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Effects of Holotropic Breathwork in Personal Orientation, Levels of Distress, Meaning of Life and Death Anxiety in the Context of a Weeklong Workshop: A Pilot Study

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The purpose of the present study was to explore the effects of Holotropic Breathwork (HB), on levels of distress, meaning of life, death anxiety and personal orientation in a young adult sample in the context of a weeklong workshop, and also the subjective effects and persistent effects of HB. A single group, Pre-Post test design, with three follow-ups (1, 6 months and 12 months after the workshop) was used. A total of 29 subjects, aged 18-35 years, participated in the study. The tests used were the Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI), the Purpose in Life Test (PIL), the Death Anxiety Scale (DAS), the Personal Orientation Inventory (POI), the States of Consciousness Questionnaire (SCQ) and the Brief Persisting Effects Questionnaire (BPEQ). Measures were taken before and after the workshop (four weeks, and 6 months later, for the BSI, PLT, POI and DAS, and 12 months after, for the BPEQ) and during the workshop (for the SCQ). No significant differences were found one month after the workshop. Significant increases of Temporal Competency scale, and in 5 subscales of the PEQ were found six months after the weeklong workshop. HB also occasioned mystical-type or peak experiences in 6 participants. At 12 months, volunteers rated the HB experience as having substantial personal meaning and spiritual significance, and attributed to the experience an increase of personal wellbeing and life satisfaction. RESUMEN. El presente estudio tiene como objetivo principal explorar los efectos de la respiración holotrópica (RH), en el nivel de malestar subjetivo, percepción del sentido de la vida, ansiedad ante la muerte y la orientación personal en una muestra de adultos jóvenes en el contexto de un taller residencial de una semana de duración, así como los efectos subjetivos y los efectos persistentes de la RH. Se utilizó un diseño Pre-Post de medidas repetidas (realizadas 1 6 y 12 meses después del taller de RH) y de grupo único. Un total de 29 sujetos, de entre 18-35 años, participó en el estudio. Las pruebas utilizadas fueron el Inventario Breve de Síntomas (IBS), el Purpose in Life Test (PLT), la Escala de Ansiedad Ante la Muerte (EAAM), el Inventario de Orientación Personal (IOP), el Cuestionario de Estados de Conciencia (CEC) y Cuestionario Breve de Efectos Persistentes (CBEP). Las medidas fueron tomadas antes y después del taller (cuatro semanas y 6 meses más tarde, para la IBS, PLT, IOP y el EAAM, y 12 meses después, para el CBEP) y durante el taller (para el CEC). No se encontraron diferencias significativas un mes después del taller. Se encontraron aumentos significativos en la escala Competencia Temporal, y en 5 subescalas del IOP seis meses después del taller. La RH también ocasionó experiencias cumbre y/o de carácter místico en 6 participantes. A los 12 meses, la experiencia de la RH es frecuentemente valorada por los voluntarios como personal y espiritualmente significativa, y se le atribuye un aumento del bienestar personal y la satisfacción vital.
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Effects of Holotropic Breathwork in Personal Orientation, Levels of Distress, Meaning of Life and Death Anxiety
Iker Puente
© Journal of Transpersonal Research, 2014, Vol. 6 (1), 49-63
e-ISSN: 1989-6077 // p-ISSN: 2307-6607 JTR - 49
Effects of Holotropic Breathwork in Personal
Orientation, Levels of Distress, Meaning of Life
and Death Anxiety in the Context of a Weeklong
Workshop: A Pilot Study
Efectos de la Respiración Holotrópica en la
Orientación Personal, Nivel de Malestar, Sentido en la Vida
y Ansiedad Ante la Muerte en el Contexto de un
Taller Residencial Semanal: un Estudio Piloto
Iker Puente*
Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona
Barcelona, Spain
Abstract
The purpose of the present study was to explore the effects of Holotropic Breathwork (HB), on levels of
distress, meaning of life, death anxiety and personal orientation in a young adult sample in the context of a weeklong
workshop, and also the subjective effects and persistent effects of HB. A single group, Pre-Post test design, with three
follow-ups (1, 6 months and 12 months after the workshop) was used. A total of 29 subjects, aged 18-35 years,
participated in the study. The tests used were the Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI), the Purpose in Life Test (PIL),
the Death Anxiety Scale (DAS), the Personal Orientation Inventory (POI), the States of Consciousness Questionnaire
(SCQ) and the Brief Persisting Effects Questionnaire (BPEQ). Measures were taken before and after the workshop
(four weeks, and 6 months later, for the BSI, PLT, POI and DAS, and 12 months after, for the BPEQ) and during the
workshop (for the SCQ). No significant differences were found one month after the workshop. Significant increases
of Temporal Competency scale, and in 5 subscales of the PEQ were found six months after the weeklong workshop.
HB also occasioned mystical-type or peak experiences in 6 participants. At 12 months, volunteers rated the HB
experience as having substantial personal meaning and spiritual significance, and attributed to the experience an
increase of personal wellbeing and life satisfaction.
Keywords: Holotropic Breathwork, meaning of life, death anxiety, personal orientation, mystical experience,
persistent effects Abstract
El presente estudio tiene como objetivo principal explorar los efectos de la respiración holotrópica (RH), en
el nivel de malestar subjetivo, percepción del sentido de la vida, ansiedad ante la muerte y la orientación personal en
una muestra de adultos jóvenes en el contexto de un taller residencial de una semana de duración, así como los
efectos subjetivos y los efectos persistentes de la RH. Se utilizó un diseño Pre-Post de medidas repetidas (realizadas 1
6 y 12 meses después del taller de RH) y de grupo único. Un total de 29 sujetos, de entre 18-35 años, participó en el
estudio. Las pruebas utilizadas fueron el Inventario Breve de Síntomas (IBS), el Purpose in Life Test (PLT), la Escala
de Ansiedad Ante la Muerte (EAAM), el Inventario de Orientación Personal (IOP), el Cuestionario de Estados de
Conciencia (CEC) y Cuestionario Breve de Efectos Persistentes (CBEP). Las medidas fueron tomadas antes y
después del taller (cuatro semanas y 6 meses más tarde, para la IBS, PLT, IOP y el EAAM, y 12 meses después, para
el CBEP) y durante el taller (para el CEC). No se encontraron diferencias significativas un mes después del taller. Se
encontraron aumentos significativos en la escala Competencia Temporal, y en 5 subescalas del IOP seis meses
después del taller. La RH también ocasionó experiencias cumbre y/o de carácter místico en 6 participantes. A los 12
meses, la experiencia de la RH es frecuentemente valorada por los voluntarios como personal y espiritualmente
significativa, y se le atribuye un aumento del bienestar personal y la satisfacción vital.
Palabras clave: Respiración Holotrópica, sentido de la vida, ansiedad ante la muerte, orientación personal,
experiencia mística, efectos persistentes Received: December 1, 2013
Accepted: October 4, 2014
Effects of Holotropic Breathwork in Personal Orientation, Levels of Distress, Meaning of Life and Death Anxiety
Iker Puente
© Journal of Transpersonal Research, 2014, Vol. 6 (1), 49-63
e-ISSN: 1989-6077 // p-ISSN: 2307-6607 JTR - 50
Introduction
A wide range of breathing techniques has been
used for centuries in different cultures for religious,
ritual and healing purposes. It also has been known for
a long time that it is possible to induce changes in
consciousness by techniques that involve modifications
in the breathing rate, accelerating, retaining and
controlling it in different ways (Grof and Grof, 2010).
Different specific techniques of breathing can be
found, in the Pranayama yogic breath techniques
(Vishnudevananda, 1974), in Kundalini Yoga, Sufi
practices, Zen meditation, and in Vipassana.
Techniques that involve accelerated breathing or
hyperventilation can be found in the Inuit’s, Sufis, in
some Native American groups and in the Pranayama
(Desikachar, 1985).
In the modern Western culture, however, these
types of breathing methods have not been accessible to
most. Western medicine has in fact reduced breathing
to a physiological process, and physical and
psychological signs that appear when the breathing rate
is accelerated (which include hypocapnia, palpitations,
dizziness and carpopedal spasm) have been considered
a pathological condition know as the ―hyperventilation
syndrome‖ (Morgan, 1983). This term has been
controversial since it was introduced, most of the
disagreement being centered on the difficulties in
establishing a diagnosis (Bass, 1997).
In the second half of the XX century, different
techniques which involve breath and accelerated
breathing have been developed in some
psychotherapeutic approaches (Grof and Grof, 2010;
Lowen, 1976; Orr and Ray, 1983) and a wide range of
Eastern breath techniques were introduced and started
to be practiced in Western culture. Furthermore, during
the last decades, voluntary hyperventilation has been
used in psychiatry and clinical psychology as part of
some desensitization therapies for the treatment of
anxiety disorders (Meuret, Ritz, Wilhelm and Roth,
2005). Voluntary hyperventilation has been
demonstrated over different studies to be a helpful tool
for diagnosis and desensibilization in the treatment of
anxiety and has been found to be safe after medical
screening for some contraindicated conditions (Meuret
et all, 2005; Zvolensky and Eifert, 2001). Thus,
hyperventilation is now part of the tools for the
treatment of anxiety disorders.
