My Experience Trying Float Therapy
What is a float tank? A float tank, float therapy, or “sensory deprivation chamber” is a lightproof, soundproof room or pod with a small pool of water filled with about a foot of water saturated with epsom salt heated to exactly skin temperature. The idea is that the high level of salt keeps anyone gently floating with no effort and then the lack of light and sound mixed with skin temperature water you feel like you’re floating in a void. It can sound intimidating but is actually very peaceful, beneficial, and user friendly.
Before I get more into the benefits of floating I want to take a minute to explain how I heard about it and my experience trying it for myself.
In high school one of my best friends parents were very into spirituality and healing. One day they had mentioned going sensory deprivation chambers “reset” after a long week. This honestly sounded intense and a bit intimidating so I never really read into it. Then a few years later my Aunt was telling me how much she looked forward to going to her weekly “float session” to help with her back and mood. This sounded a lot more appealing even though I never took her up on her offer to try it. That takes us this summer. I often watch YouTube clips to kill time, and find myself watching Joe Rogan clips of interesting topics quite a bit. Sure enough one of the ads at the beginning of nearly every Joe Rogan clip was for a discount at a local float tank. One day after seeing the ad multiple times and having nothing to do, I decided just to book a float and try it for myself.
Getting ready for my first float I was excited and anxious and spent the next hour or so on Google finding out more on what to expect. After all the research I finally just had to realize that there was nothing to worry about and to go in with an open mind and make the most of it. Most float sessions are about 60 minutes, and while I had dabbled in meditation I had never done more than 10 minutes so naturally I didn’t know how I would handle 60. When I arrived at “Floatology” I was given a very thorough run down of how the tank worked and what to expect. To my surprise I was told it was better for first timers to try 90 minutes! What?! If i’m new how would I be better at a longer float? But I was assured it may take some time to “get in the zone” and allow myself to accept what was going on and relax. Sure enough, they were right. It took a little while to truly let myself relax and connect with what was going on inside my head. Although 90 minutes of time with nothing but my thoughts sounded like an eternity as soon as I let myself relax it went by in a blink of an eye. Sort of like the most sound, purposeful nap of my life.
After my first float I was shocked about how good I felt. Minus the salt in the eyes(common first timers error), I felt very calm and present. I took some time to sit down, hydrate, and try to understand my experience in the tank. I was aware of potential recovery properties but what I found most obvious was its mental benefits. I decided to try to go once a week. I felt more comfortable each float and it allowed me to really unwind and unplug in an unparalleled environment in today’s busy world. With so much technology and distraction, 60 minutes to block it all out and get inside your own head is unheard of and definitely something worth exploring. The post float feeling is something I have trouble explaining, but it was something definitely looking forward to every week. It was almost like having a calm yet confident energy that lasted from when I got out of the tank until I fell asleep. And while I certainly can vouch for the peace floating gave me, I asked the owner of Floatology in Tempe, AZ, Michael Sarkis, to speak on why he believed in floating and how all types of people could utilize the practice.
First off, what is a float tank and how does floating work?
Michael: Floating is the act of lying horizontally on your back on the surface of 10-12 inches of water inside of a spacious, lightproof and soundproof tank. The floating effect is achieved by fully saturating the water with Epsom salt, resulting in maximum buoyancy. This high-density tank solution puts the floater in an environment where more than 90% of the effects of gravity are no longer present. The water is also gently heated to normal skin-temperature (approximately 95 degrees F), allowing the floater to lose the ability to distinguish between the physical body and the water. This all takes place inside a tank that is lightproof and soundproof, as well as smell-neutral, creating an environment where the effects of sight, sound, smell, and touch are removed.
Why would someone try floating and what type of benefits are generally associated with it?
Michael: It turns out that when you (and your brain/body) are no longer fighting the forces of gravity or constantly taking in information (sight/sound/touch), your body has a lot of extra resources at its disposal. When this happens, the brain can focus more on healing, regeneration, forming of new neural patterns, and a host of other profound benefits associated with a deep meditation practice. In fact, at Floatology we often joke that floating is like ‘meditation on steroids,’ as the zero-gravity, lightproof, soundproof environment allows the floater to enter deep states of relaxation and meditation. The list of proven and anecdotal benefits of time spent in a float tank is large, with many studies already published, and many more currently underway. A regular floating practice will assist users in achieving profound relaxation, forming of new neural patterns and pathways, relief from depression/anxiety, relief from migraines and headaches, and enhanced cognitive and problem-solving abilities. The effects on the physical body are profound as well, as the tank will help with improving overall immune function, relieve the symptoms of stress, expedite healing and recovery from exercise, and pull the body into proper alignment with enough time spent in this environment. All of these things can have a profound impact on one’s lifestyle, such as providing substantial stress relief for days after each session, reducing physical pain, improving sleep quality and duration, helping certain people to overcome drug or prescription dependence, as well as being a viable replacement for and arguably more effective form of traditional psychological therapy. Indeed, the benefits of floating do not seem to be bound to any specific group or demographic. Rather, floating has something to offer for everyone, and the meditation inducing effect of the tank can help to improve quality of life for all individuals, regardless of age, gender, background, physical pursuits, work demands, or other factors.
At Floatology, our float tanks are much larger than the float pods that are often seen at centers around the Phoenix Metro area, thereby allowing larger individuals, especially taller athletes, the room to spread their limbs and truly relax inside the tank, which only further bolsters the experience and allows for a wider range of individuals to float comfortably.
If someone has never tried Float Therapy (floating) but is thinking about it, what would you say to them to encourage them to try?
Michael: A float tank is one of the more relaxing, tranquil environments that the body and brain can be in, and in fact very much resembles the ‘womb’ environment. In fact, it is likely to be one of, if not the most relaxing things that an individual has ever experienced, and has often drawn parallels to strong psychedelic or meditative experiences. One thing we constantly tell people is that floating, just like yoga, meditation, physical exercise, and even most hobbies, is a practice, meaning it needs to be done with regularity and long-term intent in order to provide lasting and profound benefits. But this all starts with the first float, and we encourage everyone to take advantage and sign up for their initial float, and experience the unique benefits of floatation therapy for themselves.
Michael was a great resource and super passionate about sharing the benefits of float therapy. I have been able to try four float sessions and look forward to continuing to and finding out more about its effects. After my experience I feel confident in saying float therapy is worth a shot for anyone. Whether you need an opportunity to recover or just escape the world for an hour I encourage everyone to try it at least once. Now it’s your turn to get out there and FLOAT!