Ali Mischke is a Structural Integrator and Registered Yoga Teacher based in North Cambridge. I love Ali’s description of her first float because it’s a classic early awkward experience. (Our Beginner’s Package is three floats in part because there’s a non-zero chance that one of your early floats will be less than perfect.) I’m impressed with her for overcoming her fears, and proud of her for coming back and giving it a second shot. – Sara
Drifting to peace: a claustrophobic seeker learns to float
I first encountered Float Boston before it opened, down a side road somewhere on my Internet travels. I had heard about floating for years and was intrigued by its potential to help overcome the psychological, physical, and spiritual effects of our over-stimulated modern environment. I love the Cambridge area, and I’m also acutely aware of how far the concrete and chaos takes us from our natural, centered state.
Former Texas air pistol champion Brooks Brinson believes flotation helps him compete. “It’s really a very mental game, the most mental in the Olympics.”
Hoop dancer Katelyn Selanders had burned out on her art. But then she started floating and found a new wellspring of passion. “I was fully reminded that this was why I had started hooping in the first place!”
We’ve already talked about the physiological benefits of flotation for injury recovery. But when it comes to athletes and performers, there is more to it than that. Flotation can induce a state of “relaxed alertness, concentration and reduced stress,” and sometimes that is just what the doctor ordered for bringing out your best.
“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.
One of our guest floaters, Joshua, came out of the tank with an interesting comment that he had found the sense of relaxation he obtained to be quite different than his experience of massage or yoga. We asked him what he meant, and he wrote us a great discussion. With his permission, we’re sharing it here:
Many people compare floating to the relaxation available from meditation or yoga. In quick simple terms, I found floating to be the exact opposite of these two techniques. In floating, the mind follows the body. In yoga and meditation, the body follows the mind.
I also experienced a marked difference in the type of “quiet mind” that the other two techniques produce. Having said that, once familiar with the experience of floating, even when going back to meditation it became easier to “get there” and easier to “stay there”.
For me, anxiety is the big one — the real pressing problem for the largest number of people, that can be most helped by floating. By far the best review of the subject I know of is the video below by Justin Feinstein of CalTech. You can just watch it if you like (it’s half an hour and quite accessible), or continue with my discussion below.
“Floating provides a window into the lowest reaches of our brain: a window that allows us to see the rhythm of our life, a window that allows us to literally feel the flow of sentience completely untethered from the external world. … [Anxiety is] a rhythm that constantly outpaces the beat of life itself, and importantly it’s a rhythm that can be slowed down by floating.”