In the mid 1970´s, Stanislav and Christina Grof
developed the Holotropic Breathwork technique (Grof,
1988, 2000; Grof and Grof, 2010), after two decades
working with LSD and other psychedelic substances in
psychotherapy (Grof, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1980). This
method was conceived as a non-drug way of accessing
non-ordinary states of consciousness or ―holotropic
states‖, a neologism proposed by S. Grof (2000).
Holotropic Breathwork (HB) is an experientially
oriented psychotherapeutic technique that involves
diverse elements, including evocative music, elective
bodywork and accelerated breathing. Individual and
group sessions are possible, but the group therapy
context is the most commonly used. The most
characteristic element of this procedure, compared with
other psychotherapeutic methods, is the prolonged,
voluntary hyperventilation or overbreathing
(Rhinewine and Williams, 2007). To date, few studies
have empirically examined the therapeutic potential of
this hyperventilation procedure. However, there is
some preliminary evidence of the clinical utility of HB
(Binarova, 2003; Brewerton, Eyerman, Cappetta and
Mithoefer, 2012; Eyerman, 2013; Hanratty, 2002;
Holmes, 1993; Holmes, Morris, Clancey and Putney
1996; Pressman, 1993; Puente, 2014).
Hanratty (2002) in a single group, pretest-
posttest study (N=44), showed that one week after
participating in a weeklong HB workshop, participants
showed significant reductions in psychiatric symptoms
and negative affect. 30% of the English-speaking
workshop participants volunteered for the study.
Participants were mostly female (73%), highly
educated and the mean age was 48.7 years. At 6
months follow up (N=22) reductions in overall
psychiatric symptoms were maintained, although
reductions in negative affect were no longer
significant, and the positive affect showed a significant
increase. The author suggests that HB may induce a
global reduction in the level of arousal to explain these
results. Participants also showed higher scores in the
number of Positive Symptoms compared with the
established norms of the Brief Symptom Inventory at
all time-points, suggesting that these group represent a
mildly psychologically distressed population.
Participants also score higher on the Marlone-Crown
Social Desirability Scale and the Tellegen Absorption
Scale compared with the norms for the general
population, indicating high trait absorption and social
desirability.
Holmes, Morris, Clancey and Putney (1996)
conduced a controlled, non-randomized study, using a
pretest-posttest design. The study compared a talk-
based experientially oriented therapy (EOT) group with
a similar group that received a combination of EOT
and six monthly sessions of HB. The two groups
(N=24 each) were well matched on demographic
variables and the extent of prior psychotherapy
treatment. The HB group showed significant reductions
in death anxiety and increases in self-esteem compared
with the EOT group. The authors concluded that
experientially oriented psychotherapies might be a
useful therapeutic modality, and suggest that may be
particularly useful with long term psychotherapy
patients. Similarly, Pressman (1993) conduced a
Effects of Holotropic Breathwork in Personal Orientation, Levels of Distress, Meaning of Life and Death Anxiety
Iker Puente
© Journal of Transpersonal Research, 2014, Vol. 6 (1), 49-63
e-ISSN: 1989-6077 // p-ISSN: 2307-6607 JTR - 51
pretest-posttest controlled study (N=40), examining the
effects of HB on psychiatric symptomatology and
mood state, comparing a group that received six
sessions of HB with a control group that receive six
sessions of music therapy. Participants were recruited
by advertisement at a counseling center, and were
matched by age, gender and ethnicity. The two groups
were assessed before and after the six sessions of
treatment. After the treatment, the HB group showed a
higher reduction in psychiatric symptomatology, and a
significant difference in all the scales of the Profile of
Mood States.
Recently Puente (2007, 2013, 2014) examined
the effects of HrnB in a controlled, non-randomized
study, using a pretest-posttest design. The study
compared a group of subjects, aged 18-35, who
participated for the first time in a weekend workshop
where HrnB was used, with a control group that did not
receive any alternative treatment. Both groups (N=31)
were matched by age, gender and level of studies. The
HrnB group showed a significant reduction in the
Global Severity Index of the SCL-R-90, and a
significant increase in the meaning of life (measured
with the Purpose in Life Test) and in the self-
directedness, cooperativeness and self-transcendence
dimensions of Cloninger´s Temperament and Character
Inventory (TCI-R), one-week, one month and six
months after participating in the HrnB workshop.
The aim of the present pilot study was to
explore the short term, intermediate term and persistent
effects of HB, and the subjective effects of HB in the
context of a weeklong experiential workshop in a
young adult sample. The study analysed, specifically,
the relationship between the use of HB and the possible
changes on levels of distress, meaning of life, death
anxiety and personal orientation with different
psychometric test, and also the subjective effects and
persistent effects of HB. Based on previous research
(Binarova, 2003; Hanratty, 2002; Holmes, Morris,
Clancey and Putney, 1996; Puente, 2007) it was
hypothesized that participants in the HB weeklong
workshop would report a reduction in levels of distress
and death anxiety, and an increase in meaning of life,
time competency and self-direction. Based on
anecdotic observations (Grof, 2000; Grof and Grof,
2010) and previous research with psychedelics
(Griffiths, Richards, McCann and Jesse, 2006;
Griffiths, Richards, Johnson and Jesse, 2008; Grof,
1972, 1980; Pahnke, 1969; Pahnke, Kurland, Unger,
Savage and Grof, 1970), it was also hypothesized that
participants would report mystical-type or peak
experiences occasioned by the HB, and also persistent
effects attributed to the HB experience, 12 months after
the workshop.
Method
Participants
In this pilot study, a convenient sample was
used. Eligible participants were individuals enrolled in
a weeklong Holotropic Breathwork (HB) and
Vipassana meditation program at a wellness and
personal growth center. Eligibility criteria were as
follows: aged 18 to 35, English speaking and able to
provide informed consent. Both “first breathers”
(participants who were exposed to HB for the first time
in their life) and those who have previous experience
with HB were allowed to take part in the research. No
control group was used in the present study.
All the participants of the retreat who
completed the inclusion criteria (N=49) were
approached about participating in the study. From all
the participants of the retreat (N=140), 91 were
ineligible and 15 declined to participate, leaving 34
individuals who were interested in participating. The
34 individuals gave consent and completed study
assessments prior to the HB sessions. 29 individuals
filled out the States of Consciousness Questionnaire
(SCQ after their first HB session. At posttest, we were
successful in obtaining complete data in 16 individuals
(36.7 % of the eligible subjects) for the BSI, PIL, DAS
and POI, one month and six months after the
workshop. Baseline data from the participants who did
not complete the posttest measure were excluded from
the analyses. At 12 month follow-up, 10 of the
volunteers filled-out the BPEQ.
Participant who completed all the
questionnaires at post-test (N=16) ranged between 19
and 74 years (M=43.6, S.D. = 13.6). Fifty six percent
of the participants were female. Participants in the
study (N=34) age ranged between 19 and 35 years
(Mean=26.6, S.D. =3.7). Nineteen of the participants
Table1.Age, gender, and previous experience with HB for
the study volunteers.
Pre
measure
(N=34)
Post1 and
Post2
measures
(N=16)
Age
26.6 (3.7)
26.0 (4.3)
Gender
Man
15 (44.1%)
9 (56.2%)
Woman
19 (55,9%)
7 (43,8%)
HB
experience
HB Yes
17 (50%)
9 (56,2%)
HB No
17 (50%)
7 (43,8%)
Effects of Holotropic Breathwork in Personal Orientation, Levels of Distress, Meaning of Life and Death Anxiety
Iker Puente
© Journal of Transpersonal Research, 2014, Vol. 6 (1), 49-63
e-ISSN: 1989-6077 // p-ISSN: 2307-6607 JTR - 52
were female (55.9%) and fifteen were male (44.1%).
17 participants were “first breathers”, and another 17
had previous experience with HB. Participants who
completed all the questionnaires at post-test (N=16)
ranged in age from 19 and 34 years (M=26,0; SD=
4,3). Seven of them were female (43.8%) and nine
were male (56.2%). 7 of them were “first breathers”,
and 9 had previous experience with HB (see Table 1).
Study design
In the present study a single group Pre-post
design was used. The variables examined were
measured with five psychometric measures: the Brief
Symptom Inventory (BSI), the Purpose in Life Test
(PLT), the Death Anxiety Scale (DAS), the Personal
Orientation Inventory (POI) and the States of
Consciousness Questionnaire (SCQ), and a Brief
Persisting Effects Questionnaire (BPEQ) in five
different moments (Pre measure, after HB, Post1, Post2
and Post3-follow up measures).
Four psychometric measures (BSI, PLT, DAS
y POI) were used in three different moments. The first
was taken at the beginning of the workshop (Pre
measure). The other two measures were taken one
month and six months after the workshop (Post1 and
Post2 measures). The instruments include measures of
levels of distress (BSI), meaning of life (PLT), death
anxiety (DAS) and personal orientation (POI).
