How To Perform Holotropic Breathing

How To Perform Holotropic Breathing


While it is well known that holotropic breathwork is a powerful method of breathing we can utilize for much good within the body, the question you should be asking is how to perform holotropic breathing. If you’ve been thinking about incorporating breathwork into your practice but aren’t sure where to begin, this article will be helpful for you in understanding how to perform holotropic breathing. This article will take you through all the preliminary setups and guidance to ensure a successful session. 

If you’re not comfortable doing this, or are a complete beginner, we recommend you seek assistance from a trained professional. You can find someone local to take you through a guided session or a group setting may be of more interest. Frshminds has a database of psychedelic integration therapists that can assist you with this process. To unlock the full benefits from a breathwork session, you’ll want to make sure you’re doing it as effectively as you can.

Which leads us nicely into the next section.

How To Perform Holotropic Breathing

To perform holotropic breathwork, you’ll typically need to conduct focussed rhythmical breathwork for 2-3 hours, although you may find shorter sessions of an hour or 90 minutes are more suitable for you in the beginning. Shorter sessions can be more enticing for those new to this practice or pushed for time, however, the longer more involved ones are encouraged to reap the full benefits.

As the core technique is deep breathing that pulls more air into the body and exhales fully to deplete co2 levels internally, start by laying down on your back in a comfortable position, which may make use of pillows and a blanket to throw for comfort. When done continuously, it can induce altered states within the body and mind. This is often likened to a psychedelic experience, without using the medicines, chemicals or otherwise.

The correct technique does not dictate nasal or mouth breathing; some participants will find it more preferable and practical to adopt one over the other.

Such is the general guidelines, you’re encouraged to adapt it and make it work for you.

Your crucial component of performing here is to intensify your breath rate to music until you slip into a trance state.

You’ll so you end up taking more breaths per minute than the typical 15-20 average rate.

When doing so, you’re likely to experience a range of emotions and thoughts.

Old memories may arise, and issues can surface that haven’t been considered for many years.

Is Holotropic Breathwork Safe

Compared to other available treatments and modalities on the market, holotropic breathwork is generally a pretty safe and accessible technique.

However, like any exercise or situation that will place additional strain on your body, it is not without its risks.

Practising under the expert guidance of a trained facilitator will minimize any potential issues or adverse effects.

Since the additional exertion will essentially be on the cardiovascular and respiratory systems, people with underlying conditions may not be able to partake in holotropic breathing sessions.

During the session, your physical body will undergo changes that can impact your brain.

Certain conditions of the mind could therefore also be affected.

These are listed below for reference, but should there be any cause for concern or uncertainty whether you should or could participate, it is advisable to check with a registered health practitioner such as your doctor.

  • Anxiety 
  • Aneurysms, either with yourself or in the family history 
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Epilepsy or other seizure-related conditions 
  • Glaucoma or retinal detachment 
  • High blood pressure 
  • Heart problems such as angina, attacks in the past, complications, cardiac infarction
  • Low blood pressure
  • Panic attacks 
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding 
  • Recent surgery 
  • Psychosis disorders, e.g., schizophrenia
  • Mood or personality disorders such as bipolar 

Regular practice of this breathwork modality can see improvements in your overall health and wellbeing.

Many people would see a reduction of symptoms and positive improvements in life.

Providing you’re cleared to do so we recommend giving it a try for a few sessions to see how the response is.

Generally, breathwork is considered a low-risk activity and can yield some powerful healing results.

Holotropic Breathwork And Brain Damage

The counter-narrative against breathwork practices such as holotropic style is that the intensified breath rates cause oxygen starvation as an increase in co2 and the likelihood of suffering from ongoing degeneration of some sort to your neurons or synapses in the brain.

Naturally, it is argued and deliberated about from both sides of the fence.

Those who are proponents of holotropic breathing will dismiss this, ignore the sceptics and go about their intense inhalations regardless.

Whereas the warier or risk-averse amongst us may be more inclined to trawl through pages of research studies or analyse data with scientific papers before making their own conclusions or getting on board with a notion.

In any instance what you believe is ultimately down to you and there’s usually evidence to support these views or beliefs wherever you look.

Remember that the body has built-in mechanisms to prevent self-harm from occurring, it is very unlikely that a simple breathing exercise will create disharmony.

If you are suffering from underlying health complaints then it is advisable to seek professional guidance.

CO2 is acidic, and the body has to work to deal with it, indeed excess levels can be detrimental.

The bodily response is to regulate the PH levels.

Hyperventilating can create respiratory alkalosis, which is an alkalising environment brought about within your body.

You’ll usually experience a tingling sensation, light-headedness or dizziness as a result.

This is temporary and will pass.


To induce a state of hypoxia you’ll need to create the right setting.

this is generally considered to be less than 21% oxygen, which is achieved in teh following ways:

  • Resisted breathing throguh the use of equipment and restrictive devices.
  • Prolonged breath holds.
  • Consumption of oxygen depleted air.

Holotropic breathwork when done correctly does not correlate with these situations, so hypoxia is not a concern.

How To Perform Holotropic Breathwork By Yourself

We don’t recommend doing a breathwork session on your own, at least not to start off with.

Seasoned participants will be more suited to doing so.

This is for several reasons but mainly due to your safety and wellbeing.

Should you hyperventilate and bring about a seizure, a severe bout of hyperventilation or aggravate an underlying issue, then quite simply nobody will be there to help you.

This can be particularly troublesome with the amount of shaking, flicking and flailing that could ensue from a profoundly traumatic or emotional response using the breathing.

Lighter forms of pranayama or breathing would be more applicable for self-regulated sessions.

Until you’re more familiar with the methodology and are comfortable with self-practice it’s best to attend guided classes or sessions.

Holotropic Breathwork Benefits

You’ve most likely come across this technique when looking for healing treatments or emotional therapies; maybe you’d been recommended to give it a try for yourself by a friend or family member? The range of benefits attributed to breathwork practice will vary from person to person. Some will have a profoundly spiritual experience, whereas others may struggle to get into it. The main benefits which you could experience are:

  • Deep connection to self.
  • Heightened self-awareness.
  • Profound spiritual experience leading to a breakthrough in your life.
  • Release of old trapped emotions. 
  • Overcome trauma and heal the emotional or energetic bodies.
  • Beat addiction or reduction in substance abuse.
  • Ability to transcend the ego and identity, giving rise to seeing from a fresh perspective. 
  • Can connect to deeper levels of consciousness.
  • Less negative thoughts and a more positive outlook.
  • Helps with chronic stress and over-stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system. 
  • The honest view of current life and reassessment of avoidance behaviours. 

Holotropic Breathwork Dangers

The main risks associated with participating in holotropic breathwork are:

  • Hyperventilation.
  • Additional strain on the body which could result in opening up wounds or disrupting surgical procedures.
  • Aggravating respiratory conditions such as asthma.
  • Freaking out or having a panic attack brought on by the intense breathing.
  • Physical injury from legs or arms being flung around.


Should you want to learn how to perform holotropic breathing, your first stop is to find an instructor or facilitator that can provide a safe and welcoming environment. This will assist in performing to the best of your ability in a non-judgemental space where you can let go and share without any fears. Also, you’ll get the most from doing it this way as sitters, floaters and the main teacher will be on hand at all times to guide you through and keep everyone safe.

Learn more about the benefits of psychedelics and holotropic breathwork for well-being in our Ultimate Psychedelics and Mental Wellness Guide!

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About the Author

Alan has been involved with marketing & content for the last decade, both for himself & helping others to level up their digital assets, where he now concentrates on writing copy & content he is passionate about.

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