Holotropic Breathwork Taken To The Next Level?
This article is about Holotropic breathwork and how I may have managed to take this powerful breathwork technique to the next level by going back to the original source of breathwork – yoga, tantra and pranayama.
By studying these ancient techniques I discovered a ‘higher yoga’ ritual that is very similar to the breathwork technique of holotropic breathwork and rebirthing breathwork however it includes one extremely important key component that is missing from both holotropic and rebirthing, that makes a profound difference.
In this article you will learn:
- What is holotropic breathwork and how it works.
- Do you really need to do such an extreme form of therapy like holotropic breathwork, compared to something more gentle like hypnosis or NLP.
- What is the key component missing from holotropic breathwork and rebirthing breathwork, that makes it many time more profound.
- What exactly is my new style of therapeutic breathwork called ‘Soma – The Awakening Breathwork’, based on a ‘higher yoga ritual’ that includes the key component missing from the others.
What Is Holotropic Breathwork?
Holotropic breathwork was created by Dr Stan Grof and his wife as an alternative form of psychotherapy back in the 1970s, Dr Stan Grof was one of the first psychotherapists to use LSD to treat his patients and he had remarkable results, so he desperately wanted an alternative to LSD when it was made illegal. He discovered that through certain breathwork techniques you could stimulate a similar psychedelic effect to LSD.
How Does Holotropic Breathwork Work?
Holotropic breathwork would be done either in groups or one on one in the presence of a ‘sitter’ who facilitates the process guiding people through their breathwork experience. A participant would lie on their backs and hyperventilate by breathing in a continuous rapid manner for 1-2 hours. You would breathe in with a forced exhale through your nose and a relaxed exhale out through your mouth without any pauses in your breath. In some variations you would breathe through your mouth with a gasp on the inhale and a relaxed sigh on the exhale. The experience would have very dramatic music as the soundtrack that changes frequently in its theme and moods. The result would be a very cathartic and sometimes psychedelic process where the participant may have dream like visions, hysterically cry, laugh, have severe muscle cramps called ‘tetany’ and go into spasms, releasing a lot of emotions. At the end of the experience the participant would be asked to draw or paint a ‘mandala’ to represent visually any thoughts or ideas that came out of the experience.
What Is The Purpose Of Such An Extreme Form Of Therapy Such As Holotropic Breathwork or Rebirthing Breathwork?
If you read any website or book on holotropic breathwork, especially one written by Dr Stan Grof himself, the actual purpose of this extreme form of therapy, is unclear and it is fairly complicated to learn, especially as the books are written more like medical text books! If you go to a holotropic breathwork session you may find the explanation as something like, ‘you will clear out emotional blocks or traumas.’ Or ‘your true self will reveal itself.’ without much more depth other than that.
Rebirthing breathwork is often full of fluffy new age explanations such as ‘you may visit you angel guides or go back into your past life.’ Or that you will be cleansed by ‘the divine energy of breath’ For the new agers this may sound like a fun thing, and I will also admit to being drawn to these more dreamy explanations, however for serious people looking to learn and experience a new form of therapy, this may not be sufficient as to the ‘why’ you should do holotropic breathwork or rebirthing breathwork, over other less extreme forms of therapy, such as hypnosis or NLP.
The True Purpose Of Therapy
Most of us live in a sleeping trance, robotized by social conditioning, and the hard wired habits and programs that are programmed into us from a very early age. The idea of free will is debatable given the overwhelming evidence to suggest that most peoples lives are shaped by these automatic habits, instinctive behaviours and conditioned thinking.
Just think of all of the things that had to have happened for you to be reading this sentence right now…
Then observe all of the dogmatic systems we still have in place where people still blindly follow the rules without question, such as smoking 20 cigarettes a day even with all the evidence of the harm they cause, working for corporations for little or no money, who rape and pillage countries for big profit, even though deep down they are sad and miserable, medical doctors who blindly prescribe drugs that have harmful side effects without wondering what the real cause of their patients problem might be, and the extreme cases like the ‘war on terror’ and religious practices that still burn women at the stake.
Are we really making our own decisions and are we really in control of our life, or have we simply been hypnotized by outside forces since the day we were born? Are you really living life and making decisions that serve your best interests, or is your life just a product of your upbringing, schooling, environment and the cultural hypnosis that consists of rules, regulations and dogmatic principles given to us by society, religion, corporate interests and governments?
Conventional psychotherapy can take years to work and rarely gets to the root of the problem – early imprints that are instinctive behaviours hard wired into your physical body and nervous system. As a therapist I believe these tools like holotropic breathwork are a way, if properly facilitated, to clear very old imprints, in order to derobotize and discover your own true will.
However if not done properly they can leave a person feeling more traumatised, and worst case, new negative imprints can be formed. This is why a key component is necessary to ensure these extreme therapeutic practices are safe and effective.
What Is The Key Component Missing From Holotropic Breathwork and It’s Counterpart Rebirthing Breathwork?
Holotropic breathwork can be a very intense experience, definitely not for the faint hearted and in certain cases people may become re-traumatised as a result. A session can also last 2-3 hrs, which is rather a long time to get the necessary results. Bad imprints can also be formed especially if the ‘sitter’ is not properly trained, and due to the nature of the technique, a bad imprint may form in the same way as a person may go on a ‘bad trip’ with a psychedelic like LSD.
It is really the aftercare and reintegration that is highly important with an extreme form of therapy such as this. However this is still not the key component that set’s my new form of therapy apart from the others…
The most revered pranayama technique from the ancient form of hatha yoga is called ‘kumbhaka’. This means ‘ the pause or retention of breath’. Life is a cycle of inhales and exhales, and when you pause this cycle by holding your breath, you press pause on life itself. It may sound simple, but if your breath is properly held for a certain duration of time and in a correct manner, profound effects can arise in both your physiology and mental faculties. You will gain the ability to use the power of intention to consciously communicate and reprogram your deepest imprints. This is the secret to liberating yourself from the chains of the past and getting into unstoppable states of flow.
