In our December 2013 newsletter, as we were laying the groundwork for our float center, we asked our readers if they’d like to come over and float in the Space Burrito. We figured we had time to handle five people, and imagined we might get about that many responses, maybe double that. We gave them some things to consider about our home float tank, and said:
If all that doesn’t seem too weird and you still want to come try out our vintage float tank, then write us a little something about floating and you. What about it appeals to you? Why do you want to try it? No need to write a term paper; a paragraph or two will do.
“It’s just that I am feeling so heavy, cumbersome and sore this pregnancy that I would love to feel weightless if only for an hour.”
As always, check with your health care provider first, for any conditions that might be specific to you. Many women, though, report that they find wonderful relief from the stress of pregnancy in a tank. The dense Epsom salt-laden water gently takes up all the unaccustomed weight you’re bearing, and gives respite to your strained joints.
“I was eight months pregnant when I floated for the first time. Pregnancy takes a toll on every muscle in your body, especially your torso. Ironically, the times when you get a chance to rest is when the baby becomes more active and its weight continues to put stress on your muscles. While floating, I expected the baby to be very active, but was pleasantly surprised. Since there was no pressure from any side, the baby didn’t feel the need to kick or roll around. It was the best rest I’ve had in several months. I would recommend floating to anyone, pregnant or not, for a time of physical and mental renewal.”
(Heather Warren, Oakland, CA)
Here’s a thing I’ve learned through all the reading I’ve been doing about floating: the body has a relaxation response as the physiological counterpart to the fight-or-flight response. I was surprised — I hadn’t heard of this before — and then that thought was almost instantly followed by “of course it does”.
Fight-or-flight is well known, and had been extensively studied for almost a century. The body responds to perceived threat or danger with a reflex that releases hormones like adrenalin and cortisol, speeding the heart rate, slowing digestion, shunting blood flow to major muscle groups, and changing various other autonomic nervous functions. This gives the body a burst of energy and strength to defend ourselves under physical attack.
The shifts triggered by the adrenalin and cortisol are hard on the body — they’re supposed to be an emergency reaction, not the normal state of being. The body expects that after running or fighting, we’ll stop and rest and relax, giving it a chance to clean up. But unfortunately for us, the modern world frequently supplies stressful situations that trigger fight-or-flight where neither fight nor flight is a reasonable response, and where we also don’t get a clear time to stop.
Many scientific studies have attempted to quantify this effect. Does it have measurable biochemical effects? Does everyone experience it? If a person has tension headaches, for instance, does this relaxation effect actually help them? And if so, how long does the effect last?
One study done recently in Sweden says the answer is yes, and the effects seem to last for months.
Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, described as a constant dull ache, typically arising from muscles. It effects 2% of general population and women are much more likely to develop it than are men by a ratio of 9:1.
Sufferers can be chronically tired, bedridden much of the time and suffer pain that feels like body-wide bruising. It can hurt even to be touched by another person. Restful sleep is difficult. Many people who have fibromyalgia also have tension headaches, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety and depression.
Fibromyalgia is not well understood at all. It can develop gradually, or have a sudden onset triggered by a traumatic event like a car accident. Its cause is not known. The best current explanation of what happens is that somehow the sufferer’s brain simply becomes more sensitive to pain (“central augmentation of pain sensitivity”), but how or why that happens is more or less anyone’s guess.