Holotropic Breathwork: Is it Dangerous to Practice?

If you're at all interested in personal growth, self-discovery, or exploring your spiritual side, then you may have heard of holotropic breathwork. It's a form of therapy that uses deep and rapid breathing to create an altered state of consciousness.

But why would breathwork do this? We explore how holotropic breathwork works, the dangers of the practice and how to practice safely at home.

    What is Holotropic Breathwork?

    Breathwork stimulates the vagus nerve which controls your immune system, heart rate and digestion. It is connected to your parasympathetic nervous system which regulates emotion.  

    Think of it like this, when you're scared or highly anxious your breath subconsciously changes, it becomes shallow, short and rapid. When you "freeze" you subconsciously hold your breath and breathe slowly.

    For those of us who live in a constant state of stress, anxiety or depression the baseline for your vagal nerve is distress.

    When practicing  holotropic breathwork the vagus nerve is stimulated, your awareness expands and your energy centres are awakened to help work through physical and emotional trauma.

    Are there any Dangers with Holotropic Breathwork? 

    Yes, there are some dangers. When beginners try this intense breathwork technique for the first time they can do so improperly. When the breath is not properly practiced it can lead to an imbalance of oxygen levels, an overexposure to carbon dioxide and hyperventilation.

    Without proper guidance this can be quite distressing for someone in a vulnerable state. It can also be emotionally taxing. If you're practicing the breath properly you may unearth repressed trauma that you are not ready to face.

    This breathwork technique has the potential to amplify symptoms that are potentially problematic, so ensure that you are in a good frame of mind to do the practice and in a safe space. 

    If you’re thinking of giving this therapy a try, please do your research and take the necessary precautions to make sure your practice is as safe as possible. It is not advised for people who suffer from panic attacks, psychosis, high blood pressure, glaucoma or cardiovascular disease.

    If you have these or any healthcare issues please consult a physician before embarking on your holotropic breathwork journey. 

    Can you do Holotropic Breathwork Alone?

    Yes, but it is best to tell someone that you are practicing this breathwork. Ensure that you are in a safe, seated or lying down position, this is important in case you experience any dizziness, weakness or faint-like symptoms. If you are feeling vulnerable and worried about any trauma that may come to your awareness, please let someone know that you will be practicing this breathwork before attempting it.

    How to Do Holotropic Breathwork

    The best way to practice holotropic breathwork is in a group session or workshop led by a trained practitioner, but we know that many of you are curious to try this at home.

    You may want to use a guided holotropic breathwork meditation to get you started and to have helpful prompts throughout your session. As we've mentioned please take care while performing this practice.

    1. Lay down flat on the floor in a comfortable position
    2. Close your eyes
    3. Release any tension in your muscles
    4. Take 3 grounding breaths before getting started
    5. When you’re ready deepen your breath
    6. Inhale through the mouth and into the belly, allowing your belly to inflate to its limit
    7. Feel your stomach flatten and dip as you exhale deeply through the mouth
    8. Maintain a continuous circular breath in and out with no pausing
    9. Slowly fasten your breath, but maintain your relaxed state and do not strain the breath
    10. Practice for 10 minutes to start and then increase time when you’re ready 

    Final Thoughts

    Holotropic breathwork can be an incredibly powerful experience. When the vagus nerve is stimulated you can unearth trauma that is stored in the body and experience a powerful release.

    It's vitally important that you are in a good headspace and are ready to face certain trauma and is not recommended for those in a vulnerable state. Please practice in a safe space, when done properly this breathwork can be life-changing and help you on your spiritual journey.

    Post Tags

    Author Bio

    I went into the field of neuroscience not realising the profound connection between science, spirituality and ancient tradition. I share some fascinating connections between science and spirituality that will hopefully shift your perspective on what it means to be spiritual.