"Considering Holotropic Breathwork: Essays and Articles on the Therapeutic and Sociological Functions and Effects of the Grof Breathwork" by Kylea Taylor 170 pp. softcover $21.95 6x9 in. 2008 978-1-59275-007-8 Short description (make a bulleted list)

Critical reviews

The Inner Door. Vol. 20 No. 2. May 2008

Book Review

Athena's Gift by Sharanya Naik

I felt pride and pleasure when Alysson asked me to review Kylea Taylor's just published Considering Holotropic Breathwork: Essays and Articles on the Therapeutic and Sociological Functions and Effects of the Grof Breathwork. What surprised me was how much I learned from reading this wonderful book. I have read a lot about Holotropic Breathwork, done a lot of work, attended more than my share of modules├│I figured I sort of knew most of it. While Considering Holotropic Breathwork did not introduce me to completely new topics, I found myself drawn into each topic as if it were new. The reason is Kylea's mastery of both subject and written expression. She speaks clearly, with the authority of one who really knows, and with the patient generosity of one who really cares.

My favorite chapter is Chapter 2, "The Practice of Sitting in Holotropic Breathwork." I don't think I've ever seen the practice of sitting written about in so much detail. Many of us speak about how sitting can be the most important aspect of the Holotropic Breathwork experience; I know some participants who get far more from their time sitting than from the three-hour breathing sessions. Kylea has written about what is expected of a sitter, why this role is so important, what a sitter can expect, and how to work with all of it. It was the attention to detail in this chapter that drew me in.

Similarly, Chapter 3, "Yogic Sleep and Meditation States during Holotropic Breathwork," was quite a revelation. I often have participants who speak with diffidence or disappointment about "nothing happening" when they breathe. Although I've heard what other facilitators say about this kind of experience and have come up with my own responses, Kylea's clear naming and describing of the various kinds of yogic sleep states is valuable to me and ultimately to the people who breathe in my workshops.

This would be a great textbook to use in the training; it has most of the theory a trainee needs. Ideally, it would be a good book to read just before the final certification module. Of special value are Chapter 7, "Sponsoring 'Unexperienced Experience,'" and Chapter 8, "The Ritual of Holotropic Breathwork," which detail the approach and work of the facilitator. It is also a great book to give to people. For instance, if you were looking for a way to talk to therapeutic communities about why they should try Holotropic Breathwork, Chapter 4, "Holotropic Breathwork Adjunct to Substance Abuse in a Therapeutic Community," would be ideal. This chapter was the most valuable for me personally. It is a thorough detailing of the issues that come up in such a setting and contains, as well, many anecdotes from participants in therapeutic communities who have done Holotropic Breathwork. After Tom Shroder's article about Dr. Michael Mithoefer's work was published in the Washington Post, I wished that we had some research about the usefulness of Holotropic Breathwork in the treatment of PTSD. Chapter 6, "Spiritual Emergency and Trauma-Based Disorders," provides this and more.

As per Kylea's usual scholarship, the footnotes are complete, the bibliography extensive and interesting. It was fun to see cited articles by familiar people such as Marty Boroson, Michael Mithoefer, Ted Riskin, Jack Silver, Kathleen Silver, Cary Sparks, and Tav Sparks excerpted from back issues of The Inner Door. Kylea gives dignity to our experiments in thinking and writing.

For many years now, we've been saying as a community that we want the world to know more about Holotropic Breathwork because it is such a powerful way. Many of us have tried writing various texts to move this work into the mainstream. Here it is, for $21.95 from Hanford Mead Publishers, a treatise on Holotropic Breathwork done so well that it is at once both immediately accessible to people with no knowledge of non-ordinary states of consciousness work and impressively informative to those who might be well versed in the subject. When I was just starting out, reading many books about transpersonal psychology and especially about Holotropic Breathwork helped me frame my experiences and expanding understanding. I recommend this approach to most breathers and suggest taking a few copies to each breathwork workshop so that participants can get their own copies.

The most exciting aspect of Holotropic Breathwork is that it arises from such a rich theoretical context. For this, we have Stan Grof to thank. I believe that Kylea Taylor's Considering Holotropic Breathwork grounds this theory in a deep and compassionate understanding of the practice of Holotropic Breathwork, articulating clearly and easily the complex weaving of the many dimensions of the work. I am grateful for her gift of scholarship and research to us, to future breathers, and to the world of Holotropic Breathwork, which is really a vast array of universes.

Sharanya Naik moved to the United States from India at the age of 22. She has since been a schoolteacher, dancer, mother, lover, writer, breather, and facilitator of work in non-ordinary states. She became certified as a Holotropic Breathwork facilitator in 2003, and holds workshops in Maryland and New York City. She can be reached through her web site at www.bodyworknj.com or by email at sharanya@earthlink.net.