We all have heard of self-care. Most of us try to do it. As a therapist, I help my clients care for and repair wounds to their emotional and mental selves. Paying attention to our bodies can offer another way into our feelings and thoughts that we might otherwise miss. Being in tune with our bodies can bring less conscious thoughts and feelings to the surface before they might manifest in problematic ways such as anxiety or depression. As a yoga instructor, I teach my students to reconnect with their bodies each time they arrive on their mat. Lying on our mats at the end of a yoga practice in the final pose of savasana, we rest in the stillness of our bodies, and often feelings arise that we may have not been aware of. This awareness brought up in savasana can help us in understanding and healing our emotional selves.
Recently, I have experienced another pathway to emotional healing. I call it "floating" savasana! Literally floating for 60 blissful minutes in a private saltwater pod or pool. Dr. Justin Feinstein from the Laureate Institute for Brain Research has studied the impact of floating on mental health. He has identified that floating shifts the nervous system into a relaxed state, calming the anxiety and fear response. We hold a lot of emotion in our bodies in the form of muscle tension, such as hunching of the shoulders, clenching of the jaw, grinding of teeth, gripping around the eyes and eyebrows, tightness in the neck and hips. Floating in saltwater allows the body to rest effortlessly and release this muscle tension. As tension is released in the body, one experiences an overall sense of wellbeing, of being "refreshed and serene, less anxious, less negative " (Feinstein). These effects increase with regular floats.
I experienced this emotional release during a float the week leading up to the anniversary of my son's death from opioid addiction. I was aware that I was holding fear and grief in my body as that date drew near. I scheduled my own private room at Float Milwaukee https://floatmilwaukee.com/ which had a heated float pod, a private shower, fluffy towels, and cuddly robe. The water was just 12 inches deep, but filled with 200 gallons of water and 900 lbs. of dissolved Epsom salts. I set the music inside the pod to a soothing instrumental selection. I experienced an arising during the beginning of that hour of an all too familiar sense of self-blame for not saving my son, but it was gradually followed by an expanding sense of love and peace. This sense literally soaked into my body.
I ended my float feeling better equipped to be present to the upcoming anniversary of my son's death---to miss him, but not blame myself for not saving him; to honor all the gifts that his 25 years on this earth brought to me, and accept the pain that came with those gifts. What surprised me was that peaceful acceptance filled me without any effort on my part. That is the whole point. Salt water floating requires no effort at all. You don't have to do anything at all but breathe. Your body feels weightless. Freed up from carrying the emotional burdens we are so accustomed to carrying.
Floating was just the emotional reset that I needed.
Floatation Therapy spas are located in most major metropolitan areas. Check it out for yourself!