with Lenny and Elizabeth Gibson in Southern Vermont

What is Dreamshadow Holotropic Breathwork?

Dreamshadow Holotropic Breathwork uses a workshop format that promotes experiential self-exploration and personal development in a safe and supportive setting. The basic components are intensified breathing, evocative music, focused bodywork, expressive drawing, and group process.

What is a workshop like?

It begins with a talk introducing the work of Stanislav Grof, M.D., the creator of Holotropic Breathwork.  Then group members introduce and say a little bit about themselves. Next, the practical details of a Breathwork session are discussed. After a break the session begins and typically continues for 2-3 hours. Afterwards people draw, paint, and color in a completely free-form, open way. Finally, people have an opportunity to talk about as much of their experience as they wish with the rest of the group.

What is a Breathwork session like?

A session begins with each person lying on a comfortable mat with eyes closed or covered, which helps direct attention inward. A brief guided relaxation exercise follows. Once relaxed, people are instructed to breathe more deeply and more rapidly than normal and progressively intensify their breathing. Evocative music simultaneously encourages and supports the breathing process. In twenty minutes to half an hour most people begin to experience enhanced feelings, enriched imagery, or other non-ordinary experience. Experience can open to past life events, birth experiences, and even into places that transcend personal experience.

In a Breathwork session each person is attended by a partner (sitter), who looks after simple needs by providing water, tissues, blankets, etc. Most importantly, however, the partner gives focused attention to their breather. In a subsequent session breather and sitter exchange roles.

How long does a session last?

A typical session lasts two to three hours, although participants often say that they have no sense of clock time during their experience. Toward the end of a session a facilitator may offer simple bodywork to resolve lingering body feelings, such as tensions or tightness anywhere in their bodies.

What kinds of experience do people have in Breathwork sessions?

People can vividly re-experience events from their life history that lie below waking consciousness. They may relive birth experiences from birth, connect with experiences of people who lived in the past. They may enter archetypal and transcendent realms.

In the words of William James, the first American psychologist and founder of transpersonal psychology:

“Our normal waking consciousness, rational consciousness as we call it, is but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different. We may go through life without suspecting their existence; but apply the requisite stimulus, and at a touch they are there in all their completeness, definite types of mentality which probably somewhere have their field of application and adaptation. No account of the universe in its totality can be final which leaves these other forms of consciousness quite disregarded.”

There are many possibilities of experience during a session, but each person’s workshop experience is unique.

Can it be frightening to re-experience traumatic events from the past?

People are helped and supported so that re-experiencing even very difficult events becomes cathartic, instead of distressing.

What is bodywork like?

Toward the end of a Breathwork session a facilitator will ask a participant how they are feeling and what they notice about the state of their body – such as any tensions, tightness, or other noticeable sensations. If any are reported, the participant is invited to work with the facilitator. In the simplest instance of bodywork the facilitator will place a bracing hand against a place where the participant has indicated some notable feeling, then ask the participant to take some breaths and push, then perhaps to repeat. Repetition can intensify the feeling and bring it more fully into attention, which may help it to open up and become a cathartic release.

What is the effect of bodywork?

Theory suggests that a person’s body accumulates tensions over time, suffers physical injuries, and afflictions. Major physical and psychic trauma may occur during a person’s birth process. The accumulation of tension and trauma can impede the free flow of a person’s energy. Injuries that have healed physically may still leave an unconscious residue of difficult feelings.

Bodywork can bring such feelings and recollections of trauma to the fore and then facilitate catharsis. Besides bodywork that involves push and release to address things that happened to a person’s body, bodywork may also address things that didn’t happen to one’s body. There may have been a time, for instance, when a child needed to be held and wasn’t and maternal bonding was impaired. When that strong feeling of absence surfaces in a session, with permission appropriate physical contact can be particularly corrective. Contact can range from handholding to a full body hug.

What about sexual feelings?

Generally, when sexual feelings come to the fore they are being driven by more profound underlying feelings. Bodywork used in these situations addresses with the underlying feelings, rather than the overt sexual feelings.

Is Holotropic Breathwork psychotherapy?

Holotropic Breathwork is deeply experiential.  It may involve intense and energetic emotional release.  Holotropic Breathwork does not substitute for psychotherapy, but it can significantly deepen and enhance psychotherapy as well as other healing and personal growth efforts.

How do I prepare?

No special preparation is needed. People are asked to complete a brief health check form so any potential difficulties can be addressed. Click on the following link to see the health check form.

People are encouraged to read from some of Stanislav Grof’s books or watch some of his YouTube videos, but this is not necessary preparation. The References section of this website lists books, YouTube links, and other website links.

Are people advised to avoid Holotropic Breathwork for any reasons? 

Pregnant women, persons with cardiovascular problems, glaucoma, epilepsy, or an unresolved history of psychiatric hospitalization are advised to avoid Holotropic Breathwork.  If you have any questions, please contact us before registering.

What are the benefits of Holotropic Breathwork?

Holotropic Breathwork can significantly deepen and enhance psychotherapy and other healing and personal growth efforts.

Can I do it by myself?

This type of Breathwork is best done in a group setting with the attention of experienced facilitators.

Do you provide ongoing support?

Our pledge is to be available to answer questions and ongoing concerns. Our relationships with workshop participants have lasted for as much as ten to twenty years

Do you offer training?

Yes. The Training section of this website provides details.

Is Holotropic Breathwork psychedelic?

We do not use any drugs or other substances in our workshops, but we have extensive experience with psychedelic and other exceptional states. Holotropic Breathwork can occasionally engender experiences that are identical with the most profound psychedelic experiences, but experiences in weekend workshops usually do not approach such intensities. They are more likely in workshops of longer duration.

Psychedelic sessions done individually can be dangerous. An experienced guide is very important to minimize such danger. The purity of psychedelic substances is also a critical issue, because of the current state of prohibition and criminalization. The website www.MAPS.org is the most important resource for information about psychedelic issues and research.

A particular virtue of Holotropic Breathwork compared to a psychedelic session is its group setting, which immediately fosters feelings of connection to community and to its support, because it avails the fact that human beings evolved as members of tribes. Working in a group or a team recalls some of the energies of our tribal lineages. We are all the descendants of successful tribes.

Another virtue of Holotropic Breathwork is the use of bodywork. Historically, psychedelic sessions have not used bodywork, but bodywork is a very practical way of overcoming the mind/body split. Leaving the body out of self-exploration gives an opportunity only to deal with trauma intellectually, even though the trauma may have a strong physical component as well as a psychological one.