I first heard about “floating” from some co-workers a couple years ago. During our conversation, there were a couple of people who had done it before and spoke highly of it. On the other hand, there were quite a few people who had never done it and thought it sounded weird. That quickly intrigued me, but I didn’t get around to trying it until this past week. Read on to hear what floating is, why you should do it, and my experience! I’ll let you know if I plan on trying it again.
What is Float Therapy?
Float therapy is when a you occupy a tank or pod that is designed for short term sensory deprivation. The tank of water is heated to body-temperature and filled with thousands of pounds epsom salt (magnesium sulphate) in order to make you completely buoyant. It is often combined with a light-less and sound-free atmosphere for an ultimate sensory-free experience.
These tanks were originally created in the 1950s by neuropsychologists, gaining popularity in the 1970s, and with a more mainstream resurgence recently. Float tanks are also known as Isolation Tanks or Sensory Deprivation Tanks. Although, the not so friendly thoughts around the words “isolation” and “deprivation” have led to a rebranding as “floating” or REST, which stands for “restricted environment stimulation technique.”
Why Should You Float?
Sounds pretty crazy, huh? Perhaps, but it definitely caught my attention. These tanks can create a powerful environment to force the brain to take a break from endless thoughts and technology. I have heard that it can be comparable to (if not better than) meditation, yoga, and even drugs.
Float therapy has been connected with a number of benefits for the brain and body. It has been said that the sensory deprivation can slow brain waves until they reach the theta state, which is similar to the state attained during meditation.
With my, what some may call, “monkey brain” jumping around from idea to idea, topped off with a layer of anxiety, and occasional bout of insomnia for good measure, I am always ready to try new ways to slow down and enjoy life. Not to mention, many have seen spikes in creativity after sessions, perhaps from giving your brain some much needed time to reboot and refresh. I have even heard of creativity being compared to a deer, if you become very still and quiet, it is more likely to show its face. You officially have my attention, float therapy.
Potential Benefits from Float Therapy
- Induce deep relaxation and alleviate anxiety
- Reduce stress by lowering cortisol levels
- Relieve pain on the back, joints, and sore muscles, manage chronic pain
- Lower blood pressure
- Increase hair and skin health
- Alleviate insomnia
My Float Tank Experience
As I mentioned, it took me two years from first learning about floating to actually pull the trigger. A few things that held me back: the idea of getting in a small tank filled with water for a long period of time, discovering that my slightly possible claustrophobia is actually real after paying a good chunk of change, and the lack of options in the Baltimore area. But I often hear that all the fun is outside our comfort zones, so hey, I went for it.
I had some extra time when I was in Nashville and had come across Pure Sweat + Float Studio in an article. They just opened a few months ago and the photos looked quite nice, a lovely mix of boho and spa. Not too fancy, but reputable, so I made an appointment online. For first time floaters, it is $75, so at least it was a little less for my first experience.
As I was approaching the new location in Belle Meade (the super swanky, old money side of town), I passed 2 wine bars, 2 juice bars, a yoga studio, and a few high-end boutiques. I was on my way to try something new and while I like all of those things, I was quickly feeling out of place. Spoiler alert: I’m not very swanky or luxury-seeking. Also, hello to the very anxiety I was there to reduce.
My worries were quickly put to ease though when I walked into Pure Sweat + Float Studio. It is a very welcoming serene environment and I was greeted by some friendly faces. I was taken back to one of the float rooms and had the full process explained to me. I was to pop in some earplugs and rinse off in the private shower prior to getting into the pod, which was about 5 feet wide, 8 feet long, and a few feet deep.
The state-of-the-art Evolution Float Pods at Pure Sweat + Float Studio offered some customizable settings based on my personal preferences. I had the option of keeping the lid open, dimming the lights, and playing some music, or I could lower the lid for a more sensory-free experience. I went for the latter. I figured if I was going to do it, I was going to fully do it. The lid intentionally does not fully close or latch, plus it has a bit of height even when closed, which eased my potential claustrophobia.
I don’t know what I expected, but with the amount of epsom salt, you truly float right up to the surface. It was really cool gravity-free feeling. They had a little floating plastic ring I could put my head in to ensure my face stayed above the surface, which made my neck ache at first as I adjusted my posture forced by my buoyancy, but that passed. I had a dry towel on hand just in case any water got close to my eyes and I quickly took myself through some meditations to help jump into relaxation.
For my first time, I think I was a little distracted by the experience to get into a deep meditative state that I know I can reach, but I can see the potential there and would love to try again now that I know the drill. At some point, with the heat, it felt a bit stuffy, but I easily cracked the lid without taking away from my relaxation. Despite it being very exploratory, I still found myself forgetting about my worries and to-do’s. I tried my best to not let my brain go down the road of all the reasons why I should open a float studio in Baltimore. Before I knew it, the 60 minutes was up, the lights were automatically easing back on and a relaxing voice recording was telling me to exit and rinse off. I left feeling very refreshed and seriously ready to sleep (even though I had to head to the airport to fly home and was greeted with a 2 hour delay, hello reality).
First Timer Suggestions
- Show up early for the paperwork and a walk through, ask for a rundown if they don’t readily explain the process to you.
- Be prepared to shower on location before (to remove the oils) and after (to rinse off the salt), typically places have shampoo, conditioner and towels, but bring a brush.
- Don’t shave the day of, especially if you have sensitive skin. It will burn.
- Wear loose clothing and sandals/flip flops to easily hop in and out comfortably.
Overall, I would suggest going into the session with a low expectations. Don’t seek a life-changing experience your first time because like meditation and yoga, it takes time and practice to reach that. However, do give yourself the opportunity to rest and recover and see what benefits it can bring you personally! While I am not going to add this into my weekly routine, I think I will try it every few months to help press the reset button. Now to convince Pure Sweat + Float studio to open a Baltimore location!
Please note: I am not a doctor of any sort (surprise, surprise). If you want more medically proven information, I would recommend doing what we all do: google it. Also, this is not a sponsored post. As always, thoughts and opinions are all my own.