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Holotropic Breathwork

Breathwork, an ancient practice found in various cultures across the globe, isn’t merely about inhaling and exhaling; it’s a journey inward, a tool for self-discovery, healing, and personal growth. For me, it helped me overcome my childhood trauma and programming so that I could finally enjoy our full-time RV lifestyle, adventure travel, and be a happier, more present father.

Did you know that anxiety can be linked to past traumatic experiences? Trauma can result from any experience that overwhelms the body and mind’s ability to cope.

When we experience trauma, the emotional and physical effects can stay with us long after the event has passed. These unprocessed emotions and experiences can manifest as anxiety, panic attacks, and other mental health issues.

But the good news is that there is a way to heal from trauma and surrender the anxiety that influences your life.

Breathwork is a powerful tool that can help you process past emotions, release trapped energy in your body, and promote healing.

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Benefits of Holotropic Breathwork

As someone who sought solace in different wellness practices, breathwork emerged as a revelation, with benefits I never imagined.

In this blog, I want to share with you how holotropic breathwork changed my life, the benefits of all types of breathwork, and encourage you to give holotropic breathwork a try.

My Backstory

I was a first-generation Mexican-American raised just a few miles north of the Mexican border. My parents worked hard to send us to Catholic school since the neighborhood we lived in wasn’t very safe. In fact, I even had a knife pulled on me one day when I was just playing soccer in my front yard.

Money was tight to say the least and I was always told, “A good boy doesn’t ask for anything.” I was always well behaved. I did what I was told, but in the process, I also took on the belief that wanting things was bad.

Since both my parents had to work full-time, I was left at home with my 3 younger siblings and a babysitter, who also happened to be an extended family member. She sexually abused me and my siblings. I can’t recall exactly how long of my childhood this lasted, but it felt like years.

How The Body Stores Trauma

Trauma is not just an experience confined to the mind; it has a profound impact on the body as well.

When an individual undergoes a traumatic event, the body’s natural stress response, the fight-or-flight mechanism, is activated.

If the trauma is overwhelming or prolonged, the body might not have the chance to return to a state of equilibrium. Instead, the stress response can become chronic, leading to the release of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline.

Over time, these physiological changes can become ingrained, affecting various bodily systems. Trauma can be stored in the body through muscle tension, altered nervous system responses, and disruptions in the body’s biochemical balance. This somatic storage of trauma can manifest in physical symptoms such as headaches, digestive issues, chronic pain, and a weakened immune system.

Additionally, the emotional imprints of trauma may contribute to mental health challenges like anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Recognizing the interplay between emotional and physical aspects is crucial in understanding the holistic impact of trauma on an individual’s well-being.

My trauma had completely hijacked my ability to enjoy new things to enjoy anything that might evoke excitement or thrill.

My First Attempt At Healing

For the first 12 years of my marriage, I didn’t think this trauma affected me. But in 2009, I faced severe adrenal fatigue. I started having panic attacks, would swing between severe anxiety and then depression, and struggled to get through my days.

Before this, I had no previous mental health issues, I was healthy, strong, and fit. When all these symptoms started happening, I thought I was happy. I felt blessed to have a successful business, a wife and 4 kids, and a dream home.

In the end, after all these years of healing, I realized that the trauma I had stored up inside of me from childhood was a volcano that eventually had built up so much pressure, it had to be released.

At first, I had tried talk therapy, a few somatic experience techniques, and completely revamped my nutrition to fully heal my gut health. To be honest, I thought it worked.

By 2011, I felt as if I had recovered from adrenal fatigue and life was good again.

Then, in 2015, Robyn asked me if we could live in an RV and travel full-time. I wanted to be a supportive husband and so, I agreed.

family travel, camping, vagabonding, lifestyle, rv life

Travel was so hard for me. I could never relax. I was always worried, tired, or grumpy.

Not only were we always traveling, but we were traveling fast and doing outdoor adventures like surfing and rock climbing that were taking me outside my comfort zone.

Add in the fact that we were trying to close our brick-and-mortar so that I could be purely digital and trying to learn how to create leads, marketing, and finding my niche in the digital world was extremely difficult for me.

It wasn’t all bad though. There were plenty of moments when we’d be standing in the most beautiful destinations and I would be filled with gratitude.

It’s just that, overall those moments would pass quickly as fatigue, overwhelm, and anxiety would take over.

In 2016, we were halfway through our Europe trip and Robyn asked me to leave and go walk the Camino De Santiago. She was tired of my negative attitude and just wanted me to go find myself.

This only made me more mad and the next day, I was surfing in France and almost lost my eye due to the amount of anger I carried into the water.

La Sud, Guide to Surfing Hossegor, France
Watching the waves at Hossegor, France

That event helped me recenter by reminding me how precious life is and the gratitude I felt for not losing my eye helped me improve my attitude for the rest of that trip.

