You may or may not know this about me, but I’m a highly anxious person. I believe that I have fallen into the category that you teach best what you need to learn most–hence the relaxing profession I am in. Also, I fear the life I may have if I had never discovered massage therapy, meditation, and holistic health. Another thing you may not know about me, I don’t know how to swim. Water doesn’t usually freak me out but I have a heightened awareness around it. I joke that I must have drown in a past life because it’s just not something that makes any sense to me. While I don’t put too much stock in anything like past lives, I don’t discount the possibility either. I took swimming lessons most of my life and like I said, it just doesn’t make sense to my nose/brain function. I enjoy the water and I can have fun with water but it’s not something I seek out unless it’s ridiculously hot!
Why am I telling you all of this??
Today, I went to F.L.O.A.T. StL! I have had several clients rave about their experience and a few tell me they were not impressed. I kept saying I would check it out BUT when I had a client struggle with a blood clot, I started seriously searching for options because massage was the only way this person could relax. I strongly believe in self-care but I also have this driving force to help others find what they need. And hey, I really don’t mind being a guinea pig for these sorts of things!
I booked my appointment and patiently waited for the day to arrive. I talked to several people requesting to explain exactly what happened so I could feel like I had nothing to worry about and I could just relax. The night before my float, I was on their website rereading everything to make sure I knew what to bring and what to expect. I discovered I didn’t need to bring anything. Just me. They took care of the rest.
I went in and there were 3 other people going to float at the same time as me but in separate rooms. The space was very nice and I loved all of the openness to the space. They burn quite a bit of incense; it was a touch overwhelming but overall pleasant. As I was filling out my new person waiver, there was casual conversation amongst the others, another woman mentioned she was from the same hometown as me. Here’s where I get really honest…. I said something stupid to her about our hometown. Something I should have just kept to myself because it wasn’t even my real intention but sometimes when I’m anxious, I just say stuff. I’m not saying that’s ok, I’m just saying that’s been my experience. I’ll come back to this.
A man took us back, showed us our respective rooms and gave us a simple tour explaining where things were and what to expect. He shared that it’s not uncommon for first time floaters to get salt water in their eyes. I couldn’t help but think about how awful that sounded and that I was specifically going to avoid that. Float has a pod option and a room option. I chose the room option because my anxiety has proved that small spaces are not my favorite. He showed us a pool noodle that you could use if you chose to or not. I was instructed to shower using their designated soap and to hop into my experience. Gentle music played for a little while during my getting comfortable stage and then it faded off.
I WROTE THIS BLOG AT LEAST 10 TIMES while I was in the float. I was so excited to share my experience that I’m not sure if I was fully present for the experience. If that isn’t irony… Also, because I was anxious, my tummy was feeling butterflies as well. This was a very cool part of the experience. I’m pretty sure I could hear every bodily function while I was in the float. I could intensely hear my heart beat. I was convinced I heard my liver working. If my toe popped, it sounded enormous in my brain. I could hear my tummy slowly settle into the experience and the anxiety slip away. Here is the even more cool part and what pertains to relaxation and bodywork. As I settled in, I could feel every ounce of tension being quietly stored in my body. I already have a keen body awareness that is sometimes so intense. My husband says I complain but it’s not complaining, I’m merely noticing the subtleties. There is an immense gratitude for this skill. It leads to a deep appreciation for my bodies ability to carry and process stress. I don’t want to imagine the level of mental stress we would experience if it weren’t for our bodies taking some of the brunt of that stress. That led me to think about some of the clients we have at Sole Shine. What a world it would be if everyone floated (even a few days) prior to receiving a massage. They would have an upper advantage to letting us know what they are experiencing deep in their body. I couldn’t help but think of every person I knew who would appreciate this service and what they would like most about it.
I knew I would struggle with thoughts but I was pleasantly surprised how quickly they weren’t consuming me. Of course, I thought about that woman in the waiting area…a lot. I thought about how I should have never said that and debated over and over if I should apologize or clarify when I saw her again. One thing I’ve learned in meditation is not to avoid or punish for the thoughts but instead acknowledge them and allow them to pass. I allowed myself to ponder and consider for awhile. Truth be told, I was specific about what I listened to before I arrived. I turned on my most recent favorite book, Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. If I were to think of anything while floating, it was not going to be about the news, or politics, or some crisis..I wanted it to be fun and creative. Which if you’ve read the book, inspiration and creativity is what it’s all about! I kept trying to get lost in thoughts about creativity but it seemed the more I tried to guide my thoughts, the more my mind resisted. So instead, I surrendered to whatever my brain decided to think up.