The fifth psychometric measure, the States of
Consciousness Questionnaire (SCQ), was used to
explore the subjective effects of the participants during
their first HB session, focusing specifically to assess
mystical or peak experiences. This measure was
assessed 1 to 5 hours after the first HB session of the
volunteers. The second HB session was not assessed
due to time limitations and schedule conflicts with the
programed activities of the workshop. Finally, the Brief
Persisting Effects Questionnaire was used to assess the
persisting effects of the HB experience 12 months after
the workshop.
The five assessments were distributed in the following
way (see Table 2):
Measure 1: Pre Workshop. The first assessment was
taken the first day of the workshop, before the first HB
session took place. Four psychometric instruments
were used: BSI, PLT, DAS and POI.
Measures 2: Subjective effects of the HB. This
assessment was taken during the workshop, 1 to 5
hours after the first HB session. This measure was
taken using the States of Consciousness Questionnaire
(SCQ).
Measures 3 and 4: Post Workshop. These assessments
were taken one month (Post1) and six months (Post2)
after the workshop, using four psychometric
instruments: BSI, PLT, DAS and POI.
- Measure 3: Post1: assessed one month after
the workshop.
- Measure 4: Post2: assessed six month after
the workshop.
Measure 5: Follow-up or Post3: This measure was
taken 12 months after the workshop, using the Brief
Persisting Effects Questionnaire (BPEQ).
Psychometric measures/materials
The variables examined were measured with
six different instruments:
Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI). The BSI
(Derogatis, 1987, 1993) is a shorter version of the
Symptom Checklist-90-Revised (SCL-90-R). The BSI is
a self-report symptom inventory which measures
aspects of psychiatric and psychological distress, and it
contains 53 Likert-type items that are scored from 0 to
4. The test provides a measure of 9 primary dimensions
of symptoms: Somatization (SOM), Obsessive-
Compulsive (O-C), Interpersonal Sensitivity (I-S),
Depression (DEP), Anxiety (ANX), Hostility (HOS),
Phobic Anxiety (PHOB), Paranoid Ideation (PAR) and
Psychoticism (PSY). The scale also provides three
additional global indices of distress: Global Severity
Index (GSI), Positive Symptoms Distress Index
(PSDI), and Positive Symptoms Total (PST). The GSI
Table 2. Study design
Pre-workshop
During the
workshop
Post1 (one
month after)
Post2 (six
months after)
Post3 follow-up
(12 months after)
BSI
X
X
X
PLT
X
X
X
DAS
X
X
X
POI
X
X
X
SCQ
X
BPEQ
X
Effects of Holotropic Breathwork in Personal Orientation, Levels of Distress, Meaning of Life and Death Anxiety
Iker Puente
© Journal of Transpersonal Research, 2014, Vol. 6 (1), 49-63
e-ISSN: 1989-6077 // p-ISSN: 2307-6607 JTR - 53
reflects the total score of the test, and provides a
measure of the global level of distress. Higher scores
indicate higher levels of distress and symptomatology.
The BSI and the SCL-90-R measure the same symptom
constructs as shown by the high correlations between
them, ranging from .92 to .99 (Derogatis, 1993).
Internal consistency reliability alpha coefficients for all
nine dimensions of the BSI were robust, ranging from
.71 to .85. Test-retest reliability was reported to be
high, ranging from .68 to .91.
Purpose in Life Test (PLT). This questionnaire
provides a measure of the extent to which an individual
perceives life to be meaningful, based on the theory
and concepts of V. Frankl (Crumbaugh, 1968;
Crumbaugh and Maholick, 1969; Frankl, 1973). This
20-item questionnaire is rated in a seven point Likert
scale, scoring within the range of 20-140. Scores under
90 indicate lack of a meaningful life. Scores within the
range of 90-105 are described as an “indifferentiation
area”. Scores up to 105 indicate a meaningful life, with
goals and a purpose in life.
Death Anxiety Scale (DAS). The DAS
(Templer, 1970) is a self assessed True-False choice
questionnaire consistent of 15 items, and it reflects
beliefs, attitudes and concerns about death. The DAS
has a range of scores from 0 to 15, and higher sores
indicate higher levels of death anxiety. Means of
participants generally range from 4.5 to 7.0 (Shell and
Zinger, 1984). Several studies have indicated that the
DAS has acceptable levels of reliability (Lucas, 1974;
McMordie, 1982; Templer, 1970).
Personal Orientation Inventory (POI). The POI
consists of 150 forced choice pairs of statement
requiring comparative value and behavior judgments.
This questionnaire is based on Abraham Maslow´s
conception of the self-actualizing person, giving
information about the positive mental health of
individuals (Shostrom, 1964). The POI provides a
measure of two basic scales of personal orientation:
Inner Directed Support (IDS) and Time Competence
(TC). It also provides ten subscales, each measuring a
conceptually important element of self-actualizing:
Self-Actualizing Value (SAV), Existentiality (EX),
Feeling Reactivity (FR), Spontaneity (S), Self-Regard
(SR), Self-Acceptance (SA), Nature of Man (NC),
Synergy (SY), Acceptance of Aggression (A) and
Capacity for Intimate Contact (C). Time Competence
(TC) measures the degree to which the test taker is
present-oriented, or is oriented towards the past or
future. Inner Directed Support (IDS) measures the
degree to which actions originate within the self or as a
reaction to others (being more independent and self-
supportive or more dependent).
States of Consciousness Questionnaire (SCQ).
The SCQ is a self-assessed 100-item questionnaire
which was designed to assess mystical experiences
based on the classic descriptive work on mystical
experiences and the psychology of religion by Stace
(1960). It provides scale scores for each of seven
domains of mystical experiences: internal unity (pure
awareness; a merging with ultimate reality); external
unity (unity of all things; all things are alive; all is
one); transcendence of time and space; ineffability and
paradoxicality (claim of difficulty in describing the
experience in words); sense of sacredness (awe); noetic
quality (claim of intuitive knowledge of ultimate
reality); and deeply felt positive mood (joy, peace, and
love). The data on each scale were expressed as a
proportion of the maximum possible score, fixed in 1.
Based on prior research (Pahnke, 1969), the criteria for
considering a volunteer as having had a “complete”
mystical experience were that the scores on each of the
following scales had to be at least 0.6: unity (either
internal or external, whichever was greater),
transcendence of time and space, ineffability and
paradoxicality, sense of sacredness, noetic quality, and
deeply felt positive mood. Forty-three items on this
questionnaire comprised the PahnkeRichards Mystical
Experience Questionnaire (Pahnke, 1969; Richards,
1975).
Brief Persisting Effects Questionnaire (BPEQ).
The BPEQ was designed based on the Persisting
Effects Questionnaire (PEQ), developed by Griffiths et
al to collect information about changes in attitudes,
moods, behavior, and spiritual experience, measuring
also the personal meaning and spiritual significance
attributed to the psilocybin experience, and the effects
of the experience in the levels of personal wellbeing
and life satisfaction (Griffiths, Richards, McCann and
Jesse, 2006; Griffiths, Richards, Johnson and Jesse,
2008). The BPEQ included three questions extracted
from the PEQ: (1) How personally meaningful was the
experience (rated 1= no more than routine, everyday
experiences; 2= similar to meaningful experiences that
occur on average once or more a week; 3=similar to
meaningful experiences that occur on average once a
month; 4=similar to meaningful experiences that occur
on average once a year; 5=similar to meaningful
experiences that occur on average once every 5 years;
6=among the 10 most meaningful experiences of my
life; 7=among the 5 most meaningful experiences of
my life; and 8=the single most meaningful experience
of my life)? (2) Indicate the degree to which the
experience was spiritually significant to you (rated
1=not at all, 2=slightly, 3=moderately, 4=very much,
5=among the 5 most spiritually significant experiences
Effects of Holotropic Breathwork in Personal Orientation, Levels of Distress, Meaning of Life and Death Anxiety
Iker Puente
© Journal of Transpersonal Research, 2014, Vol. 6 (1), 49-63
e-ISSN: 1989-6077 // p-ISSN: 2307-6607 JTR - 54
of my life, and 6=the single most spiritually significant
experience of my life). (3) Do you believe that the
experience and your contemplation of that experience
have led to change in your current sense of personal
well- being or life satisfaction (rated +3=increased very
much, +2=increased moderately, +1=increased slightly,
0=no change, −1=decreased slightly, −2=decreased
moderately, and −3=decreased very much)?
Procedure
The pre-test data were collected the first day of
the weeklong workshop. The workshop was held at a
human development centre near New York in October
2007, and the researcher stayed at the centre all week
to collect the data. Permission to conduct the study was
requested from and granted by the organizer and the
directors of the workshop. After the introductory talk
of the workshop, all the participants aged between 18-
35 were invited to participate in the research and to fill
out a consent form, a sociodemographic survey and the
questionnaires. Participants were told that the study
was part of the researcher’s PhD thesis in Psychology.
Participation in the study was completely voluntary.
Written informed consent was obtained prior to the
baseline assessments. The questionnaire and survey
took around 60-70 minutes to fill out. No
compensation was offered for participation in the
study. For the post-test assessment, the volunteers were
contacted via email, and the questionnaires were sent
by mail to the researcher.
