meditation

Breath Techniques for Float Sessions

There are a few techniques I use during all of my float sessions:

1) Normal Breath - This may seem straight forward, but too often we get hung up on the idea that we need special breath techniques.

Normal breath is simply the observation of your breath as it passes in and out of your nostrils. This technique strengthens the connection between your body and mind. When your mind starts to wander, draw all your attention to the skin of the nostrils and philtrum (the space below the nostrils above the lip).  Your breath may be slow, fast, shallow, deep, hot, dry, moist, truncated, peaceful, noisy, etc. whatever is happening don't stress about it. OBSERVE your breath as it is and do not wish to change it. Every time your mind wanders (and trust me it will!) do not get upset or frustrated. Smile, acknowledge what has happened and start again.

By honing your attention to this small area you will begin to sharpen your mind and improve your focus. If you wish to go deeper into this technique continue reading here.

Liliya Drubetskaya, FloatOn Artist Project

Liliya Drubetskaya, FloatOn Artist Project

2) Ujayii Breath (pronounced ooh-JAH-yee) - This breath is often used in Ashtanga and Vinyasa style yoga classes to raise breath awareness and naturally build heat inside the body.  

If you want to practice your Ujayii,  constrict the whisper muscles at the back of your throat, seal your lips and exhale through your nose. If you are doing it properly you will create the sound of ocean waves. This sound is soothing and is effective at centering you at the start of your float session. 

The added bonus of Ujayii is that it warms the body from the inside. If I ever find myself feeling a chill during a float session, I will start to practice this breath. After 5 to 10 breaths heat immediately begins to build in my body.  For a more in-depth explanation of Ujayii click here. 

3) Tongue Sipping (Sitali) - This is breath is also used to raise breath awareness. It is used to cool the body during the warm summer months.

To practice sitali curl your tongue and stick it out of your mouth. Inhale deeply through your tongue as if you are sipping through a straw. You should immediately feel a cooling sensation on your tongue and in to your throat. Bring your tongue back into your mouth and exhale through your nostrils. 

If you are unable to curl your tongue, there is a similar technique called sitkari. Gently let your upper and lower teeth touch. Open your lips as wide as you can comfortably and inhale through the gaps in your teeth. Close your mouth and exhale through your nose.

If you are ever feeling warm during a float session practice 5 to 10 breaths of tongue sipping to gradually cool the body. For more information on tongue sipping click here

Every float session is unique. Our bodies are a little different each day. Our body temperatures fluctuate based on the hormonal changes, circadian rhythms, exercise and disease. The next time you are floating try out these 3 breath techniques. Experiment and gauge the impact of these techniques on your focus and comfort during your sessions. Happy Floating! 

By Lindsay Reinhardt, September 25, 2016

 

Lindsay is the Co-owner/Operator of Anicca Float Club with her husband Paul Feyer.  When she is not floating she can be found running around the Float Club, laughing like a hyena, riding her bicycle, eating scrumptious vegetarian food and striking random yoga poses. 

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After a Two Week Hiatus I Get Back in the Float Tank

Sometimes life gets away from us, we get too busy, or too distracted or something unexpected happens that shakes up our usual routines. Recently, I inadvertently took two weeks off of floating and I was eager to get back in the tank.  I had been meditating daily outside the tank, but my body was achy and looking forward to physical benefits that go along with floating. Here is my float story... 

I stepped into the float room and did my initial float tank limbo to keep my chest and belly from submerging. I leaned back and as always the water perfectly embraced my body. I slowly swayed back and forth for a few minutes occasionally tapping the walls with a finger or a toe as the waves from my entry dissipated. I drew my attention to my breath and strength of my heartbeat. I felt my heart reverberating in my chest cavity generating tiny waves of water around my rib cage with each thump.

I stayed with my breath and gradually sensations arose all over my body. I mentally scanned from the crown of my head through my toes. I noted sharp shooting pains from my right shoulder, deep rumblings from my intestines and powerful vibrations from all 10 toes. I am grateful for my Vipassana meditation practice, it has trained me to observe all these sensations, but to remain as equanimous as possible.  These strong sensations gradually give way to more subtle ones. Eventually, my breath slowed and I drifted away. I feel like I have left my human avatar for the universe of vibration and energy. Ah... I feel at home.

