I found an almost indescribable feeling of zen in the most unusual situation: naked, wet and covered in Epsom salt. How often do you hear someone say that? Is my wannabe wellness guru showing? It’s the odd and random truth, but there’s more to the story…
Float therapy is certainly not your average method of relaxation, in fact, I’d argue that most people are unfamiliar with the admittedly privileged wellness concept. Last month I decided to take advantage of a discount at a local facility to see the hype for myself. Despite my enjoyment and frequency of meditating and floating (in pools), combining the two in a small salt water tank seemed, well, weird. While my expectations were low, I’m very satisfied with my experience.
WHAT IS FLOAT THERAPY?
The term ‘float therapy’ or ‘floating’ refers to a sensory deprivation tank, which is a sound proof tank filled with 10 inches of water and 1,000 lbs of medical grade Epsom salt. (Four times denser than the Dead Sea). Floating allows for deep REST (Restricted Environmental Stimulus Therapy) as you enter a state of extreme mental and physical realization.
More information: What is floating?
-Improve athletic performance
-Relieve pain from arthritis, injuries, migraines
-Reduce blood pressure
-Energize, relax and rejuvenate
-Boost immune function
-Improve mental clarity and creativity
More information: The science of sensory deprivation therapy
GOOD TO KNOW
-Float tanks were developed in 1954 by neurophysiologist Dr. John C. Lilly. Lilly and his team wanted to research the effects of sensory deprivation. (source)
-You (usually) have the option of piping music into your tank.
-There is a “help” button in case of an emergency that will connect you to the front desk.
-You must shower before and after floating. Before: to extend the life of the filtration system. After: to rinse off the salt.
-You can wear a swimsuit but I’ve read that most people don’t.
-Some tanks are completely dark, others have the option of a soft light.
HOW IT WENT DOWN
I went into this experience assuming it would feel like sitting in a hot tub. Jets moving, warm waters flowing and me resting comfortably. I wasn’t entirely off-base.
After a full run-through from a staff member, I showered and set the scene: I plugged my phone into the tank speakers (I listened to an acoustic playlist on Spotify), set the light to a calming shade of blue (as shown), put in my earplugs and entered the tank. The water was warm (around 95 degrees) but still. The jets would only turn on to signal the end of the session.
It took me a very long time to get comfortable (read: I almost ended my session early). I counted sheep, fidgeted, thought about lunch and tried making “angels” with my arms in the water (like you do in the snow). Basically, I did a million other things than relax. When I got salt water in my eye, which is not surprising considering my movement, I almost took that as my cue to leave.
But then, almost suddenly, I fell into a metaphoric state. Sounds fake, right? I wish I was exaggerating because the term ‘metaphoric state’ sounds so Gwyneth of me.
It took me probably half of the hour-long float to find my zen and feel at ease in the tank. From that point on, it was like the best savasana you could ever imagine. I was on the edge of sleep in a very blissful, calm state.
Once the jets turned on I exited the tank very carefully, as to not get salt in my eye again. FYI: it was super easy to rinse out with the squirt bottle and face cloth. I showered, scrubbed off the salt and used the (very nice) oils and lotions provided by the studio.
Physically, I didn’t notice any immediate difference aside from smooth skin and heightened senses, which is understood after being “deprived.” Maybe my muscles were looser from the Epsom salt?? Mentally, I did feel a sense of clarity and rejuvenation. I remember going home and writing immediately because I felt a spike in creativity.
Would I go again? Absolutely.
Have I gone again? No.
If I’m paying for a self-care practice, I’d choose a massage 90% of the time. My session was $50, although the regular cost is $70. I’d classify floating as a slightly indulgent trend, although I did love the (eventual) relaxation aspect. I’ll stick with savasana for now.
I know you’re supposed to float often (or at least regularly) to reap full benefits so that’s something to take into account. Chances are I’ll float again in my lifetime. When that happens, chances are you’ll read about it again.
I’ll file this one under: glad I tried.