Holotropic Breathwork Brain Damage: Is It True?

Posted by on Oct 27, 2023 in Breathing Facts | 0 comments

Holotropic Breathwork Brain Damage: Is It True?

Holotropic breathwork, a practice gaining traction for its potential therapeutic benefits, has also been met with skepticism and concerns. Among the few studies, the most debated topic surrounding this technique is whether holotropic breathwork causes brain damage. Is that only a myth?

Join us as we delve into the science, testimonies, family history, and expert opinions to uncover the truth behind this intriguing subject.

What does holotropic breathing do to the brain

slow breathing

Holotropic breathing, a subset of the broader category of breathwork techniques, is a practice that involves voluntary hyperventilation to achieve an altered state of consciousness. Developed as a non-pharmacological alternative to induce states similar to those achieved with psychedelic drugs, this technique has been explored for its therapeutic potential.

But the question remains: how does this rapid or deep breathing, accelerated breathing, impact our brain and overall mental and physical health?

  1. Altered States of Consciousness: Holotropic breathwork can lead to non-ordinary states of consciousness, often compared to experiences induced by psychedelic drugs. These states can offer insights, emotional releases, and increased self-awareness.
  2. Autonomic Nervous System Interaction: Engaging in holotropic breathwork, characterized by its rapid and deep breathing patterns, can stir our autonomic nervous system. This might lead to profound relaxation for some, while others might be highly alert.
  3. Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide Dynamics: This accelerated breathing style boosts the oxygen levels in our bloodstream but reduces carbon dioxide. Such an imbalance can manifest as dizziness, tingling, or light-headedness.
  4. Therapeutic Potential: Beyond the physical, there’s a mental dimension to consider. Advocates of holotropic breathing often highlight its potential to alleviate stress, tackle addictive behaviors, and even provide a therapeutic avenue for those dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. The emotional releases experienced during sessions might offer therapeutic relief for some individuals.
  5. Mental Health and Self-awareness: By accessing parts of the conscious mind typically veiled in our daily lives, holotropic breathwork sessions, often accompanied by evocative music and followed by mandala drawing, can lead to increased self-awareness and a better outlook on personal challenges.
  6. Physical Health Benefits: Beyond the brain, controlled breathing techniques, in general, have been linked to benefits like balanced blood pressure and reduced levels of stress hormones.

While the benefits of holotropic and breathwork techniques are touted by many, it’s essential to approach the practice cautiously, especially for those with certain health conditions. Always consult with a healthcare provider before embarking on a breathwork regimen. The intricate dance between breath and brain is a testament to the profound interconnectedness of breath control with our physical and mental selves.

Holotropic breathwork potential risks

Holotropic breathwork, a practice that involves voluntary hyperventilation to achieve altered states of consciousness conscious awareness, has been embraced by many as a transformative experience. As holotropic breathwork gains traction, it’s essential to tread with caution. While many swear by its transformative effects, it’s not a one-size-fits-all remedy. Here’s why:

  • Breathing and Its After effects: This deep and rapid breathing can throw off the balance between oxygen and carbon dioxide in our system. This might leave you feeling dizzy, experiencing a pins-and-needles sensation, breathing, or even a bit dizzy.
  • A Double-Edged Weapon for Anxiety: For those who already grapple with anxiety or have a history of panic attacks, holotropic breathwork can be a bit of a wild card. The intense emotions and altered consciousness it brings about might trigger panic attacks or heightened anxiety.
  • Physical Considerations: It’s not just a mental game. This intense breathing can be demanding on the heart and blood vessels, potentially spiking high blood pressure or causing other cardiovascular concerns, especially if you’re already at risk.
  • Navigating Mental Health: It’s worth noting that those with significant mental health challenges, be it anxiety, depression, or PTSD, might find holotropic breathwork more overwhelming than therapeutic. It’s always best to consult a mental health professional before diving in.

Like any therapeutic practice, Holotropic breathwork requires careful consideration of its potential risks and benefits. While many find it a valuable tool for self-exploration, increasing self-awareness, and healing, it’s essential to be aware of its potential pitfalls and consult with healthcare professionals when considering its use.

Can holotropic breathwork cause brain damage?