Photo Credit: Leslie Hero, FloatOn Artist Program

Photo Credit: Leslie Hero, FloatOn Artist Program

Some unknown length of time passed in this in-between state when suddenly fear jolted through my entire body. My heart raced and I began breathing quite heavily. I felt as if I was a bunny being chased by a pack of ravenous wolves.There are jarring flashes of light vivid that I began to question whether or not I was still alone in the float tank. I managed to settle back, thinking of the advice we often give to floaters when anxiety surfaces. 

BE WITH IT. OBSERVE IT.  STUDY HOW IT RISES AND OBSERVE HOW IT WILL PASS AWAY. 

I was restless and struggled to return to my peaceful state. Eventually, the anxious sensations dissipated, my breath slowed and returned to a deep state of peace from being with my own nothingness, then... beep, Beep, BEEP!

My meditation session had ended and it was time to me to reenter the world little lighter, calmer and wiser than before.  For me, every float is an opportunity to learn and grow, to release some baggage, to appreciate the impermanent nature of the universe and the impermanent nature of ourselves. One only needs to be quiet and still enough to observe it.

-Lindsay Reinhardt, Anicca Float Club, Inc. 2016 ©

 

Lindsay is the Co-owner/Operator of Anicca Float Club with her husband Paul Feyer.  When she is not floating she can be found running around the Float Club, laughing like a hyena, riding her bicycle, eating scrumptious vegetarian food and striking random yoga poses. 

Be Silent. Be Still. The Most Important Thing to Go Deeper During Your Floatation Therapy Sessions.

SHHH..... Floats in progress!

Sensory enhancement (as floatation pioneer Glen Perry rightfully called it) is a powerful tool to help you achieve deeper states of meditation, explore your consciousness, work through anxieties and traumas or just relax and take an amazing power nap.

The Float center and the float equipment set the stage for you to delve into your inner verse! But and this is a big BUT... Float Room, Tank or Pod DO NOT do the work for you. The tank is simply the space that enables you to do the work on yourself.

In a time when we are pushing the limits of the human body to accomplish feats that were once considered impossible, it is easy to feel like doing NOTHING might not be necessary. But it is actually the MOST necessary thing to achieve ANYTHING. 

Coming from a background in Vipassana meditation our first experience in the float tank made us realize the power of the float tank for mediation.  Vipassana focuses on the interconnection of the mind and the body.  In the Float Room all outside stimulation is removed.  It is the PERFECT place to OBSERVE the body and mind and how one influences the other.

During 10 Day Vipassana Courses, there is something called "sitting with a strong determination". During these hour long meditation sessions one sits as still as possible regardless of the pleasant or unpleasant sensations that one may be feeling. By observing one's breath, being still and remaining equanimous (neutral) one begins a self-exploratory journey to the common root of the body and the mind. 

Feeling Lost?  To put it simply: WHEN THE BODY IS STILL THE MIND WILL FOLLOW. Stillness at the physical body is THE MOST IMPORTANT THING in meditation and in floating! This is the key to getting the most out of your time in the Float tank.  Every movement you make in the tank gives your brain something to process that is OUTSIDE your body. 

Tingling sensations? OBSERVE THEM.

Itchy sensations?  OBSERVE THEM.

Warm sensations? OBSERVE THEM.

Anxieties surface? OBSERVE THEM. 

Monkey Brain?  OBSERVE IT!

When you realize you have the power to observe the things that happen at the physical OR mental level without reacting to them you will start to feel like you have super powers, because we ALL have this super power.  You will discover new levels of self control and discipline. You will find new levels into your consciousness. You will be happier, calmer and more peaceful. 

So what are you waiting for? Now you know that you have the power...

BE SILENT, BE STILL AND YOU WILL GO DEEPER.

-Lindsay Reinhardt, Anicca Float Club, Inc. 2016 ©

A Story of Depression, Anxiety and PTSD

Original Blog post from Colin of Float Boston, September 14th, 2014

“I remained happy, and carried with me the positive feeling into the next two days. It was almost a ‘celebratory’ feeling. One that has not been produced by any other medications, therapies, or methods of dealing with the individual diagnoses I live with. I didn’t feel the need for the anti-anxiety medications for nearly two days. Which, in my current state, almost never happens.” —Andrew

“Andrew” is a real person, though that’s not his real name.  Over the last two years he’s been clinically diagnosed with Treatment-Resistant Major Depressive Disorder, PTSD, and Anxiety Disorder.  He has worked with trauma therapists and all the resources in the Boston area, including MGH and McLean hospital. He’s even gone so far as to participate in clinical studies at MGH for current drug trials that are being studied for his particular diagnosis. To date, nothing has significantly improved his quality of life, and is left with very few options short of electroconvulsive therapy.

