A Foundation Built On Trust
The Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute at the University of West Virginia knows all about recovery. In fact, they have an entire lab dedicated to it. The Institute’s director, Dr. Josh Hagen, studies float therapy among many other therapies and modalities there, and he’s discovered something rather unique about floating. “[Float therapy,]” he says, “is the only recovery modality I’ve seen that balances your autonomic nervous system no matter which direction you’re out of whack.”
I have seen this phenomenon at SYNC. Some people come in wired and the float can bring them down to a place of stillness and clarity. Others will come in dragging their feet and will leave feeling like they’re ready to go again. I’ll never forget the guy who came out of his first float and immediately skipped up to me, extending his arms so his open palms were twelve inches from my face. “Look!” he exclaimed with excitement in his voice,”I feel like I’ve had two cups of coffee but my hands aren’t shaking!”
Why can this happen? What is it about floating as a therapy that can nudge you in two completely different directions depending on what you need? I believe it is because the foundation of floating is built upon trusting in the innate wisdom of the body instead of our fickle conscious minds or an outside source. This is what sets floating apart from other modalities.
The World We Live In
We live in a culture that’s always looking for the next thing to add so we can feel better. We’re told we need another *pill, another workout routine, another biohack, or another procedure. All of these things force the body in a very specific direction.
Floating, on the other hand, isn’t about adding anything, but rather about taking away. Remove all the “answers” and give our bodies space and time to figure some things out on their own. Our bodies, which have evolved over millions of years, are teeming with wisdom. More often than not, our body knows what we need more than we do. All it takes is some good nutrition and a bit of time when it can focus on itself, instead of allocating so much to keeping up with a busy world.
The float industry advertises floating as a tool for stress reduction, but I think that’s mostly because that’s what sells. Stress reduction is what so many of us need, so that’s what we’re peddling. And floating certainly does do that very well (Dr. Hagen’s lab has shown that a single 60-minute session can reduce cortisol levels by 30%). But I think a more honest categorization of float therapy is human exploration and optimization, with the deep reservoirs of our bodies’ own wisdom guiding the way.
Regardless of what you need, giving yourself a little space and trusting the process will orient you in the right direction. And with enough space, the murky waters may even clear enough for you to see where you’re headed.
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*I do acknowledge the benefit and necessity of modern medicine and certain therapies. Some of us have bodies that cannot function without these technologies, and I am beyond grateful for them. That said, I also believe that most of us would still benefit from learning to listen to, and trust, our bodies more than the latest fads.