Holotropic breathwork, a technique involving rapid and deep breathing to achieve altered states of consciousness, has been explored for its therapeutic benefits. However, concerns have arisen regarding its safety, particularly concerning brain health. Currently, no concrete scientific evidence suggests that holotropic breathwork directly causes brain damage.

Nonetheless, the practice can lead to intense physical and emotional experiences, and individuals must approach it cautiously, especially if they have pre-existing health conditions. Consulting with healthcare professionals before engaging in such practices is always advisable.


What is the Holotropic breathing hallucinations?

Holotropic breathing, a specific breathing technique of voluntary hyperventilation, is designed to induce altered states of consciousness. Developed as a non-pharmacological means to achieve experiences akin to those produced by psychedelic substances, this practice of rapid breathing has been reported to lead to vivid hallucinations. Let’s delve into the nature of these hallucinations and their significance in holotropic breathwork.

  1. Nature of Hallucinations: Participants in holotropic breathwork sessions often report visual, auditory, or tactile hallucinations. These can range from geometric patterns and vivid colors to more complex scenes, sometimes involving interactions with entities or reliving memories.
  2. Induced Altered States: The rapid and deep breathing patterns characteristic of holotropic breathing can alter the blood’s balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide. This physiological change is believed to be a primary factor in inducing the altered states of consciousness where hallucinations can occur.
  3. Therapeutic Potential: For many, these hallucinations are not just random occurrences but are seen as deeply symbolic and personally meaningful. They can offer insights into one’s psyche, help confront past traumas, or provide a sense of connectedness to the larger universe.
  4. Safety and Setting: The setting in which holotropic breathwork is practiced plays a crucial role in the nature and impact of the hallucinations. A safe, controlled environment under the guidance of trained facilitators can help ensure that the experience is therapeutic rather than traumatic.
  5. Comparison to Psychedelics: While the hallucinations experienced during holotropic breathwork can be intense and vivid, they are often likened to those induced by certain psychedelic drugs. However, it’s worth noting that the experiences are induced purely by breathing techniques without ingesting any substances.

Holotropic breathing, with its potential to induce intense feelings and profound hallucinations, offers a unique window into the human psyche. While these experiences can be deeply transformative for some, it’s essential to approach them with an understanding of their nature and potential implications, always prioritizing safety and well-being.

What are the therapeutic potential benefits of a holotropic breathwork session?

Holotropic breathwork sessions, characterized by their unique approach to voluntary hyperventilation, have been championed by many as a transformative experience. Beyond the allure of altered states, what truly stands out is the therapeutic potential these sessions offer. Let’s delve into the myriad benefits and positive outcomes that participants often report.

  1. Self-awareness and Insight: One of the most frequently cited benefits is heightened self-awareness. Participants often gain profound insights into their behaviors, patterns, and underlying emotional traumas, facilitating personal growth.
  2. Emotional Release: The intense nature of the experience can lead to the release of pent-up emotions. This cathartic process can be therapeutic for those holding onto past traumas or unresolved feelings.
  3. Reduction in Chronic Stress and Anxiety: Many participants report a marked reduction in feelings of chronic stress and anxiety post-session. The deep relaxation and introspection achieved during holotropic breathwork can reset the nervous system, promoting a sense of calm.
  4. Connection and Universality: The altered state of consciousness often brings about feelings of interconnectedness with others and the universe at large. This can combat feelings of isolation and promote a sense of belonging.
  5. Alternative to Psychedelics: Holotropic breathwork offers a natural alternative for those seeking the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics without ingesting substances. The hallucinations and insights can be similar to those induced by certain psychedelic drugs.
  6. Enhanced Creativity: Post-session, many report a surge in creativity and clarity of thought. This can particularly benefit artists, writers, and other creative professionals.

The therapeutic potential of holotropic breathwork sessions is vast, offering a unique blend of physiological and psychological benefits. While it’s essential to approach the practice with deep breath, with an open mind, and under the guidance of trained professionals, the transformative power of these sessions cannot be understated.