 

He contacted us, wanting to know if he could try floating before committing to anything so drastic as ECT.   Sara and I gave it a little thought and said, you know what, helping someone like this is exactly why we want to open FLOAT.   We offered a series of three floats over three weeks, if he would write up his experiences before and after so that we could share them here.

[After my third float] I felt calm and happy, an experience I can’t remember having in a long time. So much so that I was unfamiliar with it, and didn’t know what to do with the positive happy feeling. I know how to take care of myself in the dark troubling times, but over the last few years, have lost the innate knowledge of how to feel happy, and what to do with that time.

This is an anecdote – one person’s experience, and no kind of clinically controlled trial.  Please interpret with caution.  Still we were thrilled with the results, and are excited to share them here.

Andrew summarized his own benefits this way:

  • Deep relaxation, a loss of the immediate sense of anxiety while in the tank.
  • A loss of sense of time, which in turn removes the immediate sense of depression. There are no outside influences to “worry” about while in the tank.
  • A feeling of well being following the float, similar to the relaxation effects of anti-anxiety medications.  All three floats produced this effect with varying duration between a few hours and two days.
  • Reduction of “hyper-vigilance” associated with PTSD. There is a period of acceptance and lack of paranoia, a “regular” approach to outside stimuli.  Again, the duration of this effect varied float-to-float.
  • Consistent better and easier, more restful sleep. All three floats had the effect of removing nightmares associated with his symptoms. This was a great relief for those evenings, almost a “reset” of the emotional chatter while resting or sleeping, and produced better rest than any drugs he had tried. This was the primary and greatest relief of all three sessions.  Two of the floats (1st and 3rd) produced instances as long as two days of removed or reduced nightmares.

He floated one 90-minute session per week for three weeks. For each session he did not take his standard pre-emptive anxiety medication; this was with the approval of his regular treaters, as a healthy experiment. There were no concerns over foregoing the medication on these three days.

Floatation therapy helps people achieve total peace. Floating effortlessly calms the nervous system.

Floatation therapy helps people achieve total peace. Floating effortlessly calms the nervous system.

I approached the first float with a heightened sense of anxiety, as I did not know what to expect, or how the process would affect me. Also, I had a heightened anxiety at being out of my “comfort zone” not having a sense of the area, or the individuals associated with the float (Sara and Colin). While I was provided with excellent instructions from Sara prior to the experience, it may be beneficial to individuals with similar diagnoses to speak to the heightened concerns of the first experience.

His experiences in the tank were not unusual:

Not knowing what to expect, the initial warmth, darkness, and buoyancy created an initial concern over “doing it right”. Once I got used to the experience of relaxation, I was able to “let go”. It did however nearly hurt to let go the tense tight hold on my joints, specifically in the pelvic, lower back, shoulders and neck area.

This resistance to letting go – he described it as being like “fear” or “pain” – significantly lessened during the next two floats, as it became more familiar. Once he recognized the experience, it became easier to accept the “pain” associated with relaxation.

My body slowly letting go allowed my internal “chatter” to slow down. Focused on the body, and its experience, there was no internal focus on the anxiety or depression.

As his internal dialog slowed, he became increasingly aware of physical sensations like the slight difference in temperature between the areas of his body covered or not covered by water.  His internal dialog crept louder again, as the “wonder of the relaxation” became “odd and important”, but faded again fairly quickly.  It is not unusual in the tank for feelings of self-awareness to ebb and flow in waves.

During this period, my eyes were closed and colors appeared, along with an internal sense of “movement”.  This experience felt very similar to deep meditation, and after a while (the loss of time being a consequence of the float) everything slowed, and the relaxation, the internal chatter, and all the familiar fears and concerns disappeared. I remained in this state until the music began, and I [became] aware that the 90 minutes had passed. I don’t know how long the persistence of awareness was absent, as the loss of time was prominent, but it did feel lengthy.

After showering, Andrew reported an awareness of a sense of connection between his “higher” and “lower” brain, producing a feeling of calm and well-being.

