When you’re stressed out, a few deep breaths can do a world of good. Those cleansing breaths can put us at ease and help calm our worries and fears. Some forms of breathwork can even lead to greater self-awareness and a better outlook on life. One method that’s believed to lead to these results is known as holotropic breathwork.

Breathing is perhaps the most fundamental human action. It catalyzes the critical mechanism of oxygen supply, which in turn keeps all the processes in your body going, every second of every day.

Doing something as simple as modifying your breathing has a direct and profound impact on your physiology. Here we explain how to practice Wim Hof Method breathing exercises, and why this is such an effective tool to keep down stress, improve sleep, and do many other wonderful things for your health & wellbeing.

About Breathwork

Stanislav Grof, MD, and his late wife Christina developed holotropic breathwork at the Ellen Institute in Big Sur, California in the 1970s. The Grofs’ background was in psychoanalytic therapy (talk therapy that focuses on bringing suppressed thoughts or feelings to the conscious mind) and they explored how altered states of consciousness could affect traditional counseling or therapy. Through their experiments, they found that rapid or deep breathing caused by panic or anxiety could affect the brain positively.

“The word ‘holotropic’ comes from the Greek words ‘holos’ or ‘whole’ and ‘trepein,’ which means ‘to move in the direction of something,’” says Williams. “Together, this means ‘moving towards wholeness.’” Williams says that holotropic breathing uses rapid, controlled breathing patterns to promote a dream-like experience, or what’s usually referred to as an “altered state of consciousness.” Once you reach this state, it’s possible to access parts of your consciousness that are hard to reach.

“The goal of holotropic breathwork is to essentially use accelerated breathing to increase awareness of the self as well as cope with traumas from the past. Holotropic breathwork allows you to access parts of your psyche that can’t be reached under normal conditions,” Williams explains.

She adds that it’s used to relieve mental health conditions and their symptoms, including:

Benefits of Breathwork

  • Promoting the release of toxins from your bloodstream and tissue.
  • Lowering blood pressure by increasing circulation.
  • Boosting your immune system.
  • Improving digestion by reducing stress on your liver and kidneys.
  • Reducing physical and emotional stress.
  • Increasing mental clarity and creativity.
  • Creating new neuropathways in your brain.