Holotropic breathwork is a breathing technique by which the ‘breather’ is able to access an altered state of consciousness.
The purpose of this activity is to find a breakthrough that leads to improved physical, mental or spiritual state.
Music has always played a big part in these sessions. Their role has been to make the transition into the altered state easier.
In this post, we’ve curated some of the best Holotropic breathwork music for someone looking for the right tracks for their next session.
A quick guide
- 1 What is Holotropic Breathwork?
- 2 Role of music in Holotropic Breathwork
- 3 What would you hear in a Holotropic Breathwork Music Session?
- 4 Phases of a Holotropic Breathwork Music Set
- 5 Best examples of Holotropic Breathwork Music
- 6 Meditation Mantras and Mahakatha
- 7 Conclusion
Holotropic breathwork is the most popular type of Breathwork techniques available today. It has become popular due to the intensity of the sessions and the breakthroughs that follow them.
The process itself combines accelerated breathing with evocative music in a special setting. With their eyes closed and lying on a mat, each person uses their own breath and the music in the room to enter a non-ordinary state of consciousness.
This state activates the natural inner healing process of the individual’s psyche. It often leads to cathartic breakthroughs, moving past long-held trauma in the course of a session.
The session itself is unique to each individual’s psyche, and no two sessions are the same.
Additional elements of the process include focused energy release work and integration practices such as mandala drawing.
Holotropic Breathwork is usually done in groups, although individual sessions are also possible, but still with a ‘sitter’.
In holotropic therapy, the use of breath to induce holotropic states of consciousness for healing purposes is combined with evocative music.
Throughout history, music has been used as a mind-altering tool and a healing tool. This makes it particularly potent in a holotropic session.
You can pick the music for a session from multiple sources, and you’ll see a lot of variation in how teachers set it up.
But there are a few features that make a certain track or piece conducive for breathwork.
The point of the breathing is to enter into an altered state, and music is expected to make this easier.
This means giving into the flow of the music. A popular track is likely to jar the mind of the breather into identifying the album or the artist.
The lesser-known the track is, the less likely a breather’s brain will try and identify where this music is from. Instead, they will give in to it.
This has to do again with the fact that the brain will try to identify patterns in the sound. A track with vocals might get the brain to want to make sense of it.
It is not a deal-breaker by any means, but vocals can have the opposite effect to what we are trying to achieve. But chanting vocals work well.
Chanting works even better if they are in foreign tongues. If the chants are in foreign tongues, the breather’s subconscious will tune it out as an alien sound and give themselves to it.
Drumming is an especially good way to enter an altered state, along with chanting.
But it is usually of the monotonous kind. Any sort of sophisticated music is likely to trigger a critical response from the mind.
The breather might subconsciously judge the music for its accuracy or how pleasing it is to listen to.
Though the features of suitable Holotropic breathwork music can get specific, you still get to experiment with the music.
This is because of the fact that there are usually 5 distinct kinds of music you’ll encounter in a Holotropic breathwork session.
This is because the idea is to take the breather’s mind from their default state first to a relaxed one, then ramp it up for a breakthrough, and then make it meditative.
The music has to support this journey.
The session typically begins with activating music that is dynamic, flowing, and emotionally uplifting and reassuring.
It is absolutely critical that this relaxes the mind, rather than have jarring, shouty tones.
Then the music usually switches to a more powerful, trance-inducing music. It is intense, and normally creates physical sensations in the listener.
They’re preferrably drawn from ritual and spiritual traditions of various native cultures.
Although there is nothing wrong with this music being pleasing, that should not make the case for choosing it.
About 90 minutes in, is when the entire experience peaks, That is when the facilitator plays the ‘breakthrough music’.
Sacred music is a great option for this stage, as they even in normal conditions have the ability to heighten our sensations. In a holotropic session, the effects would be multiplied.
Powerful orchestral pieces are also a great option for this phase. Some facilitators even use dramatic movie soundtracks, despite the danger of being recognized by the breathers.
