I was more excited for my second float then I was for my first. Now I knew what to expect as I stepped into the float pod. I knew that when I laid back I would float like an expert. I would be able to revel in the fact that I no longer had to struggle keep my body on the surface of water. As a child I spent many years taking swimming lessons in the summer. I am a strong swimmer, but floating was never something I felt I excelled at. Floatation therapy changes this. I have to wonder if this alone helps to provide some sort of psychological benefit. To all of the sudden be able to keep your body perfectly afloat on top of the water. It’s almost as if you’ve developed a super power.
This time as I stepped into the float pod and laid back I did it with confidence. I didn’t need to spend as much time adjusting into a comfortable position. Within moments I was laying back and focusing on my breathing. I would spend much of my time refocusing on my breathing. I hoped I would slip away, and I did for a few moments at a time, but I didn’t experience any of the magical moments that other floaters had experienced and shared in the journals found in the meditation room of the float spa.
Magical moments are not the goal of my floating. I needed to dig deeper into the healing benefits of floating and better understand what I needed to do to achieve the greatest benefits. Float Therapy has been said to help relieve depression, anxiety disorders, chronic pain, insomnia, PTSD, and initial research shows that it shuts down the part of your brain responsible for fight or flight. Much of the research into the benefits of float therapy is done at the Laureate Institute for Brain Research in Tulsa Oklahoma. If you visit their website they have a number of different resources including articles and lectures on the mind and body connection. They also provide you with the opportunity to volunteer for their studies.
The theory as to how floating benefits us is that it removes a large amount of external stimulation and it allows the mind to suddenly dial down activity, resulting in heightened in the moment awareness, creativity, and clarity. Translate to, you can’t be distracted by a person, the activity around you, the beautiful painting on the wall, or anything else; it’s all you. There is silence and that is something many people don’t experience until they lie down to sleep.
The physiological process of relieving the stress reaction is known as the relaxation response and it’s obtained at a state of deep relaxation and it’s the opposite of the fight or flight response. It is when our bodies are in this state that they are able to heal. Much of the chronic illness in our society is caused by the high level of stress we place on ourselves every day. In this state our bodies are fighting not only against whatever ailment, but also against us as we refuse to give it a chance to heal.
Another question I had was how frequently do you float to receive the best benefits. In reading a number of different studies they tended to do a session at least once a week and some up to two times per week for 12 sessions. Don’t lose hope though if you can’t afford to float at this frequency. Combine float sessions with regular meditation and you should be able to reap the same rewards. Floating and meditation both enable your body the chance to enter into the deep relaxation state that promotes healing.
My float spa provides me with the option of listening to my own music during my session. In the past I had not taken them up on this offer, but with a better understanding of what is happening and the systems of the body I am working with, I’ve decided for my next session I will use a guided meditation while I float that focuses on healing. Floating effects appear to be comparable to guided meditations and one would think that by combining the two you could see quicker or greater benefits. At minimum no harm will be caused by doing so.
In researching what others have found with their floatation experience I’ve noticed that many say it takes some getting use to. I would agree. There is a saying about the third time being a charm. My next float will be my third and I expect I will enter into the process even more relaxed. While sensory stimulation is reduced, there is still the awareness or the attention that comes from having a new experience. By now the novelty is wearing off, not that I don’t love it, only that with experience comes knowledge. Now when my mind asks ‘what was that’ I can almost unconsciously answer the question and get back to relaxing. I haven’t scheduled my third float yet, but I’m excited to do so within in the next couple of weeks. In the meantime to ensure the best benefits I’ll continue to meditate daily.