I'm sure you have unless you’ve been living under your yoga mat, have probably heard of floating. It's known by two therapeutic terms as well:
1. Flotation Therapy
2. R.E.S.T. (Restricted Environmental Stimulus Therapy)
So what does Yoga have to do with the getting into a shallow, salty pool devoid of external sensory input?
The Float Tank
The tank is soundproof, filled with Epsom salt and heated to 93.5 Fahrenheit, which is roughly the same temperature as the surface of your skin. This makes the water in the float tank a neutral skin receptor and reduces tactile sensation. Being full of Epsom salts, the water is dense, so, you float as if you're bathing in the Dead Sea.
Float tanks reduce the sensory input detected by your nervous system. In spite of this bombardment, our conscious brain is only aware of a few pieces of information at any given time. But our nervous systems receive constant stimulation.
Inside the tank we experience no sights or sounds. Tactile sensations are minimal. This rare environment inside the float tank gives our nervous system a break similar to when you're in a deep state of meditation.
Have you ever worked late at night and noticed how your brain just trails off. Or have you ever stayed awake with a crying baby until 4am? How about studying for that last exam until your eyes can barely stay open?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, you know how exhaustion diminishes your ability to function. Now imagine getting a type of rest so complete it rejuvenates you at the nervous system level.
This rejuvenation manifests in several ways. But the top 5 physical and mental benefits are stress management, pain relief, meditational aid, the ability to reach altered states of consciousness, and visualization techniques for athletic performance or enhanced creativity.
So, how Does Floating Relate to Yoga?
The word yoga can be translated as “yoke” or “union”. Yoga is the union of the mind and body in the present moment.
Yoga practitioners focus concentration on the poses, breath, and the Drishti (visual focal point). Once achieved, we experience a synergistic effect. The result is a greater connection to the present moment. The practice becomes a moving meditation.
A yoga practice has eight limbs, each equally important. One of the eight limbs is Pratayhara, or sense withdrawal. There are two methods to achieve this. The first requires the practitioner to close their eyes, nose, and ears using the hands. This induces sensory restriction.
Another is when the yogi seeks out a sensory reduced environment such as a cave or chamber. Floating is a modern-day refinement of this ancient practice. The lack of sensory input allows for mind-body permeability to increase. This helps dissolve perceived boundaries and supports creation of a union.
By rooting awareness in our body, both floating and yoga help us be more aware of an endless stream of thoughts. Many of these focus on past or future events, neither of which exist outside of our mind.
Floating, yoga, or meditation are not “better” than the other. They're all methods to reach altered states, which can lead to profound experiences but, there are pros and cons to each of the three. The common pitfall of each is that they can become an unconscious crutch. This happens when the practitioner performs any of the practices without mindfulness.
For the most part yoga, floating, and meditation compliment one another. I like to do a challenging yoga class, which releases pent-up energy, followed by floating to decompress. With this combination, my body feels like a puddle of cellular ooze. I feel ready to dissolve into the ether of the un-manifest (individual results may vary).
Floating is a practice like yoga and meditation. Most people can’t jump into a power yoga class and immediately press into a handstand. Similarly, you’re not likely to reach an egoless state on the first, second, or even hundredth float. It’s a practice! This means that, for most people, it will take time and work to get there. The paradoxical goal of all three practices is to “let go” without wanting or trying to do so. The expression “effortless effort” applies here.
It’s important for people to delve into these realms at some point in their lives. Exploring our inner space can be as adventurous as outer space and offers an appeal to mystery. Go float on that for a while!
Join Us For A Float and Flow!
Interested in delving into the mystery and seeing what it's all about? Starting now while quantities last, receive a Float and Flow bundle for 1 Float at Float House and 1 Drop in Class at YYoga for $60 and save $35 off the regular drop in rates. Passes can be purchased at YYoga Yaletown, YYoga Kitsilano, YYoga Downtown Flow as well as, Float House Gastown and Float House Kitsilano.
- Andy Zaremba
Founder of The Float House