Results
Data analyses
The data were statistically analysed for the
16 volunteers who completed all the assessments of the
BSI, DAS, PLT and POI using the 17.0 version of
SPSS.
Measures assessed four weeks after exposure to the
HB workshop.
The post1 measure data were analysed using
the paired t test comparison of pre test and post1 test
data for the four questionnaires assessed by the
volunteers: BSI, PLT, DAS and POI.
Measures assessed six months after exposure to the
HB workshop.
The post2 measure data were analysed using
the paired t test comparison of pre test and post1 test
data for the four questionnaires assessed by the
volunteers: BSI, PLT, DAS and POI.
Measure of the Subjective effects of the HB assessed
during the workshop.
The mean and standard deviation for each of
the seven sub dimensions of the SCQ, and the number
and percentage of “complete” mystical experiences
were calculated.
Baseline measure
At baseline, the workshop volunteers (N=16)
showed a moderately high score in the Global Severity
Index (GSI) of the BSI (M= 39.4; SD= 27.2),
compared with the adult nonpatient norms of the BSI
manual (Derogatis, 1993) (Table 3). The DAS total
score (M=4.94; SD= 2.32) was within the average
range found by Shell & Zinger (1984) in a review of
previous studies. The PLT total score (M=106.8;
SD=13.7) indicated that the volunteers had an
uncertain purpose and meaning in life”, according to
the interpretation criteria of Crumbaugh & Maholick
(1969) (Table 4). For the POI, Inner-Directed Support
(X=82,87; S.D.=14,9) dimension score was slightly
lower than the 50 T score of the American norms of the
test, and the Time Competency dimension score
(X=14,53; S.D.=3,56) was slightly lower than the 40 T
score, indicating a low time competency, and a
temporal orientation towards the past and/or the future
(Table 5).
Table 3. BSI subscales mean and standard deviations at Pre,
Post1 and Post2 measures (N=16)
Pre-test
Post1
Post2
39.4 (27,2)
36.0 (25,3)
37.9 (23,1)
3.9 (4.2)
3.3 (4.0)
4.4 (3.8)
7.7 (5.6)
8.0 (5.0)
7.9 (5.0)
4.3 (2.7)
3.6 (2.7)
4.2 (3.3)
4.8 (4.0)
5.0 (3.9)
5.2 (4.0)
5.4 (4.1)
3.6 (3.3)
4.8 (3.4)
2.1 (2.0)
3.1 (3.0)
3.3 (2.3)
2.1 (2.0)
1.3 (1.9)
2.1 (2.8)
3.2 (3.0)
3.4 (3.3)
2.2 (2.4)
2.9 (2.7)
2.1 (2.7)
2.7 (2.4)
BSI: Brief Symptom Inventory. GSI: Global Severity Index;
SOM: Somatization; O-C: Obsessive-Compulsive; IS:
Interpersonal-Sensitivity; DEP: Depression, ANX: Anxiety;
HOS: Hostility; PHOB: Phobic Anxiety; PAR: Paranoid
Ideation; PSY: Psychoticism.
Effects of Holotropic Breathwork in Personal Orientation, Levels of Distress, Meaning of Life and Death Anxiety
Iker Puente
© Journal of Transpersonal Research, 2014, Vol. 6 (1), 49-63
e-ISSN: 1989-6077 // p-ISSN: 2307-6607 JTR - 55
Table 4. PLT and DAS mean and standard deviations of the at Pre, Post1 and Post2 measures (N=16)
Questionnaire
Scale
Pre-test
Post1
Post2
PLT
Total score
106.8 (13,65)
106.6 (10,94)
108.0 (12.98)
DAS
Total score
4.94 (2,32)
4.88 (2,19)
4.94 (2.41)
PLT: Purpose in Life Test; DAS: Death Anxiety Scale.
Table 5. POI basic scales and subscales mean and standard deviations at Pre, Post1 and Post2 measures (N=16)
POI subscales
Pre-test
Post1
Post2
TC
14.53 (3.56)
15.3 (3.5)
15.8 (3.6)
IDS
82.87 (14.95)
85.4 (10.3)
87.7 (7.3)
SAV
20.1 (2.4)
20,1 (2.4)
2,1 (2.3)
EX
20.9 (4.6)
21.4 (4.5)
23.5 (3.4)
FR
14,3 (3.7)
15.1 (3.0)
15.5 2.2)
S
12.6 (3.1)
12.5 (2.7)
12.7 (2.6)
SR
12.0 (3.2)
12.1 (3.0)
12.5 (2.6)
SA
13.6 (4.2)
14.4 (3.8)
14.3 (3.3)
NC
11.3 (1.7)
12.7 (1.7)
13.0 (2.0)
SY
7.3 (1.2)
7.2 (1.5)
8.0 (0.8)
IDS: Inner Directed Support; TC: Time Competence: SAV: Self-Actualizing Value; EX: Existentiality; FR:
Feeling Reactivity; S: Spontaneity; SR: Self-Regard; SA: Self-Acceptance; NC: Nature of Man; SY: Synergy; A:
Acceptance of Aggression; C: Capacity for Intimate Contact
Table 6. Comparison of pre-test and post1-test mean scores and t-test p value, using raw scores for each measure.
Questionnaire
Scale
Pre-test
Post1
P
BSI
GSI
39.4 (27,2)
36,0 (25,3)
ns
PLT
Total score
106.8 (13,65)
106.6 (10,94)
ns
DAS
Total score
4.94 (2,32)
4.88 (2,19)
ns
POI
TC
14.53 (3,56)
15.27 (3,47)
ns
IDS
82.87 (14,95)
85.94 (10,33)
ns
NC
11.3 (1.7)
12.7 (1.7)
<0.01
BSI: Brief Symptom Inventory; GSI: Global Severity Index; PLT: Purpose in Life Test; POI: Personal Orientation
Inventory; IDS: Inner Directed Support; TC: Time Competence; EX: Existentiality; ns: non-significant.
Effects of Holotropic Breathwork in Personal Orientation, Levels of Distress, Meaning of Life and Death Anxiety
Iker Puente
© Journal of Transpersonal Research, 2014, Vol. 6 (1), 49-63
e-ISSN: 1989-6077 // p-ISSN: 2307-6607 JTR - 56
Post-test measure assessed four weeks after the HB
workshop (Post1)
The mean, standard deviation and p values for
the Pre-test and Post1 are presented in Table 6. In the
Post1 measure (N=16), the participants showed a slight
reduction in the GSI of the BSI, compared with the
Pre-test scores. The scores of anxiety and phobic
anxiety subscales of the BSI also decreased, and the
hostility subscale increased. These differences were not
statistically significant. The total score of the DAS, and
the PLT did not change between the Pre and Post1
measures. The scores of Temporal Competency and
Inner Directed Support dimensions of the POI showed
an increase between the Pre-test and Post1-test
measures. These differences were not statistically
significant. The scores of feeling reactivity, self-
acceptance, nature of man and capacity for intimate
contact subscales of the POI also showed an increase.
The difference in nature of man was statistically
significant.
Post-test measure assessed six months after the HB
workshop (post2)
The mean, standard deviation and p values for
the Pre-test and the Post2 are presented in Table 7. In
the Post2 measure (N=16), the score of the GSI of the
BSI showed a reduction compared with baseline
scores, and was slightly higher compared with Post1.
The scores of the paranoid ideation subscale of the BSI
decreased, and the hostility subscale increased. The
total score of the DAS, and the PLT did not change
between the Pre and Post2 measures. The scores of
Time Competence and Inner Directed Support
dimensions of the POI showed an increase between the
Pre-test and Post2-test measures. Compared with
Post1, the score of Self-direction was slightly lower.
The increase in Temporal Competency between Pre
and Post2 was statistically significant. The subscales
Existentiality, “Nature of Man, Synergy” and
“Acceptance of Aggression showed statistically
significant increases, and Self-Actualizing Value,
Feeling Reactivity and Capacity for Intimate Contact
subscales scores also increased.
Measure of the Subjective effects of the HB assessed
during the workshop.
Twenty nine of the participants in the study
filled out the SCQ after their first HB session during
the workshop: twelve man and seventeen women, aged
between 19 and 34 years (M=26.7; S.D.=3.94). Fifteen
of the volunteers had previous experience with HB,
and fourteen of them were “first breathers”. Based on
prior criteria, 6 of the total group of 29 volunteers had
Table 7. Comparison of pre-test and post1-test mean scores and t-test p value, using raw scores for each measure.
Questionnaire
Scale
Pre-test
Post2
P
BSI
GSI
39.4 (27,2)
37.9 (23.1)
ns
PLT
Total score
106.8 (13,65)
108.0 (12.98)
ns
DAS
Total score
4.94 (2,32)
4.94 (4.1)
ns
POI
TC
14.53 (3,56)
15.80 (3.57)
<0.05
IDS
82.87 (14,95)
87.67 (7.27)
ns
EX
20.9 (4.6)
23.5 (3.4)
<0.05
NC
11.3 (1.7)
13.0 (2.0)
<0.01
SY
7.3 (1.2)
8.0 (0.8)
<0.05
AA
14.3 (3.3)
15.3 (2.6)
<0.05
BSI: Brief Symptom Inventory; GSI: Global Severity Index; PLT: Purpose in Life Test; POI: Personal Orientation
Inventory; IDS: Inner Directed Support; TC: Time Competence; EX: Existentiality; NC: Nature of Man; SY: Synergy;
AA: Acceptance of Aggression; ns: non-significant.
