This weekend I finally tried something I have been so curious about for while now. I finally bit the bullet and went for a float! These float houses have been popping up all over the city, and claim to have numerous health benefits. After much contemplation I decided I needed to overcome whatever fear was holding me back and give it a shot! Needless to say, it was incredible.
Today I will share my personal experience and touch on the rationale behind these tanks.
What is floatation therapy?
Floatation therapy, or also known as isolation therapy or sensory deprivation therapy, is a popular practice of floating in water in a float pod or room for about an hour. Float cabins or pods are filled with 10 inches of water and 1000 lbs of magnesium salts (epsom salts). The water is heated to the same temperature as your skin, which causes you to lose touch with where your body ends and the water begins. The water is so concentrated with salt that you float effortlessly on top of the water (akin to floating in the dead sea!). To further the effect, all distractions have been removed such as light or visual stimuli, sense of touch due to the water being the same temperature as your skin, and sense of smell due to the epsom salts nullifying any other scents. It leaves you to feel as if you are floating effortlessly in nothing.
Once you become settled in the water, you can turn off the gentle music and lights and be completely enveloped in sensory deprivation. Your muscles relax as you are fully supported and the effects of gravity are negated.
The floatation therapy session lasts 60 minutes. This may seem like a crazy long time to be stuck in a dark tank, but it goes by quickly. Once the body is not experiencing stimulation of any kind, it quickly allows your brain to increase in theta wave activity. These are the same brain waves that become active during meditation. Theta waves are also the brain waves active during REM sleep and the drowsiness you experience right before sleep.
Floatation therapy allows you to enter into a very deep relaxation that is not often possible with the constant stimulation we experience. Floating has been effectively used to treat stress, anxiety, migraines, chronic pain, fibromyalgia and mental disorders. Research shows that floating measurably reduces your blood pressure and heart rate while also lowering stress levels. This makes it a perfect way to wrap up a busy week!
Aside from the sensory deprivation benefits, floating in magnesium salts have their own host of benefits. Most people in north america are actually deficient in the mineral magnesium. Floating in 1000 lbs of it allows some of the mineral to be absorbed by your skin. Magnesium is involved in 100's of reactions in the body, but most notably magnesium:
Is an important factor in muscle relaxation and heart health
Allows nerves to send messages in the brain and nervous system
Aids and regulates the body’s use of calcium and other minerals
Assists in bone and teeth formation
Regulates the metabolism of nutrients such as protein, nucleic acids, fats and carbohydrates
Regulates cholesterol production and helps modulate insulin sensitivity
Assists in energy production, DNA transcription and protein synthesis
Maintains the structural health of cell membranes throughout the body
My float experience
Floating had been on my self-care bucket list for quite some time. When two different float "deals" entered my email inbox on the same day, I took it as a sign from the universe that I needed to try it out. I chose to book an appointment at the Halsa Spa on West 4th in Kitsilano. I had driven by their spa before, and had oogled over their beautiful website. I was also drawn to them because instead of only having the float pods, they also offered the ocean float room (6 feet wide by 8 feet long). This was much more appealing to me as my only concern with floating was that I wouldn't be able to handle being in a dark, sensory deprived pod for an hour.
On the day of my appointment I was greeted by their friendly staff and given a tour of the facilities (they also offer infrared sauna rooms and these high-tech massage chairs). I was then led to my ocean float room. After having a quick shower to rinse off any extra body products I entered the water and closed the door behind me. I kept the light (low blue light) and music on while I gathered my bearings. I then decided I needed to dive head first into the experience and turned off the lights and music. After the water settled and I let go of my hesitations, something truly incredible occurred. I experienced what they say happens, I lost sensation of where my body ended and the water began. It truly felt as though I was floating in nothing. It took me (what I imagine to be) about 15ish minutes to really let go.
At first I was hell bent on ensuring I was focusing on meditating, and getting into a zone where I was thinking about nothing. After realizing that I was losing this battle, I decided to just let go and let my mind wander where it wanted to. I didn't even realize that I was floating into a dream like state until my leg twitched and I was jerked awake. I floated (literally) in and out of this almost dream-like, yet conscious state for the whole hour. At about the 20 minute mark I felt all my stress melt into the water, and I felt light and content. At about this time I experienced something that I made me think I was a little nuts. I started seeing these faint white patterns on the ceiling. They appeared to be moving mandala like shapes with overlaying ripples of waves. I thought to myself hmm they didn't tell me there were patterns on the ceiling! Then I closed my eyes... the patterns were still there! I was perplexed.
I refrained from asking the staff about this at the end for fear they would think I was crazy (lol silly I know). Later, personal research revealed that it turns out I am not crazy! When your brain is deprived stimuli for at least 15 minutes it will start to make its own! It is actually common for people to experience either visual or auditory hallucinations while under sensory deprivation.
At the end of my session I felt incredibly relaxed. I would compare it to the feeling you get after having the best savasana ever (any one who has ever done yoga will know what I mean). I was experiencing major dream-like zen'd out vibes. The Halsa spa has a complimentary tea lounge upstairs in a beautiful bright room that has views of the city across the water. I sat down and drooled over their selection of books on everything from free-diving to sacred geometry shapes in nature.
Overall, I came away feeling so very satisfied with the whole experience. Floating is nourishing for your body, mind and soul. I can't wait to get my float on again!!
Have you tried floating before? What was your experience like? Let me know in the comments below!!