Yoga and Float Therapy: A Dynamic Duo

When you are relaxed and rested, your body and mind are happiest and healthiest. The challenge lies in finding rest and relaxation in a perpetual “on” culture specifically a combination of active and passive wellness activities that complement each other. The perfect example of this is combining float therapy along with a yoga practice. Yoga and floating have incredible similarities and benefits.

Yoga is thousands of years old.  It is much older than pilates and penicillin and millions of people around the world have embraced yoga as a method for finding unity between the body and mind. While many are just finding out about float therapy, which began in the 1950’s, floating in the Dead Sea also began thousands of years ago.

The word yoga can be translated as “union.” Yoga is the union of the mind and body in the present moment. However, anyone just starting a yoga practice will tell you that that it is incredibly challenging to be in the moment without clock watching or refining your to do list.  With floating, there is also a union of the mind and body along with mind chatter and distraction that exists until one becomes more experienced over time. 

There are many branches of yoga, meaning that there is no one style that fits all or is practiced by all.  For instance, Hatha yoga concentrates on physical health and well-being using body postures, breathing and meditation to bring mind, body and breath into alignment. It involves both movement and awareness of surroundings while balancing, stretching, standing, sitting or lying.  It is essentially a moving meditation where there is a greater connection to the present and it results in more mindfulness, calm and ease. Another branch of yoga deals with sense withdrawal, called Pratayhara.  This sensory restriction  form of yoga is exactly what floating attempts to achieve.  Floating is a modern-day refinement of this ancient yogic practice.  With floating, the lack of sensory input, motion, and gravity allows for more mind-body connection, helping to dissolve mental boundaries while supporting physical rest and repair.  

While yoga is commonly done in a class setting with music, instruction and the sights and sounds of others, it can also done as a home practice not involving others.  Regardless, yoga is a practice that is encouraged to be tailored and modified to your needs, and abilities.  In yoga, it is not recommended to compare to others who may be more flexible, stable, or accomplished.  With floating, there is also no right or wrong.  Some float in silence and darkness with hands by their sides, some float with lights and music and arms overhead.  Common positive effects of a good yoga session include decreased stress, improved mood, energy, focus and creativity, less pain and better sleep. Common effects of a good float mirror those of yoga. 

Often included in the cool down at the end of a yoga class is a pose called “savanna or corpse pose” where one soaks up the benefits of their practice by being still, silent and eyes closed.  This quiets the brain and allows for rest, repair and relaxing brain waves.  The act of floating is like a full hour of savasana, immediately moving the brain from a highly active waking state to lower frequency brainwaves similar to the first stage of sleep, in between wakefulness and sleep, known as the theta state. For many, this is the gateway to meditation as it does not take years, but minutes to achieve.

Probably the most important similarity between yoga and floating is that they both work best when integrated into a wellness lifestyle routine. Immediate benefits will be noticed from both practices. However, more permanent and lasting effects on mood, mind and muscles develop with regular usage.  It is crucial to try both at least three times within 1-2 months to gain an appreciation for how to best integrate into your schedule and goals.  Combining yoga and floating together will provide an excellent balance between active and passive therapies that leverages the individual effects while reseting and recharging. 

The author, Dr. David Berv, is a certified chiropractic sports physician, acupuncture diplomate. He is a co-owner of The Float Zone, and can be reached at david@myfloatzone. To read other posts visit our blog page.

Gin Carter, yoga teacher and enthusiast, poses in a float tank at The Float Zone.

Gin Carter, yoga teacher and enthusiast, poses in a float tank at The Float Zone.