One challenge I experienced after the first float, which happened with each float, was the feeling of being “thrust” right back into the daily grind, the noise, the annoyances, and the solidity of everything. However, I was able to “watch” my reaction to the real world, and maintained the feeling of “connection to the higher and lower brain”. The ability to “watch” rather than “react” was a great relief (and very similar to deep meditation, only informed by the body, rather than the mind). The relief continued for some time afterward, lasting nearly the rest of the day.

Andrew described one of the symptoms of his PTSD being hyper-vigilance, a feeling of need to be aware of everything in his environment as a constant possible threat.  He described this period of relief following floats, with durations between a few hours (after his second float) and two days (after his third) as a time when he could notice things like a new car parked down the street without feeling the need to keep track of it.

The evening after the first float, it felt as though I was able to “conjure” the connection of higher and lower brain, and relax into sleep. That night, I did not experience any nightmares, and woke feeling rested, and calm.

Andrew described the improved sleep as the most important effect, for him, of the float sessions.  Nightmares are a constant experience for him, and few other things have helped his sleep.  Drugs, notably, are able to suppress the nightmares only by rendering him unconscious without leaving any feeling of restfulness. Floating gave him that feeling, and without side effects.

By midday on the day after, the familiar anxiety, hyper-vigilance, and depression returned, but carried the knowledge that the reduction in severity was possible.  This acted as a reminder of the sense of relief, rather than “falling” deeper into the depression. This reminder did accompany my symptoms for a few days after.

His sense of wellbeing and “near happiness” consistently lasted nearly a full day, and sometimes into the next. The duration was not predictable, but it seemed to be connected to how quickly his relaxation occurred while in the tank, and how long the “letting go” experience lasted.  His second float took the longest time to relax and “let go”, as anticipation of the experience was “higher” – this is a common occurrence, having the second float experience be markedly different from the first. His third float was easy and deeper, similar to his first float, and resulted in some symptoms being totally absent afterward.

A few more resources:

Nearly 20 percent of veterans who have returned from Afghanistan and Iraq have post-traumatic stress disorder. Some have found help with an alternative treatment called "floatation therapy."

 

Justin Feinstein from the Laureate Institute for Brain Research (LIBR) talks about the ability of float tanks to help people combat anxiety at the 2013 Float Conference.

Why You Should Float More Than Once

Do you remember the first time you rode a bicycle? How about your first yoga class? The first time you attempted to bake something from scratch or even learn to tie your own shoelaces? Do you remember those moments where you felt awkward or overwhelmed as your brain tried to comprehend exactly what was happening and how it should process it rather than just go with it?!  

Well... your first float may be a lot like that.  The float room environment is unique.  The 1,000 pounds of epsom salts dissolved in the water create an environment that eliminates nearly all the effects of gravity on the body.  The float room is quiet, dark and free of all external stimuli. This is foreign to our modern day brains which are commonly cruising on a super highway of stimulation.  Most of us actually need to learn how to relax in the float tank!  

I have had floats were I quickly drift into that "in between state", but I have had many floats where my mind wants to run since it has nothing else to analyze. The default of the human mind is to RUN.  We all face the same challenge of "quieting the mind". We all must learn how to observe our monkey minds without reaction. So don't stress if your mental monkey would rather play hopscotch than meditate during your first float. The mind works a lot like our biceps. The more you deliberately practice mindfulness the better you will get!

The other challenge new floaters face in the float room is convincing your brain that it is impossible to sink (because you CAN'T!) I will never forget spending hours in swim lessons as a kid just learning how to float;  front floats, back floats, rescue breathing floats. No matter how relaxed you are in fresh water, you still need to expend some energy to keep your body from sinking. However, while floating the less you move and the more you relax, the better it gets! 

Image courtesy of thephotoholic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of thephotoholic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Finally, be patient. Our society has come to a place where we are stimulated from the moment we wake up until the second we go to bed.  We must consciously make decisions to find our own peace or it is really easy to get swept away in whatever stimulating current is rushing past.  Please do not feel discouraged if you do not experience meditative bliss your first float.  The float room takes you out of the rat race so you can give yourself some YOU TIME.  Give floating a few chances and with a little practice you will succeed to LET GO of your words, thoughts and your body for a delightfully peaceful hour of NOTHING.  HAPPY FLOATING!