What actually happens in a Holotropic Breathwork™ Workshop?
Generally Holotropic Breathwork™ (HB) is conducted in a workshop setting. This creates a safe container for each participant to enter into his/her space of expanded consciousness and to surrender to the adventure of self – discovery and healing. Preparation, HB session, and integration are three equally important parts of the whole process. After an initial introduction of the facilitators and all participants, we start with preparation through the introduction to the nature of the process. During the workshop, there will be two breathing sessions. As members of the group will be working in pairs (one breathing, one sitting) in each of the sessions this is the time when each participant chooses a partner for the session.
The use of various breathing techniques for religious and healing purposes reaches far back in human history. In ancient and pre-industrial cultures, breath and breathing have played a very important role in cosmology, mythology, and philosophy, as well as being important tool in rituals and spiritual practice. Holotropic Breathwork™ uses the breath in the similar manner – breathing faster and deeper to access non-ordinary states of consciousness. Use of a more efficient and faster breath can release long held unconscious material. Together with supportive evocative music, the breath takes us on our journey of discovery, insight, awareness and healing. The music is used to support the process and to help the participant to surrender to what emerges from within their own psyche. Each person appears to hear the music differently according to their own individual process.
The breather, lying on a mattress in as open and receptive a position as possible, is encouraged by the facilitator to relax and surrender to the power of his/her own breath thus allowing for surprise and wonder.
The partnership, which develops between the breather and the sitter, is extremely important in supporting the breather to feel able to engage in such a deep work. The role of the sitter is to pay attention to the breather as a compassionate witness to the process and to help offer tissues, water etc. when requested. One of the most transformative experiences is the total unconditional attention and the presence of the other. It is a powerful and extraordinary gift from one person to another. It can be a most profound experience both for the sitter and the breather.
Focused energy release bodywork
The physical response to holotropic breathwork varies considerably from one person to another. The breather may feel blocked, numbness, tension etc.. In many instances, the difficult emotions and physical manifestations that emerge from the unconscious during holotropic sessions get automatically resolved and the breathers end up in a deeply relaxed meditative state. If the breathing, in and of itself, does not lead to a good completion and there are residual tensions or unresolved emotions, facilitators provide participants a specific form of focused energy release work. When asked for help, the facilitator will aid the breather to feel the symptom of the emerging material more completely so that it becomes fully into consciousness. With the breather’s agreement the facilitator will help the participant to amplify the feeling by providing resistance so as to effect release of the blocked energy of the experience which has been held in the body. The release may manifest in many ways – shouting, laughing, crying, anger, joy, profound peace, shaking, etc. Intervention only takes place at the request of the breather. All breathers are checked for return to “ordinary consciousness” before leaving the session.
As a beginning of integration, right after the session participants are encouraged to express their experience of the session by creative drawing or painting or collage making, thus beginning the process of integrating a powerful, insightful experience from the session into the ordinary world. It is a mean of honouring the reality of the non-ordinary experience and can help expand and complete the experience.
As the workshop proceeds, a sense of community is developed as participants have been present for each other in very deep experiences. To share your expereinces in a group is a powerfully enlightening, deepening and connecting part of the process. Sometimes experiences are not easily described. Again, this is part of honouring the reality of the experience having it heard and witnessed with compassion and understanding. Each person chooses how much to share of their process. Everyone has his/her own wisdom and appropriate timing. There is no pressure put on participants but there is encouragement and space offered, since it is a mean of further integration of the experience and understanding its meaning for person’s every day life and reality.
A Safe Environment
It is crucial that the “container” of the workshop feels safe and trustworthy. Facilitators are trained in the theory and practice of Holotropic Breathwork™ and Transpersonal Psychology, which involves more than 600 hours and at least two years. Facilitators are certified by Grof Transpersonal Training (GTT), the only organisation in the world that certifies HB facilitators. The training includes participation in hundreds of hours of HB workshops, which leads to a total trust in the process and in the inner wisdom of the psyche and its potential for healing and awareness.
Who comes to workshops?
Participants come from all walks of life, each searching for some sense of wholeness and meaning, looking for the “something missing”. Some come specifically to connect with their repressed emotions. People “in recovery” and in 12 step programmes find it very helpful indeed. Some people use the process as a very deep form of meditation into human nature and the universe. Some people, like psychotherapists, come to explore new approach to therapy. Artist come in search for inspiration. Whatever the agenda, the psyche in its wisdom selects and brings forth what is needed for the person at the time.