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Aquanima: A Holotropic Breathwork Experience in Warm Water (Part 1 of 8)

by Bernadette Blin

Edited and posted by Alysson TrofferThe Inner Door Editor, InnerDoor (at)

[Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in the November 2008 issue of The Inner Door.]

This eight-part article contains the following posts:

Part 1: Introduction

Part 2: Water

Part 3: Heat

Part 4: Nudity

Part 5: Accompaniment

Part 6: Three-Dimensional Work

Part 7: Indications and Contraindications

Part 8: Last Words


Before developing Aquanima, I had completed my Holotropic Breathwork training as well as done work in swimming pools with different therapists such as Paul Bindrim and Rafaël Estrada Villa. I had also experienced Rebirthing in warm water.

As my Holotropic Breathwork practice evolved, my husband, Francis, and I began to wonder how we could adapt Holotropic Breathwork for use in an aquatic environment. In the summer of 1991, we experimented with this idea for the first time. We didn’t know if the process would unfold exactly as it does in a typical breathwork session, such as whether the timing would be the same, or if working in water would accelerate the process. So, we set off on this adventure, curious to see what warm water would induce.

A friend who works with infant swimmers gave us the idea of using floating foam tubes (about one meter, 20 centimeters in length and 10 centimeters in diameter) to support the participants in the water. Since that first experience, we have used this technique extensively, developing improvements as needed. We have also trained others in France and other countries in Europe to use the technique.

We chose the name “Aquanima” for our work to differentiate it from the usual “dry” breathwork sessions, those carried out on a mattress in the conventional way. The word “Aquanima” is composed of the words “aqua,” which means “water” in Latin and “anima,” which means both the “breath” and the “soul,” and is also found in the word “animal.” Through using the breath in a certain way, we connect the soul to the body.

Aquanima includes the essential components of Holotropic Breathwork as it was developed by Stan and Christina Grof, to which several powerful and effective elements have been added. Typically, an Aquanima workshop lasts four days, and we usually have a theme such as “Death and Rebirth,” “Opening the Heart,” or “Sexuality, Source of Life.” Participants work in trios (groups of three), so we have three breathwork sessions. The first session is held one afternoon and the two others are held the day after, with a long break in between so that people can rest. For some, it requires much energy to stay in warm water for several hours.

Bernadette Blin is a psychologist, transpersonal psychotherapist, and Gestalt therapist, trainer, and supervisor. She is also founder and director of the Institute for Research and Studies in Transpersonal Therapies (IRETT) in France. Certified in Holotropic Breathwork by Stan Grof, she has written many articles about transpersonal psychotherapy. Her book
Healing the Ego, Revealing the Being was published in French in 2009.


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