In his 1924 book, writer and psychoanalyst Otto Rank boldly postulated that the trauma of birth is the foundation around which all of our human neuroses coalesce. Exiting the womb is likely the most traumatic event in a person’s life. From the safety and comfort of the mother’s womb, where all our needs were met, we were ejected into the bright, loud world, with so many alien and perhaps terrifying sensations too overwhelming for a newly born infant.
Psychoanalytic theory ascribes this regressive fantasy of returning to the womb as the desire to be submerged underwater or to be alone in a cavern. This is where sensory deprivation tanks come in useful as a safe, womb-like space to melt away anxiety and reconnect with the serenity and security we experienced in our mother’s womb.
For Mothers-To-Be in particular, Floatation Therapy can be a wonderful way to connect with their womb and with their unborn child. As a foetus grows, it’s constantly getting messages from its mother. The unborn child can definitely hear the mother’s heartbeat, but beyond that it also receives chemical signals through the placenta, including signals about the mother’s mental state. Studies have shown that an anxious or depressed mother could lead to neurological problems and psychiatric disorders in their children. Scientists believe that the human foetus is an active participant in its own development, and is collecting information for life after birth based on the messages its mother is providing.
Pregnancy is a beautiful journey but also one with many challenges. It can be a struggle for any expectant mother to deal with physical changes, bodily pain and emotional ups and downs. Floatation Therapy can alleviate these symptoms, and Suraya believes in the benefits that floating can offer pregnant mothers. Suraya is an advocate for floating during pregnancy, having made floatation therapy her weekly prenatal ritual from the second trimester. “Having chosen to birth in water, Floating helped me to be grounded, and remember all the practices I did in the pod during birthing,” she explains.
To Suraya, water is medicine and a safe space for her and for her baby to arrive Earth side. “Incidentally, water is my sun and moon astrological sign,” she added, “water to me symbolises flow and ease, which is vital in a rite of passage such as birth."
On the physical benefits of floating during pregnancy, Suraya shares that the highly concentrated Epsom salt relaxed her body, while the buoyancy of the water dissipates weight and releases discomfort from the lower back and belly. Pregnancy especially takes a toll of the back and torso, and it seems for many mothers that baby often becomes most active when they finally get to rest. “I connected with baby through breathwork and visualisation as I meditated in the pod. When I’m relaxed, baby responds with kicks and images that I witness through my inner eye, of her connection with Source,” Suraya tells us.
She shares with us a quote she loves from Nancy Bardacke, author of Mindful Birthing:
"Let the baby be your mindfulness teacher from the very beginning. When you feel the baby moving, stop and come back to the present moment, if you can. Feel the baby in your belly, feel the breath as the belly rises and falls, and just be present with your baby…”
Suraya’s curiosity led to her first sensory deprivation experience back in 2015 at Palm Ave Float Club, where she was no stranger to mindful practices. “As a yoga and meditation facilitator, my practices deal with Altered States of consciousness. I intuitively knew where the floating experience was going to take me - back to being in my mother’s womb,” she shares.
Suraya’s first floating experience was mystical from the get-go. “The staff smudged the private room with Palo Santo, and I asked if I could use it on myself before entering the pod,” she recalls, referring to the holy wood native to Central and South America that is used for ritual cleansing. The aromatic smoke of the Palo Santo has a way of calming the mind and grounding one to the present moment.
With the ambient light a soothing shade of blue, Suraya recalls starting her session with breathwork. “I sat and focused on Chandra and Surya Anga for 10 minutes before I turned the light off and floated,” she says, referring to the single nostril yogic breathing technique. Surya, meaning Sun in Sanskrit, refers to the right nostril and is energetically associated with our body’s heating energy, while Chandra, meaning Moon, refers to the left nostril and is energetically associated with our body’s cooling energy. In the average person, these energies can be in conflict, which leads to disquiet and disease. The purpose of these two breathwork techniques is to create balance by “warming” a “cool” body-mind, and vice versa.
Suraya further shares, “While floating, I did a body-scan guided by my breath, which helped me relax and soften each area from the top of my head to the soles of my feet. In yoga, this practice is called Yoga Nidra, also known as yogic sleep, where your brainwaves go from Alpha to Theta state.” The human brain is a complex network of wires connected by synapses, which produce an electromagnetic field when they fire up to pass signals from one to another. The speed in which our synapses fire up is called the brainwave frequency, and they differ according to the activity we engage in. Alpha is the dominant frequency of our brain waves when we are feeling relaxed, such as after a warm shower or during meditation, and it is during the Alpha state that our subconscious beliefs are formed. Meanwhile, Theta state happens mainly when we are drifting off to sleep, waking up from deep sleep, or daydreaming. When in Theta, our senses are withdrawn from the outside world and we start to dream and see vivid imagery. "As I floated, I felt a deep connection towards my womb center and as I continued to surrender, I saw photographic memories of my life as an adult, adolescent, child, toddler, infant and in my mother’s womb,” Suraya recalls.
She personally finds floating to be a profound experience that requires some time to be integrated afterwards. “Floating allows me to observe who I am without any external distractions or validation from anyone. All I hear are my own thoughts, and being in the pod allows me to reflect on my life and how I can be the best version of myself.” For expectant mothers, floating presents an opportunity to consolidate the insights they have gleaned during the course of their transformative pregnancy journey.
Two years after giving birth, Suraya still makes it her routine to float weekly at Flow State in Bergen, Norway where she currently resides.
"Monks go to their temple or cave to find answers. In this modern age, I have the privilege to go to the float pod to do that, to find myself. I love being in my ‘cave'!”
Written by Izzy Liyana, content creator & writer for HOA