Right after the peak of the Breakthrough music, it immediately settles down for what can be referred to as ‘Heart music’.
These are usually soft, emotionally-moving, loving pieces. The breathers are possibly a bit vulnerable following the intensity of the breakthrough, and this sort of music keeps the experience going while being comforting.
To close out the session, facilitators almost always opt for tracks with a timeless, meditative quality.
The breathers need to go through this final phase at their own pace, and the music should facilitate that.
Now that you have an idea of the type of music, and the expectations from these tracks for each phase, we thought we’d suggest a few tracks that will work exceptionally well in a breathwork session.
Although we haven’t curated one entire set, we provide the ideas for a particular phase.
The Ramaskandham Mantra is an ancient Hindu Mantra that is widely heard for its ability to keep nightmares away. It is normally heard before sleep.
It is an excellent Heart music option, as it has that unexplainable quality of making a listener feel held and loved.
This gentle track combines light vocals with the heavenly notes from a Hang-drum to create a sound that you can listen to endlessly.
This is perfect for the final phase of a breathwork session, as you tend to lose sense of time as you listen to it.
The Om Namah Shivaya Mantra is trance-inducing music featuring a powerful chant, both in voice and in spirit.
This type of long form chant is especially great for the second phase, because it maintains a power in the words and music, even though it is repeated a lot.
The mantra itself has the ability to bring stillness and a sense of peace to an uneasy mind.
The Vakratunda Mahakaya mantra for Lord Ganesha is excellent opening music for a breathwork session.
The mantra itself is used at the outset of any undertaking to remove obstacles. The power of the mantra is therefore best used at the start of a session.
The music is resonant and lifts the soul of a listener.
I promise you I'm not being biased towards hang-drums. But their sound lends itself very well to the right phase of Holotropic Breathwork.
It is especially good for the opening music when combined with a water drum, as this track demonstrates.
The most powerful sound in the cosmos, in chant form.
‘Om’ is considered the sound of creation in the Vedas, and it absolutely creates powerful physical sensations in the listener.
This particular track is played at 417 Hz, and is perfect for the trance-inducing phase.
The Icchapurti mantra is dedicated to Lord Krishna. It is often used as a powerful way to help manifest your deepest desires.
It works very well as heart music, as it simultaneously projects power and vulnerability.
We also feel it works as opening music, but it may be on the stronger side for some people.
This calming music from meditation expert Jason Stephenson is primarily for sleep, but it can be repurposed into the meditative music for the final phase.
It has a floating quality that can be a real boon after the intensity of the breakthrough and heart music phases.
The Sudarshana Ashtakam Mantra track is almost perfect Heart music.
On hearing the first few seconds of the track, we realized it is everything that one expects of heart music.
Apart from being peaceful and meditative, Sudarshana Astakam mantra has got the healing power to cure any illness.
Binaural beats are an excellent way to open any breathwork session.
We would even recommend playing this for the first 2 phases, opening, and trance-inducing.
This particular track combines binaural beats and alpha waves to create an excellent piece.
Meditation mantras are ancient Vedic chants that you listen to during meditation for a more immersive experience.
These mantras can transport you to another place and time during meditation, and the effect extends to when you listen to it during holotropic breathwork.
The fact that the key phrases are repeated in a meditation mantra adds to the effect on your mind.
We, at Mahakatha, have taken a lot of effort and time to bring these ancient Vedic mantras to life through our YouTube channel.
We’ve identified the benefits these have to offer, and produced them in a way that they can be used for meditation sessions.
The fundamental importance that breathwork places on breath, means these mantras are equally effective as Holotropic Breathwork music.
Chances are you’re doing, or planning to do, your holotropic sessions in a group setting with a facilitator setting things up.
But if you’re in charge, or about to do one individually, these tracks can provide the perfect backdrop.
The list above is an excellent set of tracks to help you explore the unexplored depths of your mind.
We also have a post for mantras that work well with Holotropic breathwork. Be sure to check that out.