Effects of Holotropic Breathwork in Personal Orientation, Levels of Distress, Meaning of Life and Death Anxiety
Iker Puente
© Journal of Transpersonal Research, 2014, Vol. 6 (1), 49-63
e-ISSN: 1989-6077 // p-ISSN: 2307-6607 JTR - 57
a “complete” mystical experience during their first HB
session during the workshop. Three of the volunteers
who had a “complete” mystical experience were “first
breathers”, and the other three had previous experience
with the HB. The higher scores were found in the
ineffability (0.58), intuitive knowledge (0.5) and
deeply felt positive mood (0.46) subscales (see Table
8).
Table 8. Volunteers ratings (N=29) on the States of
Consciousness Questionnaire (SCQ) completed 1 to
5 hours after the first HB session.
Sub-dimension
First HB session (N=29)
Internal Unity
0.41 (0.26)
External Unity
0.33 (0.23)
Transcendence of time
and space
0.43 (0.21)
Ineffability
0.58 (0.26)
Sacredness
0.45 (0.27)
Intuitive knowledge
0.5 (0.24)
Deeply felt positive
mood
0.46 (0.26)
“Complete” mystical
experience
N=6 (20.7%)
“Almost complete”
mystical experience
N=1 (3.45%)
For the 7 subdimensions of the SCQ, data are
expressed as a proportion of the maximum possible
score, fixed in 1.
Follow-up measure of the Persistent Effects of the
HB assessed 12 months after the HB workshop
Ten of the participants in the study filled out
the follow up brief questionnaire 12 months after the
HB workshop. Eight of the volunteers had previous
experience with RH, and fourteen of them were “first
breathers”. Only two of the volunteers who had a
“complete” mystical experience during their first HB
session of the workshop filled out the brief
questionnaire. It is remarkable that 5 of the volunteers
rated the experience during their first HB session to be
either among the top five or the top ten most personally
meaningful experiences of his or her life. Four of the
volunteers rated the HB experience as being among the
top five most spiritually significant experiences of his
or her life, and another four rated it to be very
significant spiritually. Five volunteers rated that the
HB experience increased their current sense of
personal wellbeing or life satisfaction “very much”,
and three of them considered that it was increased
“moderately”. No volunteer rated the HB experience as
having decreased their sense of wellbeing or life
satisfaction.
The Figures 1, 2 and 3 show the number of
volunteers who endorsed each of the possible answers
to the three questions of the persistent effects brief
questionnaire: (1) “how personally meaningful was
the HB experience?” (2)Indicate the degree to which
the HB experience was spiritually significant to you”,
and (3) “Do you believe that the HB experience and
your contemplation of that experience have led to
change in your current sense of personal wellbeing or
life satisfaction?
Figure 1. Number of volunteers who endorsed each of the eight possible answers to the
question how personally meaningful was the HB experience?” on a questionnaire
completed 12 months after the HB workshop.
0
2
4
6
8
10
0
1
0
4
4
1
0
Personally meaningfull
Number of
subjects
Effects of Holotropic Breathwork in Personal Orientation, Levels of Distress, Meaning of Life and Death Anxiety
Iker Puente
© Journal of Transpersonal Research, 2014, Vol. 6 (1), 49-63
e-ISSN: 1989-6077 // p-ISSN: 2307-6607 JTR - 58
Discussion
The purpose of the present study was to
explore the effects of HB on levels of distress, meaning
of life, death anxiety and personality in a young adult
sample in the context of a weeklong workshop; and
also to explore the subjective effects of a HB session,
and the possible persistent effects of HB on the sense
of personal wellbeing and life satisfaction, and the
volunteers attribution of personal and spiritual
significance to the HB experience. The overall results
of this study provide some initial positive findings
regarding the possible therapeutic usefulness of this
technique in the context of a weeklong workshop. In
the present study, the volunteers showed some
significant changes on dependent measures when the
baseline and the Post workshop measures are
compared, including a significant increase on Time
Competence, among other measures of self-
actualization. However, significant changes across time
Figure 2. Number of volunteers who endorsed each of the six possible answers to the
question Indicate the degree to which the HB experience was spiritually significant to
you”, on a questionnaire completed 12 months after the HB workshop.
0
2
4
6
8
10
0
1
1
4
4
0
Spiritually significant
Number of
subjects
Figure 3. Number of volunteers who endorsed each of the seven possible answers to the
question “Do you believe that the HB experience and your contemplation of that
experience have led to change in your current sense of personal wellbeing or life
satisfaction?on a questionnaire completed 12 months after the HB workshop.
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
0
0
0
2
1
2
5
Personal wellbeing-life satisfaction
Number of
Subjects
Effects of Holotropic Breathwork in Personal Orientation, Levels of Distress, Meaning of Life and Death Anxiety
Iker Puente
© Journal of Transpersonal Research, 2014, Vol. 6 (1), 49-63
e-ISSN: 1989-6077 // p-ISSN: 2307-6607 JTR - 59
were not found in all the psychometric measures used
for the study, including levels of distress, death
anxiety, and meaning in life. We also found that HB
can occasionally produce mystical-type or peak
experiences. 12 months after the workshop, the HB
experience is frequently considered as having
substantial personal and spiritual significance, and an
increase of personal wellbeing and life satisfaction is
attributed to it.
Before the workshop, volunteers in the study
show moderately high scores on the GSI of the BSI,
compared with the adult nonpatient norms of the BSI
manual, moderately low scores on the PLT, indicating
that the volunteers had a somewhat uncertain purpose
and meaning in life”, according to the interpretation
criteria established by Crumbaugh and Maholick
(1969), and low scores in Temporal Competency
dimension, and self-acceptance, nature of man and
acceptance of aggression subscales of the POI. These
results indicate that the volunteers in the study had a
higher level of distress than the general population, a
lack of clear goals and meaning in life, a temporal
competency not oriented to the present, a lower self-
acceptance and a negative view of the nature of men.
In the Post1 measure, four weeks after the HB
workshop, an increase of Temporal Competency and
Inner Directed Support was found, and the GSI score
decreased slightly. The total score of the DAS, and the
PLT did not change. In the Post2 measure, an increase
on Temporal Competency and Inner Directed Support
scales of the POI was found, and also in scores of
feeling reactivity, existentiality, nature of man,
acceptance of aggression, and capacity for intimate
contact subscales. The GSI score decreased slightly
compared with the baseline, and the total score of the
DAS, and the PIL did not change.
The progressive increase of the POI scores
from the baseline to Post1 and Post2 measures might
be suggesting that the effects of the HB workshop
manifest gradually over the months following the
workshop. However, there may be other reasons to
explain this fact.
With regard to levels of distress, a slight
reduction of the GSI was found four weeks and six
months after the HB workshop. This finding is partially
consistent with the research on the topic. Hanratty
(2002) also found a significant reduction of the GSI of
the BSI test one week and six months after a weeklong
HB workshop. The results of Puente’s study (2007,
2013, 2014) showed also a significant reduction in the
rating of the GSI one week, one month and six months
after an HrcB weekend workshop. However, the
reduction found in the present study was slight and not
significant.
With regard to meaning of life, we did not find
a significant increase of the PLT score four weeks and
six months after the workshop, unlike other studies. In
previous research, Binarova (2002) found a significant
improvement in the purpose in life (measured by the
PLT) in a group of subjects who participated for the
first time in a HB session (N=11; p<0.05). Puente
(2007, 2013, 2014) also found a significant increase in
the PLT scores one week, one month and six months
after a weekend HrcB workshop in a young adult
sample without previous experience with the
technique. With regard to death anxiety, we did not
find a significant reduction of the DAS score four
weeks and six months after the workshop. Previous
research on the topic had shown inconsistent findings.
Holmes et al (1996) found a significantly greater
reduction in the death anxiety (measured by the DAS)
in a group who received a six months treatment period,
including HB, compared with a therapy only group.
But Hanratty (2002) did not find differences between
the pre and post measures of the DAS in his study.
With regard to Temporal Competency and
Inner Directed Support dimensions of the POI, the
scores of both dimensions increased gradually from the
baseline to Post1 and Post2, four weeks and six months
after the workshop. These results indicate an increase
in the degree in which the volunteers shown a personal
orientation toward the present, and in the degree of
autonomy and self-direction. Puente (2007, 2013,
2014), similar to this study, also found a significant
increase in the score of the self-directedness dimension
of the TCI-R one week, one month and six months
after a HrcB weekend workshop. Holmes et. al (1996)
found an increase in self-esteem using the Personality
Research Form-E. The increase in self-esteem can be
related to the increase in Inner Directed Support found
in the present study.
