Relaxation. In a word, that’s why we have pools. In an air-conditioned world, we don’t need them to survive.
But at the end of the day, having a pool is a balm for the soul. Just looking at one brings a sense of calm and satisfaction, the ancient tendency of our species to be so affected by the knowledge of water nearby. That’s why of all the things a pool owner can do to immerse themselves in this feeling, to become one with the timeless connection between man and fluid, is to float.
There are of course a million products on the market on which to do so. Rafts, floats, noodles – some so elaborate as to be furniture in their own right, however inflatable. But for the purist, the ultimate act of floating is done the old-fashioned way, sans plastic, right on the back you were born with, creating an uninterrupted connection between the liquid and the body.
It feels right. It feels natural. We are, after all, mostly water.
This, however, is a skill, one that not everyone has. But with the right tips and a little practice, the art of floating can be mastered by anyone.
1. Be Comfortable
Floating, despite being pretty much the most passive thing a person can claim to be "doing," can be daunting, even scary. Someone who isn’t comfortable in the water, or has apprehension about surrendering to it, will find it impossible to relax enough to allow their body to float.
Floating requires a conscious relaxation, much like yoga or meditation, that allows one to feel all the tiny, barely perceptible motions of the water and the flesh. That’s what makes floating such a valuable exercise, but it’s also what can make it challenging. So, before you go tossing yourself backwards onto the surface, make sure you’re mentally prepared. The best way to do so is with a spotter, someone you trust to help you into the float while relieving any natural anxiety about surrendering to the water.
2. Use a friend
The aforementioned spotter is also the easiest way to help learn how to float. The spotter can gently support you, with their hands under your back, while you figure out exactly what adjustments are necessary. This can be very symbolic and intimate, so there’s a bonus opportunity here to strengthen a close relationship with a family member or friend. Water has always brought people together, so think of our connection to it as nature’s way of reinforcing our bonds with each other.
3. The Technique
If you keep in mind a few basic body mechanics, floating will be relatively easy. The mistakes people make when trying to float are in not understanding the distribution of weight in the human body, and of being afraid to surrender themselves to the water (especially allowing the head to sink).
Keep the following in mind:
- Your body should be generally parallel to the bottom of the pool. Push off from the edge with your feet if you have to.
- Keep your palms up to the sky. You can experiment to see where the best arm position is for yourself, anywhere from a few inches from your hips to all the way over your head. Adjust this depending on your specific body shape, but always keep the palms up. Calmly search for the right angle.
- To ensure an even distribution of your weight over the surface, you will have to allow your upper body to sink further than you might think. Gently lift your chest and allow your head to sink in past the ears.
- With the water line around mid-cheek, gently point your chin upward, allowing the top of your head to sink deeper. This will distribute your weight more evenly and avoid neck strain.
- Allow your knees to bend and your feet to sink under. Only your thighs should be roughly parallel to the bottom, a foot or two apart from each other. Otherwise, let your lower legs sink or gently kick them as you adjust yourself.
The key to floating, as you might have guessed, is surrender. Allowing your head and upper body to sink deep enough can be somewhat counter-intuitive or frightening, but that’s the point. Give in to the water, and it will carry you. There’s a metaphor there somewhere, isn’t there?