After several years of perfecting this process I finally developed my own therapeutic tool called ‘Soma – The Awakening Breathwork’, and it’s more advanced form of Soma Therapy.
How Does Soma The Awakening Breathwork Work?
The hardest imprints and traumas to clear are from your inner womb experience, to birth and then first 6/7 years of your life. Higher yoga practices were designed to clear this past traumas and negative conditioning so that you can become free and liberated.
The Awakening is a higher yoga ritual designed to clear negative imprints and help you break free from the past, so you can be more present, in the flow, liberated with the power to create your own reality.
A series of ancient breathing techniques put into a sequence that combines rhythmical breathing to beat driven music, vocal toning/humming, breath retention, meditation/visualization techniques and the activation and transmutation of sexual energy.
The rhythmical breathing phase hyper-oxygenates the body, bringing in more oxygen and blowing out more carbon dioxide than normal. This alters the pH of the blood stream and creates a stronger electromagnetic field and current to flow through the body. The effect of this is an elevation of your vibrational and emotional energy. Through a higher vibration and emotional quality, negative emotions can be released and cleansed from the body, and the ability to attract and manifest your intentions is increased.
Your inhales and exhales are smooth, connected and rhythmical as you breathe in a special way timed to a musical groove. Each exhale is very relaxed so that you stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system. This has the effect of creating ‘coherence’ very fast. Coherence is a phenomenon studied by Heart Math institute that corresponds to a harmonization of all the physiological process in your body through the power of breath and intention. Your quality of thought is also linked to breath and intention. Erratic breathing without positive intention (a state created usually when you are under stress) leads to erratic thinking. Smooth consistent breathing leads to coherent thought.
This type of rhythmical breathwork also moves the largest lymph gland in the body creating a powerful cleansing effect.
Before the breath retention phase you extend your exhale with deep vocal toning. This allows you to tap into the power of the vagus nerve, switch off stress and connect with your subconscious mind during the breath retention phase.
Life is a series of inhales and exhales, and when you pause your breath you press pause on life. When you pause your breath during the breath retention phase, you press pause on life. This allows you to go into the deepest meditative state possible where you can connect with your subconscious mind.
Using the power of affirmations, visualization techniques and self hypnosis you can program your subconscious operating system to influence your autonomic nervous system. Brainwave music technology called Trypnaural, enhances this process and helps you flow into even deeper meditative states, making the process easier, faster and more effective.
The activation of sexual energy throughout the process and the gradual progression of the experience through repetition of the routine over a 1hr duration creates a strong gamma wave stimulation and heightened ecstatic states of consciousness.
Powerful emotional releases can occur, negative imprints from the past can be cleared, and what we call ‘divine downloads’ that are moments of deep insight and moments of inspirations makes this experience truly unforgettable.
How Is Soma Breath different from other breathwork modalities?
Soma is a complete holistic system of breathwork techniques. There is no one size fits all, and Soma takes into account everyone is different and requires different breathing techniques depending on their needs. Soma Therapeutic Breathwork techniques are the core pranayama techniques that have the most scientific evidence to support their function.
The Awakening is inspired by the most revered pranayama technique called Nishessha Rechaka Kumbhaka and the ancient ritual of Soma that has over 50,000 references to it in the ancient text, Rig Veda, that is the basis of modern day Hinduism and the Vedic philosophy that yoga originates from. It is also inspired by the breathwork technique that is the core of the Wim Hof Method, created by Wim Hof, a close friend and mentor of Niraj Naik, the work of Dr Prakash Malshe an Indian doctor based near Rishikesh, the birthplace of yoga who uses pranayama and yoga to treat his patients, and Swami Ambikananda Saraswati who has one of the most popular yoga schools in the UK that is based on the earliest recorded traditional yoga practices.
Modern counter parts such as Rebirthing, Holotropic Breathwork and Transformational Breath focus on one method that hyperventilates the body. Breath is also not rhythmical or smooth with little or no guidance as to how to breathe correctly (at least from the sessions I went to) Breathwork that focuses on hyperventilation should be done with caution as oxygen creates oxidative stress in the body, and are not for regular use because of this reason.
Soma The Awakening is something that can be practiced more regularly and can only lead to positive health and psychological benefits. F.I.T and Soma Yoga utilises breath retention and special yoga postures designed to make you highly efficient at using oxygen as they are anaerobic.
Most modern day exercises and styles of yoga that have evolved away from the original teachings are aerobic and so do not create as much strength or endurance.
The origins of these techniques like holotropic breathwork and rebirthing are quite vague or in the realms of fantasy, for example with Leonard Orr claiming rebirthing was given to him by an immortal yogi, as though he was the chosen one hand picked by the gods. After some investigation it seems Dr Stan Grof’s wife, Christina Grof had her own awakening experience with a Siddha Yoga Master from South India that then led to the evolution of holotropic breathwork.
I like to be transparent, clear and upfront about the origins of my methods, and also give credit to the people, and the ancient practices like yoga, that inspired me along the way too. Perhaps if I came up with a story like ‘an angel descended from heaven and told me that I was the chosen one’ I might attract more followers. Or if I claimed that ‘I completely came up with this technique without any inspiration from another’ I might make more money. However I would be out of integrity, I would be acting more like a Big Pharma company with a special patent, and this goes against every single one of my principles!
By being totally upfront and clear with you, it means that can do your own research and then decide if Soma is the right fit for you 🙂
Niraj, The Renegade Pharmacist x