Regarding the subjective effects of volunteers
during their first HB session during the workshop, six
of the 29 volunteers that filled out the SCQ fulfilled the
criteria for having a “complete” mystical experience,
the 20.7% of the volunteers that filled out the
questionnaire. However, the 29 volunteers only
represents 20.7% of the total number of participants of
the workshop, and the 59.2% of the participants aged
18 to 35. Thus, these results cannot be generalized to
all the participants in the workshop. Nevertheless, it is
remarkable that HB occasioned mystical-type or peak
experiences in some participants during the workshop,
because the present study is the first to measure this
kind of experiences using the SCQ during a HB
session. It is also remarkable that one of each five
volunteers who filled out the SCQ had a complete
mystical experience, considering the relative low
frequency of this kind of experience in other contexts.
Similar outcomes have been found in human research
with psychedelic compounds like LSD and psilocybin
(Grof, 2001; Griffiths, Richards, McCann and Jesse,
Effects of Holotropic Breathwork in Personal Orientation, Levels of Distress, Meaning of Life and Death Anxiety
Iker Puente
© Journal of Transpersonal Research, 2014, Vol. 6 (1), 49-63
e-ISSN: 1989-6077 // p-ISSN: 2307-6607 JTR - 60
2006; Griffiths, Richards, Johnson and Jesse, 2008;
MacLean, Leoutsakos, Johnson and Griffiths 2011;
Pahnke, 1963, 1967). These experiences have been
related to improvements in several mental health
measures (Grof, 2001; Griffiths, Richards, McCann
and Jesse, 2006; Griffiths, Richards, Johnson and
Jesse, 2008). Another interesting finding is the relative
high score in the “deeply felt positive mood” subscale
(0.46), which might indicate that the subjective
experience during the HB session is remembered and
assessed as having an overall positive tone, more than a
negative one.
Finally, despite the relative small number of
volunteers who filled out the BPEQ 12 months after
the workshop (N=10), the answers to the three
questions of this questionnaire deserve further
comment. Five of the ten volunteers considered the
experience during their first HB session in the
workshop among the top ten most personally
meaningful experiences of his or her life, and four of
them considered it among the 5 more spiritually
significant experiences of his or her life. Regarding the
degree in which the volunteer’s current sense of
personal well-being or life satisfaction was affected,
five volunteers considered that the HB experience
increased it very much. It is also remarkable that none
of them considered that the HB experience decrease
their current sense of personal well-being or life
satisfaction. Similar outcomes have been found
recently in a series of studies with the psychedelic
compound psilocybin (Griffiths, Richards, McCann
and Jesse, 2006; Griffiths, Richards, Johnson and
Jesse, 2008).
Despite some initial positive findings
suggesting that the use of HB in the context of a
weeklong workshop might present therapeutic value
for young adults, some limitations can also be pointed
out in the present study.
The first limitation of the present research is
related with the type of design. A convenience sample
was used for the present study, and there was no
comparison group. As the study was quasi-
experimental, we cannot draw cause-effect statements
from it. The second limitation is the small sample size,
decreasing the statistical power and increasing the
probability of false positive results. Third, the
weeklong workshop included different elements
besides HB, including daily Vipassana meditation and
formal talks. Thus, we cannot point out if the effects
were specific to the exposure to HB or if they were
caused by other factors. Thus, the results cannot be
generalized to other contexts or to all the participants
of this weeklong workshop, but they do support the
idea that HB may contribute to improve psychological
health and self-actualization in these specific samples,
including an increase in Time Competence, the
flexibility in the application of values
(“Existentiality”), the perception of the nature of man
as good and constructive (“Nature of Man”), the
ability to transcend dichotomies (“Synergy”) and the
acceptance of natural aggressivity ( “Acceptance of
Aggression”).
Conclusion and future projects
Further research into short and long term
effects of HB is needed. There are a number of areas of
potential interest that might be examined in future
research, including the assessment of physiological and
neurophysiologic variables, and the use of qualitative
methodology. We also believe that the setting, the
context surrounding the experience, is very important
in relation to the effects produced by this non-drug way
of accessing non-ordinary states of consciousness.
Thus, future research examining the degree to which
these results are specific to the context is needed. The
development of similar studies in other contexts where
HB and other similar hyperventilation procedures are
used could be very fruitful. Finally, in order to
investigate the usefulness of HB, beyond what appears
to be some initial positive results found in the present
study, we consider it is important to replicate these
results in a larger, well-controlled study. A placebo-
controlled, randomized study assessing the efficacy of
HB in patient populations, for the treatment of a
particular condition, could be designed and carried out
as the next step.
Despite its limitations, and recognizing the
exploratory nature of this pilot study, our results
suggest that the use of HB in the therapeutic context of
a weeklong workshop may contribute to improve
psychological health and self-actualization.
Additionally, the present study showed that HB
occasioned mystical-type or peak experiences in some
of the volunteers in the context of a weeklong
workshop, and that the HB experience was evaluated
by volunteers as having substantial and sustained
personal meaning and spiritual significance, which also
attributed to the experience an increase of personal
wellbeing and life satisfaction. These preliminary
results give support for further research on the possible
therapeutic use of HB, as well as to the study of the
subjective effects and persisting effects occasioned by
the HB experience.
Effects of Holotropic Breathwork in Personal Orientation, Levels of Distress, Meaning of Life and Death Anxiety
Iker Puente
© Journal of Transpersonal Research, 2014, Vol. 6 (1), 49-63
e-ISSN: 1989-6077 // p-ISSN: 2307-6607 JTR - 61
Acknowledgements
This research was supported by UAB-PIF grant
from the UAB and a grant from the Association of
Holotropic Breathwork International. We thank Oliver
Williams for data management; Stan Grof, for
discussions about the study design; Stan Grof and Jack
Kornfield, for allowing us to collect the data during the
Insigth and Opening workshop; Bill Richards and
Ronald Griffiths, for permission to use the SCQ and
the items of the PEQ.
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Effects of Holotropic Breathwork in Personal Orientation, Levels of Distress, Meaning of Life and Death Anxiety
Iker Puente
© Journal of Transpersonal Research, 2014, Vol. 6 (1), 49-63
e-ISSN: 1989-6077 // p-ISSN: 2307-6607 JTR - 62
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Effects of Holotropic Breathwork in Personal Orientation, Levels of Distress, Meaning of Life and Death Anxiety
Iker Puente
© Journal of Transpersonal Research, 2014, Vol. 6 (1), 49-63
e-ISSN: 1989-6077 // p-ISSN: 2307-6607 JTR - 63
Zvolensky, M.J. and Eifert, G.H. (2001). A review of
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*Iker Puente is a psychologist and researcher
from the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB).
He holds a degree in Psychology from the University
of Deusto and a degree in Anthropology from the
UAB. He recently obtained his PhD degree in
Psychology at the UAB with his dissertation
“Complexity and Transpersonal Psychology: chaos,
self-organization and peak experiences in
psychotherapy”, exploring the short and medium term
effects of two breathwork techniques, Holotropic
Breathwork (HB) and Holorenic Breathwork (HrnB),
and the subjective effects of HB. He is assistant editor
of the Journal of Transpersonal Research. He has been
trained in Gestalt Therapy at the Institut Gestalt in
Barcelona, in Altered States of Consciousness at the
Society of Etnopsychology and Cognitive Studies, and
in Holotropic Breathwork and Transpersonal
Psychology at the Grof Transpersonal Training. He has
been visiting scholar at the California Institute of
Integral Studies (CIIS), coordinator of the psychedelic
emergency service at BOOM festival, and has teaching
experience in the field of transpersonal psychology.
Email: ikerpuente@hotmail.com
... I observed improvements with my self-worth, self-esteem, and perceived personal well-being. For instance, Puente (2014) demonstrated improvements to health, self-actualization, and the facilitation of peak experiences or mystical experiences within a week-long HB workshop which contributed to increases in personal well-being and life satisfaction. Crafted from Stan Grof's (1973) clinical experiential observations of LSD, a psychoactive drug, HB induces an enhanced state of awareness which has inherent transformational and healing value, when "administered in an appropriate set and setting" (Boroson, 2014, p. 86) without the use of psychoactive drugs or mind-altering substances. ...
... Literature on Holotropic Breathwork (HB) has identified therapeutic potentials. These include: fostering healing and changes in experiences of non-ordinary states of consciousness (Brouillette, 1997); increasing self-esteem and significantly reducing death anxiety (Holmes et al., 1996); expanded identity and an authentic motivation and willingness to improve relationship quality with family members, specifically with parents (Landaeta, 2018); increasing life satisfaction and personal wellbeing (Puente, 2014); and experiencing transformation, conscious wholeness, and psychospiritual healing through an experience of "at-one-ment" (e.g. atonement) (Smirnova, 2013). ...
... While some argue against an emphasis on experiential, bodily awareness, and emotional development, research demonstrated HB is of therapeutic value (Boroson, 2014;Eyerman, 2013;Landaeta, 2018;Pressman, 1993;Puente, 2014) given the experiential psychotherapy, bodily awareness, and emotional development specific to the practice of HB. ...