But feeling tired, angry, and anxious would become a recurring pattern. I couldn’t handle change and when I’d try to do outdoor adventures with my family, the fear would be so intense I couldn’t handle it.

It’s only now looking back that I can see that my reaction to travel and adventure had to do with the way my body was storing my childhood trauma.

Holotropic Breathwork Changed My Life

The first time I experienced Holotropic Breathwork was in 2021 at a Music & Sky Festival. Before this, I was regularly doing yoga and meditation and had dipped my toe in short breathwork sessions, but nothing to the effect of what I experienced with Holotropic breathwork.

The holotropic breathwork session started off very simply. The facilitator guided us through 3-second active inhales and 3-second passive exhales while music played loudly.

Within 10 minutes, I could feel something was happening. It started out with some numbing around the mouth and my hands got really cold. I thought to myself, that’s weird, but I continued to keep the rythmn of the breath.

About 15 minutes in is when I felt myself straddling two different states of being. I could feel a dream like state that I could step into or the conscious reality. As I focused on connecting with my body, I felt my muscles and my body involutarily move.

Some part of me was telling me to stop because I felt out of control. However, there was also a part of me was taking up space in my body that I knew I wanted to be rid of.

After about 45 minutes of instense breathing I could feel an instense calmness come over me and started to slow my breath. As I came back to reality if felt like a rebirth. It was like nothing I’d ever experieced.

What Is Holotropic Breathwork?

Holotropic Breathwork, pioneered by Dr. Stanislav Grof, stands as a transformative therapeutic method that uses a circular pattern of breathwork to reach non-ordinary states of consciousness.

Holotropic, derived from the Greek words “holos” (whole) and “trepein” (moving towards), signifies a journey toward wholeness.

This method utilizes accelerated breathing to induce altered states of consciousness, allowing participants to access profound insights and emotions stored in the subconscious mind. It is often conducted in group settings led by certified facilitators who guide participants through the process.

How Does Holotropic Breathwork Release Trauma?

Holotropic Breathwork operates on the premise that trauma is stored not only in the mind but also in the body.

The intense breathing sessions, complemented by evocative music, facilitate entry into an altered state of consciousness. In this state, individuals can access repressed memories, emotions, and trauma stored in the subconscious.

The cathartic release often occurs through emotional expression, such as crying or shaking, allowing for a profound sense of relief. The combination of breathwork, music, and emotional release contributes to the transformative healing process.

Guiding Holotropic Breathwork in a group
Guiding Holotropic Breathwork in Coronado, California

Benefits of Holotropic Breathwork

  • Expanded Consciousness: I find that I often get caught up in my 5 senses and holotropic breathwork provides me a sense of expanded consciousness, spiritual insights, and a feeling of interconnectedness.
  • Emotional Catharsis: The intense breathing allowed for the release of repressed emotions, providing a cathartic and therapeutic effect.
  • Stress Reduction and Relaxation: The first noticeable change in my life was the remarkable reduction in stress levels. By consciously engaging in deep, intentional breathing, I tapped into the parasympathetic nervous system, allowing relaxation to flood my body, melting away tensions accumulated from the chaos of everyday life.
  • Enhanced Mental Clarity: The practice of breathwork served as a mental reset button. It brought a clarity that seemed elusive before. By focusing on the breath, my mind found stillness, enabling me to approach situations with heightened awareness and clarity.
  • Improved Emotional Well-being: Emotions, often chaotic and overwhelming, found a harmonious balance through breathwork. Learning to regulate my breath helped regulate my emotions, fostering a sense of emotional stability and resilience in facing life’s challenges.
  • Increased Energy Levels: The breath is a potent source of energy. Through specific breathing techniques, I unlocked reserves of vitality I didn’t know existed. I found myself more energized, ready to take on tasks with renewed vigor.
  • Heightened Self-awareness: Breathwork became a mirror reflecting my inner landscape. Each breath drew me deeper into self-awareness, unveiling subconscious patterns and beliefs, allowing me to confront and transform them.
  • Healing on a Cellular Level: The power of breath to heal astonished me. I felt its impact not only on a mental and emotional level but even on a cellular level, aiding in physical healing processes and enhancing overall well-being.
  • Better Sleep Quality: As someone who struggled with sleep, the incorporation of breathwork into my bedtime routine proved to be a game-changer. The calming effect of intentional breathing techniques lulled me into a deep, restorative sleep.
  • Strengthened Resilience: Life’s adversities no longer seemed insurmountable. Breathwork instilled in me a sense of resilience, enabling me to bounce back from setbacks and face challenges with a newfound strength.
  • Enhanced Creativity: The clarity and peace derived from breathwork fueled my creativity. Ideas flowed more effortlessly, and I found myself exploring new realms of creativity and innovation.
  • Cultivation of Mindfulness: Breathwork served as my gateway to mindfulness. By anchoring myself in the present moment through breath awareness, I embraced life more fully, appreciating the beauty in each passing moment.
  • Strengthened Intuition: As I delved deeper into my breathwork practice, I noticed an intuitive sense growing stronger within me. Clarity of thought and heightened awareness sharpened my intuition, guiding me in making better decisions.
  • Deeper Spiritual Connection: Finally, and perhaps most profoundly, breathwork deepened my spiritual connection. Through the breath, I felt a sense of unity with the universe, experiencing moments of profound transcendence and oneness.

