Feeling the Waves of my Breath (literally)

I just had the most delicious, relaxing experience.  I floated for 90 minutes in a warm bath held up by over 800 pounds of Epsom salts and my breath.  This experience was brought to me by Halcyon Floats in Roxborough, http://www.halcyonfloats.com, a sensory-deprivation float tank spa.   I seized upon this opportunity via a Groupon and it was well worth the drive and the numerous Groupon emails following my purchase.

Here are some of my experiences, and if at all intrigued, maybe someday, you will get your float on too.  First of all the 90 minutes flew by.  It really felt like 30 to 45 minutes. The end of the session was signaled by melodic, soothing music flowing into the tank, with its volume slowly increasing. I harbored a little fear going in as I am not keen on small spaces.  With only two tanks at this spa, the attendant was able to give us individual attention and instructions on how to float, which eased my anxiety.

I guided my body into the tub slowly, keeping the low lights on until I could get my bearings.  Then came the moment where I turned off all of the lights – complete darkness.  Only once, a little well of fear rose up in me but otherwise, I was calm.  For me, it was a very physical experience.  I didn’t go too deep into a meditative state but think with continued practice, that could be the case.  Hey Rome was not built in a day.  Think back how we came into our Restorative practice.  So my attention was on the sensation of not holding my body up and that every breath that I took created enough vibration to gently move my body and the water surrounding me.  That was so cool!  To notice that nothing in ourselves stands alone, one part of our being affects another part of our being and even the surrounding environment. This is our energy at work.

I tried different arm positions to find the best one for me. With arms overhead, I didn’t feel the area of tension in my shoulders and neck but I wasn’t completely comfortable.  I changed the arms to my side and that is when I noticed those areas.  With the rest of the body relaxed and my thoughts quiet, those places of unrest had a chance to show themselves.  I then tried the neck pillow and that is when I felt my knots unravel and I had the deepest experience.  I think that I may have drifted off to LaLa land a few times but felt completely safe in the 10″ of water.  Several times I found myself drifting into one of the walls following maybe a body movement or a deeper breath.  The tub is an ample size, with the dimensions of 5 ft. by 9 ft. and a 4 ft. clearance above you.

At one point, I heard something drop into the water (turned out to be the water bottle used to wash out any salt in the eyes).  I didn’t know what it was but I imagined that it was a snake or an eel but I really didn’t care, as I was so relaxed. I really was able to stay present to what was going on and not drift to chatter in the mind.  Thoughts rose and fell away like the waves of my breath and the gentle warm waves of the water.

How did I know that I was relaxed?  Well, visualize a Friday evening drive on the Schuykill Expressway and the Blue Route.  That just spells stress and steering wheel griping.  I did not experience that at all.  I kept sending my fellow commuters love and driving along whistling a happy tune.  I was alert, calm, at peace.   Thumbs up guys!

The Poses
Seated Centering with Thumbs

Benefits: opens the hips and groin facilitating blood and energy flow to the urinary tract, digestive and reproductive organs. Relaxes the back and releases tension in the neck. Centering for transitioning to your practice.
Props: bolster, 3 blankets or blocks (firm cushions and pillows are always an option) and one extra blanket for warmth.

Place a double-fold blanket on floor, sit on edge of blanket and bring soles of your feet together in Baddhakonasana). Option to cross legs. Bolster goes between legs and add blankets to top of bolster as necessary as you lean over the bolster.  Place thumbs at Third Eye center (middle of eyebrows). Your head should not drop down much but be supported. .  Feel free to add support under arms and wherever else needed.  Head is turned to a side.  Stay for 5-10 minutes.

Variation: Adding cupped hands over the eyes. Rub hands together until they are warmed and energetic.  Carefully lay cupped hands over the eyes and rest your forehead on fingers. Stay like this for about five minutes, absorbing the warmth, energy and giving your eyes their much needed rest from light and external stimuli.

Legs up Wall Variation

Props: 1 bolster, blankets, neck roll
Benefits: drains fluid from the legs, releases pelvic floor, chest and shoulder opener, back of legs get a gentle stretch.

Arrange a triple-folded blanket horizontally (lumbar and thoracic spine area). Recline crossed legs over the bolster and lower the upper body on the blanket. Adjust so that the tips of the shoulder blades are right above the blanket. Add neck pillow under neck and move arms to Goddess position if comfortable for  your shoulders. Otherwise, they can go by your side or stack hands on top of your belly.  Cover pelvic area with a blanket or whole body and add a blanket or sand bag to pelvis to deepen pose. 10 to 15 minutes, dropping the weight of your body on the exhalations.

Supine Twist

Props: bolster, 2-4 blocks, 4 blankets, neck roll, eye pillow

Extras: blanket for warmth
Benefits: Allows breath to come in to the rib cage and belly more freely. Detoxifying. Can reduce high blood pressure. Relieves fatigue and insomnia.  Safe for a Prenatal twist.

This can be a very prop intensive pose but once you are in it, it is worth it.  Begin with right side of body, place the bottom of your right foot against the wall with leg extended. Left leg is bent at a 90 deg. angle and propped up with two blocks and a bolster with maybe a blanket on top. at least two blankets, S-fold blankets, and/or pillows placed along spine for support, lengthwise.  Extend your left arm out to the left side and lay it on a smaller stack of blankets either s-fold or triple-fold out to your side.  Right arm extends out to the right.  This means the left arm is at a higher elevation than right. Head can remain neutral to ceiling or turn to one side.   Extra blankets can be placed in spaces that need more support.  Neck roll for cervical spine and eye pillow.
*we are digging placing the arms in Goddess pose (not pictured) so try that one out as well. Place blanket support under arms.