Floating around in a pitch-dark, sealed tank isn’t exactly my idea of fun. I get claustrophobic in the Burnley Tunnel so the thought of laying down in a small, enclosed space that’s filled with water scares the shit out of me. But today, I did just that! I got my kit off (yes, this seems to be a reoccurring theme!) and spent an hour immersed in a floatation tank.
While Flotation Therapy isn’t new, it’s only in recent years that it has gained mainstream recognition as an effective way of achieving deep relaxation and improving your mental and physical wellbeing.
What is Flotation Therapy?
A Flotation Tank is filled with about 30 centimetres of water, into which over 500 kgs of Epsom salts have been dissolved. This solution is so buoyant that you simple can’t not float in it.
The water is also heated to exactly body temperature which is skin-receptor neutral. This means you lose track of where your body ends and the water begins. And as you float, your ears sink below the water line, which leaves just two senses – smell and taste. Now, I’m not sure about you but ever since I left my mother’s womb, I haven’t spent much time without sight, sound and feeling!
The reason why flotation therapy releases your body from these senses is that up to 90 per cent of the brain’s normal workload is caused by everyday environmental stimulation like temperature, touch, light and sound. So, but creating an environment where you don’t have to take in external stimuli, Flotation Therapy helps you effortlessly achieve pure sensory relaxation.
What are the benefits of flotation therapy?
Flotation Therapy has turned up encouraging results in:
- reducing blood pressure and cortisol levels – effects that persisted long after the participants’ last flotation experience
- reducing blood lactate levels after intensive exercise
- helping manage anxiety
- being more effective at reducing stress than other popular methods such as relaxation exercises, biofeedback or relaxing on the couch.
A small study has also found that found that six 90-minute float sessions allowed participants to generate more “creative” ideas, which coincided with a self-reported increase in free imagery and remote associations.
And lastly, several studies (with relatively small sample sizes) presented positive effects when flotation was used as a primary intervention for disorders as diverse as hypertension, headaches, insomnia and rheumatoid arthritis.
What if I am claustrophobic?
Claustrophobia was the one thing that held me back from trying Flotation Therapy much sooner. But I was surprised to find that the pod is much bigger than I had expected. In fact, when I was floating and put my arms straight up, I couldn’t reach the roof. It’s also super reassuring to know that you’re in control of your own environment, so if it’s all feeling too much, you can easily pop the light on or open the roof up.
How is the water kept clean?
If public pools or spas gross you out, you’ll be happy to know that the salt water solution you float in is so high in saline that no living microorganism can survive in there. Plus, after easy session the entire volume of water is pumped out and fully filtered through a three part filtration and sterilisation system.
What is flotation therapy like?
I find it hard to sit in front of the TV without double screening. In fact, I find it hard to sit in front of the TV at all! I’m pretty much always ‘on’ and doing 8 things at once – even though I know multitasking is the devil! So, going into this experience I was really interested to see what my brain would do when deprived of external stimuli.
To begin with, my head kept spinning at it’s normal pace:
If it’s pitch black, should I have my eyes open or shut?
What should I get for dinner?
Why’s my shoulder aching?
I must pick up that birthday present for Alfie to take to his friend’s party.
Am I drifting?
When I finish here, I’ll email Chloe.
I wonder how long I’ve been in here?
Are my earplugs in properly?
But then slowly, I felt things shift gear. I didn’t deliberately try and meditate, instead I let my mind freely meander without direction or distraction. And then it quitened completely. I couldn’t feel that rushing, racy head and heart I often have. All I could hear was my breathing and heart beat. My mind and body were both just drifting as I floated in a delicious ‘half awake/half asleep’ state.
So, was the experience transformative? No. But the calm I felt afterwards was something I don’t feel often enough. For the rest of the day, I’ve had that wonderful ‘dead limb’ feeling that comes with being deeply relaxed. My body felt grounded. I felt connected.
Three tips for your first flotation tank experience
From my first float tank experience I picked up three tips to share with you:
- Don’t shave or wax the day of your float.
- If your neck or shoulders feel sore while floating try positioning your arms so that your elbows are parallel with your shoulders and your hands are approximately level with your head – palms facing up. This position allows you to open up and stretch the muscles in your chest, back and shoulders.
- While floating, try and keep your mitts away from your face. The salt water really stings if you get it in your eyes and is a real mood killer!
Have you tried Flotation Therapy before? Did you love or loathe it?