Research
Full-text available
Utilizing autoethnography methodology blended with Moustakas’ (1990) heuristic research data collection and analysis elements of intuition and immersion, the study explored my experience of intuition and immersions within the Holotropic Breathwork® community. Holotropic Breathwork® was developed by Stanislav Grof and Christina Grof (2010) as a technique for self-exploration and experiential psychotherapy. I was the researcher and only participant in this study. This involved my engagement in the practice of Holotropic Breathwork®, in enhanced states of awareness, from 2016 to 2019 at eight Holotropic Breathwork® immersions, each five-and-a-half days long, with a total of 16 breathwork sessions as a breather. Relevant literature and personal experience on intuition and Holotropic Breathwork® were critically reviewed to engage the topic and research questions. Data collection, analysis, and interpretation was conducted over a two year experiential and immersive autoethnographic writing process. Data collected for analysis included journal entries, reflexive notes, cultural texts and books, pictures, collages, vision boards, videos, artifacts, and personal secrets and stories. Data analysis followed a synthesis of Chang’s (2008) suggested cyclical process of data collection, analysis, and interpretation, the use of intuition as defined by Moustakas (1990) and the simple strategy as highlighted by Adams et al. (2014) by analyzing and interpreting through the process of making sense through story to identify themes. Specifically, I incorporated intuition to access emotionally charged memories and material from my past for examination. I applied self-care strategies and sought trusted support to cope and process emotional pain due to anxiety, depression, fear, insecurities, distress, and self-distrust. The study revealed the courage to ask for what I need, immersive self-care, trusted support with lived experience, and trusting myself in the present moment from my experience of intuition and immersions in the Holotropic Breathwork® community. The findings of this autoethnography support the use of intuition in research and the integration of Holotropic Breathwork® experiences derived from further self-exploration and the therapeutic writing of autoethnography. Future research on intuition and Holotropic Breathwork® may benefit from utilizing intuition to investigate links between Holotropic Breathwork® experiences, intuition, immersion, self-care, support networks, and self-trust.
... One striking commonality is that samples are often so small that they have almost no statistical significance and cannot be generalizable. Significant methodological problems were found in most studies, such as the omission of research procedures, conflating variables, such as inclusion of participants in-training to become facilitators in HB (e.g., Afanasenko et al., 2014;Brouillete, 1997;Hanratty, 2002;Puente, 2014aPuente, , 2014b, the presence of Grof himself, the residential nature of workshops (e.g., Brouillete, 1997;Hanratty, 2002;Puente, 2014a), and the use of meditation (Mazorco, 2014;Robedee, 2008). All these affect the results and its interpretations. ...
... The instruments used for the study are undisclosed and have unknown levels of validity. It is unknown what effect language proficiency may have had on any of the assessments, or even which languages may have been used for the assessments since participants hailed from many countries.Puente (2014aPuente ( , 2014bPuente ( , 2014c conducted empirical studies in HB including a week-long workshop conducted by Stanislav Grof and Jack Kornfield that combined HB with Buddhist meditation. Puente's (2014a) study covered the short-term and long-term effects of HB and related the subjective effects of the method to the peak experiences studied by Abraham Maslow. ...
... Additionally, this type of design does not shed light on how these changes are integrated by people or what types of new issues may emerge after HB. Longer-term studies using follow-ups at four, six, or 12 months after HB (e.g.Brouillete, 1997;Hanratty, 2002;Puente, 2014aPuente, , 2014b allowed researchers to witness features of the experience that might have some stability over a given time post-experience. The major challenge with the use of follow-ups is discerning whether the long-lasting effects are a direct result of HB and not other factors, such as participation in other types of workshops, therapies, and so forth.Previous studies conducted with the goal of discerning whether HB induces altered states have not reached a clear and straightforward conclusion. ...
Thesis
Full-text available
Holotropic Breathwork (HB) is a method of self-exploration developed by Stanislav and Christina Grof in the mid-1970s. Research has only just begun to investigate the effects of HB, while the possible influence of the context and other features of HB within the experience and its impact have not been studied in depth. This qualitative study investigated the perceived impact of HB on 6 women and 6 men (ages 25–67) in Chile, using Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), an emergent method developed specifically to work with these types of subjective issues. Results revealed 10 major themes involving both intrapsychic and relational features: (a) healing purpose; (b) interest in self-exploration; (c) the psyche as an inner source of knowledge; (d) increased self-awareness; (e) resolution/closure; (f) perceived changes within the self; (g) increased awareness of self and others; (h) integration as a process; (i) influence of the HB setting; and (j) the facilitator’s role. Results provide support for some elements of the existing theory and practice of HB, but, given the influence of preparation, the reasons for seeking HB, and the integration of experiences on the perceived impact of HB, revision of some HB procedures may provide better support for workshop attendees.
... To date, few studies have examined empirically the potential of this hyperventilation procedure to produce mystical experiences, giving some preliminary evidence (Puente, 2014a;Puente, 2014b). Puente (2014a;2014b) conducted some preliminary research exploring the subjective effects of HB using the SCQ in the context of a weeklong workshop. ...
... To date, few studies have examined empirically the potential of this hyperventilation procedure to produce mystical experiences, giving some preliminary evidence (Puente, 2014a;Puente, 2014b). Puente (2014a;2014b) conducted some preliminary research exploring the subjective effects of HB using the SCQ in the context of a weeklong workshop. In a first study Puente (2014b) explored the effects of HB on levels of distress, meaning of life, death anxiety and personality in a young adult sample, aged 18-35, in the context of a weeklong workshop, and also the subjective effects and persistent effects of HB, using a battery of tests. ...
... Puente (2014a;2014b) conducted some preliminary research exploring the subjective effects of HB using the SCQ in the context of a weeklong workshop. In a first study Puente (2014b) explored the effects of HB on levels of distress, meaning of life, death anxiety and personality in a young adult sample, aged 18-35, in the context of a weeklong workshop, and also the subjective effects and persistent effects of HB, using a battery of tests. A single group, Pre-Post test design, with a 12-month follow-up was used. ...
Article
Full-text available
ABSTRACT: The purpose of the present study was to explore the subjective effects of Holotropic Breathwork (HB), specifically looking at the incidence of mystical experiences or peak experiences , in a Russian sample in the context of a daylong workshop. A single group design was used. A total of 134 subjects, aged 18-64 years, participated in the study. The States of Consciousness Questionnaire (SCQ) was administered to determine the incidence of mystical or peak experiences. Thirteen of the 134 participants (9.7%) met criteria for a " complete " mystical experience. The higher scores were found in deeply felt positive mood, transcendence of time and space and internal unity subscales of the SCQ. We found similar scores in the CEC to those found in a previous study in people under the influence of 5mg/70kg and 10mg/70kg of psilocybin. RESUMEN: El presente estudio tiene como objetivo principal explorar los efectos subjetivos de la res-piración holotrópica, centrándose específicamente en la incidencia de experiencias místicas o ex-periencias cumbre, en una muestra de voluntarios rusos obtenida en Moscú, en el marco de un taller de respiración holotrópica un día de duración. Se utilizó un diseño de un solo grupo. Un total de 134 sujetos, de entre 18-64 años, participó en el estudio. Se administró el Cuestionario de Es-tados de Consciencia (CEC) para determinar la incidencia de las experiencias místicas o experien-cias cumbre. Trece de los 134 participantes (9,7%) en el estudio cumplieron con los criterios para una experiencia mística "completa. Las puntuaciones más altas se encontraron en las subescalas " estado de ánimo positivo sentido profundamente " , " trascendencia del tiempo y el espacio " y " unidad interna " del CEC. Encontramos resultados similares en el CEC a los encontrados en un estudio previo en personas bajo la influencia de dosis de 5mg/70kg y 10mg/70kg de psilocibina. Palabras clave: respiración holotrópica, cuestionario de estados de consciencia, experiencia mística, expe-riencia cumbre, psicología transpersonal
... To date, few studies have examined empirically the therapeutic potential of this hyperventilation procedure. However, there is some preliminary evidence of the clinical utility of HB (Binarova, 2003;Holmes, 1996;Puente, 2013, 2014a, Puente, 2014b. ...
... Pressman (1993) also found a significant reduction of the GSI and the anxiety subscale of the BSI after six HB sessions (N=20). Puente also found a significant reduction of the GSI and the anxiety subscale of the BSI (N=22) two weeks and four months after a weeklong HB workshop (Puente, 2010), and also a non significant reduction of the anxiety subscale of the BSI and the GSI four weeks and six months after a weeklong HB workshop in a young sample in a previous pilot study (N=16) (Puente, 2014b). ...
... To date, few studies have examined empirically the therapeutic potential of this hyperventilation procedure. However, there is some preliminary evidence of the clinical utility of HB (Binarova, 2003;Brewerton et al, 2012;Eyerman, 2013;Hanratty, 2002;Holmes, 1996;Pressman, 1993;Puente, 2013, 2014a, Puente, 2014b. ...
... Pressman (1993) also found a significant reduction of the GSI and the anxiety subscale of the BSI after six HB sessions (N=20). Puente also found a significant reduction of the GSI and the anxiety subscale of the BSI (N=22) two weeks and four months after a weeklong HB workshop (Puente, 2010), and also a non significant reduction of the anxiety subscale of the BSI and the GSI four weeks and six months after a weeklong HB workshop in a young sample in a previous pilot study (N=16) (Puente, 2014b). ...
