinating stories of people being transformed by the breathwork process. The Grofs are at the center of the current psycho-spiritual revolution in the West, and this book is a testament to their role in our collective healing." — Wes Nisker, author of The Essential Crazy Wisdom and Buddha's Nature: A Practical Guide to Discovering Your Place in the Cosmos

"The Grofs offer the first comprehensive text of the theory and practice of their pioneering and integrative model of experiential psychotherapy and self-exploration. This 'psychology of the future,' with its extended cartography of the psyche, provides irrefutable evidence that spontaneous episodes of nonordinary states of consciousness have great healing, transformative, and even evolutionary potential for humankind. History will record that holotropic breathwork and the certification training and program designed by the Grofs advanced the field of psychotherapy far beyond the contributions of Freud and Jung." — Angeles Arrien, author of The Four-Fold Way: Walking the Paths of the Warrior, Teacher, Healer, and Visionary

"In this remarkable book Stanislav and Christina Grof summarize their pathbreaking discoveries of the past thirty years. They make two significant contributions, one to science, the other to our shared future. The first, by showing that altered states of consciousness have a dimension that is veridical—'imaginal' rather than 'imaginary'—and thereby transcend the outdated but still persistent belief that our experience of the world is limited to information conveyed by our senses. The second, by demonstrating that the altered states achieved inter alia through their holotropic breathwork method reduce aggression and enhance tolerance, compassion, ecological sensitivity, and a sense of planetary citizenship. Since these are the very qualities we urgently need to cope with the global emergency in which we presently find ourselves, their contribution to the future of humankind matches their contribution to the future of psychology." — Ervin Laszlo, author of The Connectivity Hypothesis: Foundations of an Integral Science of Quantum, Cosmos, Life, and Consciousness

"Holotropic Breathwork appears to have the potential for facilitating psychological insights and transformations that can be remarkably rapid and deep." — Roger Walsh, coeditor of Higher Wisdom: Eminent Elders Explore the Continuing Impact of Psychedelics

"You hold in your hands a visionary book, one that offers a new understanding of healing, mental health, and human potential, along with powerful techniques to bring about these transformations. Developing such an integrated understanding, which combines science, experience, and spirit is critical for the twenty-first century." — from the Foreword by Jack Kornfield

"The long-awaited volume by Stanislav and Christina Grof is the first comprehensive text on the theory and practice of their new strategy of psychotherapy and self-exploration … this is sure to be a cherished addition to the libraries of intelligent seekers around the world and one of the most influential books of the decade." — Renn Butler, member of the holotropic breathwork community