Types of Breathwork Besides Holotropic

While Holotropic breathwork is the best for healing deeper trauma, there are many other forms of breathwork that provide all the benefits listed above.

Click here to download our free guided breathwork videos.

Diaphragmatic Breathing (Deep Belly Breaths):

Diaphragmatic breathing, often referred to as deep belly breathing, engages the diaphragm and triggers the body’s relaxation response, fostering a profound sense of calmness.

  • Begin by finding a quiet space and assuming a comfortable seated or lying position.
  • Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen.
  • Inhale deeply through your nose, allowing your abdomen to expand fully.
  • Exhale slowly through your mouth, feeling your abdomen contract.
  • Focus on the rise and fall of your abdomen, repeating this process several times.

4-7-8 Breathing (Relaxing Breath):

The 4-7-8 breathing technique, pioneered by Dr. Andrew Weil, serves to regulate the breath and induce a state of tranquility.

  • Sit or lie down in a comfortable position, maintaining a straight spine.
  • Inhale quietly through your nose, counting to four mentally.
  • Hold your breath for a count of seven.
  • Exhale completely through your mouth to a count of eight.
  • Repeat this cycle for four full breaths.

Box Breathing (Square Breathing):

Box breathing, or square breathing, is a straightforward yet highly effective technique that synchronizes the breath, calms the nervous system, and enhances mental clarity.

  • Find a comfortable seated position and focus on maintaining good posture.
  • Inhale deeply for a count of four.
  • Hold your breath for a count of four.
  • Exhale slowly for a count of four.
  • Pause and hold your breath for another count of four.
  • Repeat this cycle several times.

Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana):

Nadi Shodhana, a centuries-old yogic breathing technique, balances the left and right hemispheres of the brain, fostering harmony and reducing anxiety.

  • Sit comfortably with your spine erect.
  • Use your right thumb to close your right nostril, and inhale deeply through your left nostril.
  • Close your left nostril with your right ring finger, release the right nostril, and exhale.
  • Inhale through the right nostril, close it, release the left nostril, and exhale.
  • Repeat this cycle for several rounds.

Mindful Breathing Meditation:

Mindful breathing meditation cultivates a heightened state of present-moment awareness, interrupting the cycle of anxious thoughts and nurturing a profound sense of inner peace.

  • Choose a quiet space to sit comfortably, ensuring your spine is straight.
  • Direct your focus to your breath, observing each inhalation and exhalation.
  • When your mind inevitably wanders, gently guide your attention back to your breath.
  • Begin with 5-10 minutes and gradually extend the duration as you become more accustomed to the practice.

Try Holotropic Breathwork With Me

Holotropic breathwork increases my overall sense of well-being and raises my metacognition, which helps me to stop slipping into the program of my past.

Now I can enjoy travel, and if I start to feel somewhat triggered, I can observe myself and start to act in a way that is truly me.

Whether you are dealing with anxiety, depression, PTSD, or any other trauma-related issue, Holotropic Breathwork stands as a powerful modality for those seeking deep self-exploration and healing.

Holotropic breathwork is a powerful tool that can help you heal from trauma by releasing trapped emotions and energy stored in your body, regulate the nervous system, and help you process past experiences.

Group holotropic breathwork

While Holotropic Breathwork can be done on your own, it is more effective when practiced under the guidance of a facilitator who provides support, helps navigate the emotions that may arise during a session, and provides post-session integration which is crucial to the overall healing journey.

We offer 1:1 virtual sessions as well as Holotropic Breathwork Workshops at numerous yoga and jiu jitsu studios (see our upcoming schedule here or watch our social media channels). We also integrate these breathwork sessions into our retreats and would love to have you join us.

Many of my clients who first started working with me for injury rehab and strength training do holotropic breathwork with me once a week or once a month to calm the body, promote healing, and expand consciousness.

In addition, practicing holotropic breathwork sessions has helped my clients to improve their relationships with others by promoting better communication, empathy, and connection.

Guiding Holotropic Breathwork in a California

To get started, all you need is an open mind and a willingness to try something new. We are here to guide you through the process and help you overcome any challenges you may face.

Healing from trauma is possible, and breathwork is a safe, effective, and simple tool to help you achieve it. With our guidance and support, you can take the first step towards a healthier and happier life.

If you are ready for more emotional freedom, schedule a session with me today and experience the power of healing trauma with breathwork.

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