Five Psychological & Physiological Stages of Floating

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Below is an excerpt of Michelle Thevenot's (Elite Daily) article where she identified five stages of her first floating experience.

1. Adjustment

Whoa, this is so weird. The water had an oily quality to it due to the hundreds of pounds of dissolved salt. I comfortably stepped into the shallow, lukewarm water, and I closed the door with only a moment’s hesitation. Shorty after the motion-sensing lights shut off outside the pod, the interior of the spa went dark.

As I lay back, I floated. It was so weird. I tried to breathe calmly, relax my muscles and convince my brain that I wasn’t going to drown. It was unnatural at first, and I resisted the urge to play with the strange water.

2. Focus

After forcing myself to stay still, I knew I was going to be OK. Then, it was time to try to stop thinking. Instead of thinking about my grocery list, what my son was doing at daycare and what was for supper, I turned my mental gaze inward. What was going on with me?

I could hear my heartbeat. I could hear my tummy gurgles echo through the water. I could feel the water frame my face. The limbs felt almost imperceptible if I kept still. I slowed my breathing.

“This is actually pretty cool. I’m floating in a tank. Yes, now focus. Relax. You’re going to be OK,” I thought.

3. Decompression

As I became more relaxed and acclimated to the sensations (or lack thereof), I began to feel a pull through my neck and spine. From the base of my head floating in the water to the weightlessness of my torso, the pulling sensation felt like a welcomed stretch at first. But as I continued to consciously stay relaxed, the pulling sensation throughout my spine intensified.

It was like the feels-so-good-but-kind-of-uncomfortable decompression sensation you experience from massage therapy and chiropractic sessions. It took more effort to remain relaxed as a wave of a mild tension headache and nausea creeped up. Again, these symptoms were comparable to my experiences with a chiropractor and a masseuse. I hoped it would pass, and I breathed.

Pop. It startled me from my trance-like position, and my body wiggled like a fish in the water ripples. Weird. I didn’t expect my neck to pop. Relax. Reset. Try again. Pop, pop, pop.

Really? My vertebrae cracked between six to 10 times throughout the session. Seriously, how compressed was my spine? As my neck and back unzipped, it felt mildly and momentarily uncomfortable, but the relief that followed felt glorious.

4. Melting Away

Once my back had finished popping and decompressing, my mild discomfort faded, and I could float undisturbed. I couldn’t tell where my skin ended and water began. Did I even have legs anymore? It felt good. It felt so good.

It was so quiet. I appreciated the darkness. The post-spinal release had my endorphins flowing. I began to drift, and I didn’t worry about where my thoughts and state of relaxation would take me. My eyes closed. Facial muscles I didn’t know I had let go of the last threads of tension.

5. Relaxation

I’m somewhat surprised to say I was actually able to reach a state of relaxation. It was a time of slow, deep, inward self-reflection without pressures to do, say or think anything. I didn’t have anything to worry about.

My last conscious thing I can recall focusing on was a spot on my forehead. It’s a practice I’ve found helps me drift into deep relaxation and sleep. Some might call the area the “third eye,” and scientists refer to it as the pineal gland, which is known for producing melatonin (sleep hormone). After taking a deep, slow breath, I don’t recall much beyond that.

It was glorious. I finally shut off.