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Holotropic vs Pause Breathwork – The 3 BIG Differences (And the #1 Mistake Most New Breathers Make)

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Are you wondering what Holotropic breathwork is? Or maybe you’re wondering why it isn’t working for you… 

In this article, I’m going to break down the 3 MAJOR differences between Holotropic Breathwork and Pause Breathwork (and the #1 rookie mistake that most people make when they’re first beginning on their breathwork journey). 

Warning: this mistake can turn you off from breathwork forever!

Okay… so let’s start with a question that I get all of the time, which is… 

What is the difference between holotropic breathwork and Pause Breathwork? 

If you've been hanging around these parts for a while, then you already know that the first ever experience I had with breathwork was actually a holotropic style class. It was a three hour class of going as hard as possible, for as long as possible. And breathing in a way that was super activating. 

Now, one of the big differences between holotropic breathwork and Pause is that, with the holotropic style – you have what's called a breather and a sitter. 

So you actually have someone sitting and watching you breathe for the entire time… which was actually super awkward for me. I remember thinking… Okay, so this person is really going to just watch me breathe for the next three hours? 

Spoiler alert – they did. 

But that's the structure of holotropic. And it does actually have its benefits. The thing with holotropic breathwork is they are cuing, and really pressuring you to go quickly (with a quite activating pattern) for a long time

Now under the lens of trauma… that’s not necessarily the best option for all people. 

So if at that moment, I had a ton of unresolved trauma and during the breath session I hit up against it, I wouldn't have known how to deal with it at that moment… And there could’ve been a huge potential of me becoming retraumatized because of it. 

Now, thankfully, that didn't happen during my experience… but it definitely could have. 

So if you're someone who is newly exploring breathwork, my philosophy of it is – it doesn't have to be intense and long for it to be deeply transformational. 

Which is why, at Pause we have two categories of breathwork for you to choose from. 

We have integrative breathwork and we have meditative breathwork. And all of our journeys are very trauma informed and all of our facilitator trainings are also very trauma informed. 

By “trauma informed”, what I mean is that we do everything under the lens of trauma. Keeping in mind that sometimes, with some people, there could be a lot of suppressed, unresolved trauma that can be agitated and that individual can be retraumatized if it's not held in a very safe way.

So to further break down the two types of breath categories that we follow at Pause…

Integrative breathwork involves a lot of slower patterns that are less activating. They're shorter, and they don't take you out of your conscious state. 

Which is completely opposite from holotropic breathwork, where you dive deep and you go deep really quickly. Which can be super powerful and beneficial for some people… but not everybody.


And that’s exactly why we have both options at Pause. Remember, breathwork is not a one size fits all approach. 

So if an individual knows that they have a lot of unresolved trauma, they're going to opt for the integrative sessions first and then, as they’re ready, they can slowly begin to transition into more meditative breathwork sessions. 

Breathwork is actually one of the most powerful healing tools for people who have trauma.

But the path of healing needs to be really mindful

We can't go into an all out meditative, deep session with someone who has a lot of unresolved trauma.

Another misconception about breathwork that I really want to address is this, breathwork does not have to be super activating and energizing in order to be deeply transformational.

At Pause Breathwork, the most active breathwork pattern that we have is called the tri active breath. 

In it, we are using just our mouth, for two breaths in. Which means you are doubling your capacity for the inhale, with one really powerful exhale. 

When you sustain that breath for a long period of time, you can go into an altered state of consciousness (and that's when people will typically see visuals). You can sort of lose touch with reality and, yes, there are some deeply healing benefits to that modality.

But it doesn't always have to be like that. 

Some of our more gentle patterns, like the hybrid active, which is in through the nose and a relaxed exhale…

Is much softer, but it's also incredibly transformational. 

So if you want to clear your mind, open your heart, and have a deeper connection to your intuition… then that's more of a suitable breath pattern for you. 

Once you stabilize that, and allow your body to get used to breathwork… that’s when you can begin to open up your window of tolerance for that feeling of energy.

So this is HUGE for people who've been numbed out, or living in a relatively disconnected state for their whole life. 

Because when you go from completely numbed out, to dumping a bunch of energy into your system, it could end up feeling really uncomfortable for that person… 

And then they'll be like, oh my God, I NEVER want to do Breathwork again!

I know that for a fact, because I get tons of DMs on Instagram saying that exact thing. With people saying they tried breathwork, and hated it.

And my response is always, always, always… well yeah, because you’ve got to start slow.

You need to slowly open up that window of tolerance or else it's going to feel like too much too soon. 

So go slow. And the slower, the better. 

Be gentle with yourself and trust your body as you're breathing. 

Anytime you take a breathwork class, know that your wisdom and your body's intelligence always wins over the cue of the facilitator. 

So if the facilitator is saying: go harder! Breathe deeper! Let's go!

But your body is like, whoa, I've hit my limit and I need a break..

Please listen to that

You are the healer, your body is the medicine, you know exactly what needs to happen

Now, with that being said… it’s also very important to call attention to this… 

When you first start doing Breathwork, you're going to realize that in those first seven minutes or so, your mind will start sending you messages like: oh this is new, I don't know this, I don't want to do this. This is so uncomfortable. 

But it’s important to distinguish that it's just the mind talking. 

So I want you to discern the difference between mind chattering and your body saying no. 

And the cool thing is, that the more you do Breathwork, the more you're going to realize the difference in what these two things sound like. 

The “no” of the mind is very busy and chaotic… It's just a noisy distraction. 

Whereas the “no” of the body is very, very clear. It's like, no. Period. End of story. Mic drop. 

And the third big difference between holotropic and Pause Breathwork, is that at Pause, we have a wide range of different breath patterns for different results. 

In other words, we are very results focused

If you want to release anger, you’re going to need more of an activating breath pattern. So we may go with the triactive breath for you. We might decide to incorporate some tribal beats, or other elements, to really aid in creating a more intense journey for you – again, for the people who are ready for that level of intensity. 

And then on the other side of the spectrum, we have much gentler patterns that are designed for a completely different result. 

So the Pause Breathwork technique is all about specific goals and end results

A lot of our tracks are activating your intuition, releasing anger, clearing the mind, opening up the heart. And we do this through being really mindful of how we cultivate these journeys. 

There's many elements that go into play in any given track. 

Versus holotropic, which is breathing as hard as you can, hoping for the best, and seeing what happens. 

Which again, I really want to empathize that that approach is not wrong. It's just different. And it doesn’t work for everybody. 

Remember, at the end of the day your breathwork practice is all about you, your preference, and your journey. 

Here’s a quick recap of the 3 BIG differences:

Difference #1: At Pause, we have two categories of breathwork – integrative and meditative. Holotropic is all about going hard and fast, no matter what your goals are.  

Difference #2: We believe in slowly acclimating the body to the intensity of breathwork, and teach techniques that are powerfully healing (no matter the intensity). 

Difference #3: Each Pause Breathwork journey is all about tailored for specific goals and end results. The holotropic breathwork technique is a one-size-fits all approach.  

My recommendation is to try both and then decide what's best for you. 

I've personally practiced tons of holographic breathwork, and then I created Pause, so of course I love Pause Breathwork. 

But it's really up to you and what you feel is best for you. 

If you've never tried a Pause journey before, try this free audio. 

Jump in, go experience it. 

And I'd love to know how you feel. 

I hope this article helped you understand the difference between holotropic breathwork and Pause Breathwork. Have a beautiful day. Bye for now. 

xx, 

Samantha

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