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How Holotropic Breathwork Can Lead to Self-Discovery and Empowerment

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For millennia, many cultures have recognised the power of the breath for physical and mental health. In this article, Dr Sharon Riva of Holotropic Jersey explains the practice of Holotropic Breathwork and how it can bring far-reaching benefits both within and outside the workplace.

In recent years breathwork has become popular in the West with many methods and techniques promising a whole host of health benefits. Holotropic  Breathwork may not yet be on your radar but it is a well-established method that has stood the test of time and is practiced worldwide.

It is a powerful practice for self-care and wellbeing, for facilitating self-healing and deep psychological work that leads to greater self-awareness, personal development and growth. The numerous potential benefits flow through to workplace and professional performance and success.

What is Holotropic Breathwork?

Holotropic Breathwork, or HB for short, is about taking you to a non-ordinary state of consciousness or expanded state of awareness to facilitate deep personal development. It takes place in a group setting, through accelerated, rhythmic breathing, with evocative music, focused bodywork and art, without needing drugs.

The method was developed in the 1970’s by Stanislav Grof, a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst and his wife Christina, a psychotherapist. It is rooted in extensive research and psychiatric studies. Grof named this Holotropic Breathwork to capture its purpose to help people “move towards wholeness”. It originates from the Greek words ‘holo’ meaning wholeness and ‘trepein’, suggesting movement in the direction of something.

The Inner Workings of Holotropic Breathwork

In simple terms, HB combines modified breathing patterns with the supportive environment of a workshop to produce cognitive and physical changes within the brain. This process disinhibits certain areas of the brain, reducing psychological defences, and allowing the safe release and processing of suppressed emotions and experiences.

In these expanded states of consciousness, participants can access hidden facets of their psyche, unearthing forgotten memories and unconscious beliefs that significantly impact their daily thoughts, emotions, and behaviour. This profound insight is hugely beneficial and empowering. People feel better when they are no longer carrying baggage from their past, trying to suppress difficult emotions in unhelpful ways or avoiding situations they find difficult.

They feel lighter and have more energy to do the things that are important them.

The Benefits of Holotropic Breathwork

The personal benefits of HB can also flow through to the workplace:

1. Increased Self-Awareness:

HB provides a deeper understanding of oneself, fostering greater insight into helpful and unhelpful behaviours and personal motivations. This self-awareness enables informed decisions and empowers change, supporting personal and professional growth.

2. Improved Emotional Intelligence:

By addressing suppressed emotions and experiences, individuals gain better emotional regulation and empathy. These skills are invaluable in managing relationships, resolving conflicts, and leading teams effectively at work.

3. Improvements in Mental Health:

HB can play a pivotal role in alleviating mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, phobias, OCD and trauma. They can also reduce unhelpful and/or destructive coping behaviours, including the use of alcohol or drugs, and self-harm.

4. Improvements in Physical Health:

Participants often experience a reconnection with their body and are able to ‘feel’ or deeply experience their body. This can offer understanding into the emotional roots or components of physical and psychosomatic conditions and so facilitate healing and improve physical health.

5. Increased Resilience and Stress Management:

The emotional and psychological resilience developed through Holotropic Breathwork equips individuals to handle workplace stress, setbacks, and challenges with greater composure and adaptability, helping them stay focused and productive even in high-pressure professional environments.

6. Enhanced Creativity:

Many individuals experience heightened creativity and the ability to think outside of the box, after engaging in HB. This can be a valuable asset for viewing problems and challenges more clearly, and finding fresh perspectives.

7. Improved Communication:

The increased empathy and understanding nurtured by HB can lead to more effective and empathetic communication with colleagues, clients, and superiors.

8. Personal Growth:

Holotropic Breathwork fosters personal development, encouraging individuals to explore their full potential, setting the stage for professional growth and success.

9. Improved Relationships:

The increased empathy and understanding that often result from this practice can lead to better communication with others, improved interpersonal relationships, and better conflict management, contributing to a healthier work environment.

All of the above contribute to an overall sense of emotional wellbeing and stability, greater self-esteem, increased resilience and the ability to cope with stressful and challenging events.

It is always recommended to do HB with a trained facilitator as it can be an intense experience. HB is trademarked and only practitioners certified through Grof Transpersonal Training (GTT) are permitted to run HB workshops. GTT ensures the quality of the extensive training and that the practice is safe and ethical.

Furthermore, the benefits of HB do not just come from the breathwork but also the contextual elements including the set (intention and preparation), the setting (a safe and well-held environment) and the integration (making sense of the experience and maximising the benefits). All of these elements are addressed during HB workshop with trained facilitators.

To participate in a workshop, there is a screening process to ensure HB is appropriate. It is not recommended for some conditions such as pregnancy,  cardiovascular problems, epilepsy, glaucoma or retinal detachment and severe mental illness. It is important to note that HB is usually conducted outside of the workplace, making it a personal wellbeing initiative, although the benefits can ultimately foster a more empowered workforce, leading to improved job satisfaction, greater job performance, and overall employee wellbeing.

World Wellbeing Week 2024

June 24 – June 30

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