What are the different breathing techniques

voluntary hyperventilation procedure

Breathing is as natural as, well, taking a breath. Yet, throughout history, cultures worldwide have transformed this simple act into an art form, harnessing its power to heal, calm, and energize. Let’s journey through some of these fascinating techniques:

  1. Diaphragmatic Breathing: Beyond the usual chest breaths lies the deep, soulful inhalations of the diaphragm. Often referred to as abdominal or belly breathing, this method is used for melting away stress and inviting relaxation.
  2. Box Breathing: Picture this – breathe in, hold, breathe out, hold, all to the count of four. It’s a rhythmic dance of the breath, a favorite among athletes and even military personnel, designed to sharpen focus and still the mind.
  3. Alternate Nostril Breathing: A gem from the treasure trove of yoga, this technique has you breathing in from one nostril and exhaling from the other. It’s more than just a breath; it’s a bridge believed to connect the brain’s left and right sides, ushering in tranquility.
  4. Holotropic Breathing: As discussed earlier, this technique involves rapid and deep breaths to induce altered states of consciousness. It’s used therapeutically to achieve personal insights and emotional release.
  5. Buteyko Breathing: Developed to manage asthma, this technique emphasizes shallow breathing and holding the breath to increase carbon dioxide levels in the blood, thereby dilating the airways.
  6. Wim Hof Method: Popularized by its namesake, this technique combines specific breathing patterns with cold exposure. It boosts the immune system, increases energy, and reduces stress.
  7. Pursed Lip Breathing: Often recommended for people with respiratory conditions, this method involves inhaling through the nose and exhaling slowly through pursed lips. It helps increase oxygen exchange and improves lung function.

Breathing techniques, in their various forms, offer a versatile toolkit for enhancing well-being. Whether you’re seeking relaxation, increased focus, or therapeutic healing, there’s likely a breathing method tailored to your needs. As with any practice, it’s essential to approach these and other techniques with understanding and, when necessary, under the guidance of trained professionals.

Can holotropic breathing be stressful for those living with trauma/anxiety?

Breathing techniques have long been employed for relaxation, self-awareness, and therapeutic healing. Holotropic breathing, in particular, has gained attention for its potential to facilitate deep emotional release and personal insight. Yet, for those grappling with trauma or social anxiety disorder, the experience can be quite different and sometimes even exacerbating. Understanding the nuances of this practice and its implications for such individuals is crucial.

  1. Intense Emotional Release: Holotropic breathing can lead to the surfacing of suppressed memories or emotions. For someone with trauma, this sudden emergence can be overwhelming and retraumatizing.
  2. Physical Sensations: The technique can induce physical sensations like dizziness or tingling. For individuals with anxiety, these sensations might be misinterpreted as panic attack symptoms, leading to heightened anxiety.
  3. Altered States of Consciousness: The altered state achieved during a holotropic session might feel disorienting or frightening, especially for those with a history of dissociation related to trauma.
  4. Avoidance Behaviors: People with anxiety, especially those with avoidance behaviors, might find the intense introspection of holotropic breathing sessions too confronting, leading to increased distress.
  5. Safety and Setting: The environment in which holotropic breathing is practiced is crucial. A safe, controlled, and supportive setting is essential, especially for those with trauma histories. The presence of a trained facilitator can make a significant difference in the experience.
  6. Potential for Healing: On the flip side, with proper guidance and in the right setting, some individuals with trauma or anxiety might find holotropic breathing beneficial. The technique can offer a space for processing and healing, but it’s essential to approach it with caution and awareness.

Holotropic breathing, like any therapeutic technique, is not a one-size-fits-all solution. For individuals with trauma or anxiety, it’s imperative to approach the practice with abundant caution and awareness and, ideally, under the guidance of trained professionals. Understanding one’s boundaries and ensuring a supportive environment can make all the difference in the experience.


In alternative therapies, holotropic breathwork risks is a topic that has garnered attention and debate in recent injuries. While the therapeutic potential of holotropic breathwork is undeniable for many, it’s essential to approach it with a well-informed perspective. Ensuring safety and understanding its impact, especially concerning brain health, is paramount. As with any practice, weighing the benefits against potential risks is crucial, and seeking guidance from knowledgeable professionals when considering holotropic breathwork.


Should You Try Holotropic Breathwork? Here’s What It Does:

Should You Try Holotropic Breathwork? Here’s What It Does

Understanding Breathwork and Its Impact on Balance:

Exploring the Effects of Breathwork on Neural Mechanisms:

The Iceman’s Resistance to Cold: Unraveling Brain Mechanisms:

Holotropic Breathwork: A Therapeutic Approach Explored:

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