Article
Full-text available
ABSTRACT: The purpose of this pilot study was to examine changes in physiological and psychological meas- ures in a group of healthy volunteers following participation in a Holorenic Breathwork (HrcB) session. A single group, pretest/posttest design was used. A total of 11 subjects, aged 30-47 participated in the study. Inclusion criteria were as follows: +18 years, Spanish speaking and no know-diagnosed mental disorder. The intervention consists in a single HrcB session. The psychological measures included the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI). Physiological measures included the HRV. Participants completed the psycho- logical assessments and provided a HRV measure at baseline (pre-HB), and within 15-30 minutes after the HB session (post-HB). Significant improvements in HRV, as well as reductions in the state anxiety level, were observed from baseline to post-HB. Reductions in state anxiety levels were associated with reductions in the HRV levels. Thus, positive improvements in levels of anxiety were associated with in- creased HRV levels. RESUMEN: El propósito de este estudio piloto fue evaluar los cambios en ciertas medidas fisiológicas y psi- cológicas en un grupo de voluntarios sanos después de la participación en una sesión de Respiración Holorénica (RHrn). Se empleo un diseño pretest /postest de un solo grupo. Un total de 11 sujetos de entre 30 -47 años participaron en el estudio. Los criterios de inclusión fueron los siguientes: +18 años, hablar en español y ausencia de diagnóstico de trastorno mental. La intervención consistió en una única sesión de RHrn. Las medida psicológica de ansiedad se realizó empleando el Inventario de Ansiedad Estado- Rasgo (STAI). La medida fisiológica estudiada fue la Variabilidad de la Frecuencia Cardiaca (VFC). Los participantes completaron las evaluaciones psicológicas y proporcionaron una medida de la VFC en el momento basal (pre-RHrn), y unos 15-30 minutos después de la sesión de RHrn (post-RHrn). Se observa- ron mejoras significativas en la VFC, así como reducciones en el nivel de ansiedad estado entre las medi- das pre-RHrn y post-RHrn. Las reducciones en los niveles de ansiedad estado se asociaron con reduccio- nes en los niveles de la VFC. Así, las mejoras positivas en los niveles de ansiedad se asociaron con un aumento de los niveles de la VFC.
... To achieve such a synthesis (a holistic understanding of the human being), transpersonal psychotherapy uses a broad range of interventions, for example, meditation, gestalt techniques, dream work, guided imagery, disidentification, bodywork, imagination, focusing, breathwork, and hypnosis (Brown, 2012;Grof & Grof, 2010). These interventions, especially holotropic breathwork, have been extensively empirically studied and associated with considerable beneficial psychological effects as well as altered states of consciousness (European Transpersonal Association, 2014;Puente, 2014;Rock, Denning, Harris, Clark, & Misso, 2015). Several of these interventions partially integrate Buddhist approaches, such as mindfulness or psychotherapeutic bodywork which can be illustrated by the somatic marker theory (Assagioli, 1967(Assagioli, , 1965(Assagioli, /2000Damasio, 1996). ...
Article
Mindfulness-based interventions have been found to be beneficial in the treatment of various disorders. In the context of psychosynthesis therapy, mindfulness is employed as having an inner dialogue with the mental system and its psychological and psychosomatic components. However, empirical studies on the effect of this transpersonal-based mindfulness approach are still lacking. This study aimed at investigating the effect of mindfulness in the context of psychosynthesis on psychopathological symptoms. Fifty-eight participants (35 females, 23 males) attending a psychosynthesis seminar provided data on psychopathology (Symptom Checklist-90-Revised; SCL-90–R) and mindfulness (Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire; FFMQ) at baseline (T1), postintervention (T2), and 3-week follow up (T3). A significant decrease for all psychopathological symptoms assessed by the SCL-90–R (p < .001) and an increase in mindfulness abilities determined by the FFMQ (p < .001) from T1 to T2 was observed. Postintervention effects remained stable at 3-week follow up. The decrease in psychopathological symptoms from T1 to T2 was significantly correlated to an increase in mindfulness abilities (p < .012). Future studies should investigate the effects of dialogical mindfulness on specific symptomatology including control conditions.
Chapter
One research question guided the autoethnographic inquiry: “What is the experience of intuition and immersion in the Holotropic Breathwork community?” The experience of intuition and Holotropic Breathwork are subjective. An autoethnography is proposed to allow focus on personal and evocative narratives of the author. Specifically, Jones, Adams, and Ellis method for autoethnographic data analysis was followed to bring the reader into the experience while being vulnerable. Data analysis revealed (1) appropriate set and setting, (2) mutual support, and (3) self-trust as salient themes. Future considerations to inform possible alternatives and integrative methods for coping with anxiety, depression, and enhancing quality decision making given the experience of intuition and immersions in the Holotropic Breathwork community are discussed.
Conference Paper
Full-text available
This presentation addresses the increasingly evident resonance between certain aspects of mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) and psychedelic research and practice. An overview of recent academic literature suggests that both MBIs and psychedelics may have shared phenomenological effects, mechanism of action and therapeutic potentials, and the increasing use of mindfulness and self-compassion scales as outcome measures in psychedelic research substantiates this relationship. The thus emerging picture reveals the potential of psychoactive compounds as novel pharmacological pathways for establishing mindfulness-related capacities on the one hand as well as novel areas of the application of MBIs in the context of psychedelic practice on the other. It also highlights the need to address the broader theoretical and paradigmatic questions related to what may be the underlying spectrum on which both of these interventions may be conceptualized despite their dramatic differences. Given the successful mainstreaming of mindfulness in the recent decades based on research into its effectiveness together with its increasing spread and acceptance in various sectors of society, this presentation also reflects on what the psychedelic renaissance may learn from the recent growth and proliferation of MBIs. When also the greater historical and cultural contexts are considered, the recent research also has potential to shed new light on the disputed relationship of the Buddhist traditions to both mindfulness and psychedelics – while simultaneously allowing space for more traditional Buddhist soteriological critiques of these increasingly common practices.
Article
Full-text available
The purpose of the present study was to explore the effects of Holorenic Breathwork (HrnB), a pro-longed, voluntary hyperventilation procedure, on certain personality properties, meaning of life and levels of dis-tress. A total of 62 subjects, aged 18-35 years, were compared using a repeated measures design. The experimen-tal group (N=31) participated for the first time in a workshop where the hyperventilation procedure was used. Measures were taken before and after the workshop (one week and one month later). The control group subjects (N=31) did not receive any alternative treatment. The tests used were the Symptom Checklist-90-Revised (SCL-R-90), the Purpose in Life Test (PLT) and the Temperament and Character Inventory (TCI-R). In the experimen-tal group, there was a significant reduction in the Global Severity Index of the SCL-R-90, and a significant in-crease in the meaning of life (PLT), Self-directedness, Cooperativeness and Self-transcendence (TCI-R) one week and one month after the workshop.
Article
The paper investigates the effect of single or repeated set of holotropic breathwork on certain personality properties, attitudes and the value orientation. Eighty one subjects participated in the research (36 "breathers", 34 "non-breathers" and 11 " first-breathers"). The group of breathers was constituted by persons who participated in the at least four sessions of holotropic breathwork; responders from the non-breather group were comparable on the basis of the following criteria: sex, age and education. The experimental subjects from the first-breather subjects were tested for the first time before their first holotropic breathwork session and retested afterwards (after about three weeks). The investigated variables were measured by means of the Life test (P.I.L.) of Crumbaugh and Maholick, test of attitudes and values (Value-Belief Q-sort) of Harman, Fadiman and Mogar and the Personal orientation inventory (P.O.I.) according to Shostrom. In the first-breathers, there was a significant improvement in the satisfaction of needs for the meaning of life and a significant decrease of rigidity and dogmatism. It became obvious that the breathers were less rigid and dogmatism in comparison with non-breathers (including scientific area), display positive changes in their attitude to unusual understanding of the reality, are less inclined to believe in conventional values and apply them with a higher flexibility. Their approach to reality is also more adequate and they re able to live the present moment, are more self-sufficient and more independent on the attitudes of other people, more sensitive to their own feelings and needs, express more spontaneity, experience a higher self-esteem and exert a better capacity to socialize cordially. All these differences were statistically significant. The breathers did not experience a better satisfaction in their need for life meaning than the non-breathers. The experience from the holotropic breathwork session was evaluated by all participants as a contribution to better communication with people, a deeper knowledge of the surrounding world and a higher acceptance of previously refused opinions and thoughts.
Article
A problem not yet extensively researched among hemodialysis patients and their families concerns matters of dying and death. This paper presents a comparative study of general and death anxiety among 3 different groups of physically ill males (center and home hemodialysis patients and surgery patients) and their wives. The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, the State Trait Anxiety Inventory and Templer's Death Anxiety Scale were administered to all subjects. In addition a Death Questionnaire was used in a structured interview setting with dialysis patients and their spouses in their homes. General and death anxiety scores of male and female subjects were compared. Husband wife correlation coefficients were determined for measures obtained. Intercorrelations of the measures used were also determined.