Quickly, I noticed I started to feel like it was difficult for me to breathe. I’m not sure if it was my anxiety or the humidity in the room. The experienced floaters may not recommend this but I opened the door. I couldn’t see anything anyway so I didn’t think it was a big deal. However, next time, I’ll barely open it before I turn out the lights because occasionally, I would get a draft over my body that was above the water. This was somewhat comforting to me at the time but it did prevent the feeling of my body merging with the water. Sensory Deprivation, in my basic understanding, is beneficial because it allows every sense to “turn off” so you can be really present with relaxation and thoughts or the absence of thoughts. I’ve been very interested in the concept since my early yoga days over 15 years ago. I tried to look up more information for this blog but seriously, there is so much information, I could write a whole blog about that! Instead, I’ll link to a few google searched articles I found. Here Here Here Here
Neck pain and TMJ discomfort is what introduced me to massage therapy. You can read more about my experience here. I have a soft spot in my heart for those who struggle with headaches and anything in the head/neck/shoulder area. During my float, I couldn’t stop noticing how tense my neck and my right shoulder felt! I kept trying to focus on relaxing that area but it was like the muscles in between my ribs and my scapula were so twisted up in a knot. Did I mention, I also think visually?? I kept trying to unwind that knot using my visual thoughts but nothing was happening. I tried to use the float-y device and then I took it out. I found that the float-y thing didn’t help at all. I knew my right shoulder had been wound up from the previous 2 weeks where I had Susy massage me and I saw Dr. Matt. I felt better but apparently, there’s more to be worked out.
Another thing I noticed was my acute awareness to my organs. I think about my organs often. I do my best to care for them by eating well and partaking in occasional cleanses and I can’t say enough great things about seeing Dr. Sarah. Dr. Sarah’s technology has made a serious impact in my body’s health as a whole. But I had this feeling that my guts were craving some stretching of their own. It felt like they needed some space and lengthening. As I mentioned, I felt like I could feel/hear every bodily function. It felt as if my liver was saying, “you make me work really hard.” So I thought about how a juice cleanse would be really great. I thought about how consuming nutrients in their most simple form would probably be really good. I felt like my kidneys were saying, “I’m tired, I need a face lift.” These thoughts did not cause anxiety at all. Instead, gratitude for the work they do and I thanked them for sharing that with me. This aspect of the float did surprise me though!
Another somatic anxiety I experience, is my vision. I wear contacts and my vision is poor. I’ve had glasses since I was in 2nd grade so glasses or contacts are the first and last thing on eyes daily. This one took me awhile to figure out. I started to notice if I was awoken in the middle of the night, I would have a panic attack because I couldn’t see. I have since really started to work with this. Now, I try to go from my bed to the bathroom without my glasses or little tasks here and there to get comfortable with not being able to see. That’s the thing about anxiety, sometimes you can learn to work with it, it doesn’t have to own you. I don’t want to be mistaken, anxiety is a serious experience that should not be taken lightly but with baby steps, you can really learn to live with it. I’m not insinuating getting rid of it completely is an option for everyone but personally, I’ve made huge strides to at least work on it. Naturally, I was worried how this would go because the website suggested not wearing contact lenses. I’m happy to report that I had no issues with this at all. I couldn’t see in the tank and when I got out, I was relaxed enough to feel at ease. The rooms are simply decorated where I felt reaching for what I needed and could see what I was looking for was easy and comfortable. There was a sense of urgency about getting up and out the door. I contribute this to my anxiety a bit. Time seems to be distorted so I wasn’t sure how long I took getting ready. When I emerged, I realized I was the first one of my group out so I could have probably taken my time a bit. More wisdom for next time.
I will certainly return. I will certainly recommend this experience. And you just never know, you may receive a gift card from me to there for you!
In other words, if you want the most from your massage, go float! Get in tune with your body. Feel love and gratitude for the work your body does for you. Go see the nice folks at F.L.O.A.T StL
-Sara Newberry, LMT