Like many athletes, I’m a huge fan of Epsom salt baths. In fact, right after eating and a few recovery yoga poses, it’s part of my weekly post-long run routine. And while studies have yet to definitively prove their recovery benefits scientifically, anecdotally I can tell you that I swear by my salt baths — by the next day, it’s like the long run never happened.
So when I heard about this new trend of floatation therapy — where you essentially get into a ginormous bath tub of salt water and float for an hour — I was beyond intrigued. I read briefly about the benefits of floating, specifically its effect on healing and recovery. I’d just finished another ultra marathon and I’ve been killing it in the gym lately so that was enough to get me to book an appointment at Float Frederick not too far from my house.
Think about your best, most relaxed savasana ever … it’s like that but in a dark room with no sound and your body is completely weightless. An hour-long, sensory-deprived, weightless savasana (AKA heaven on Earth). Seriously, get yourself one immediately, if not sooner.
What Is Flotation Therapy?
Depending on which float center you go to, there are different types of tanks. Some are like pods and others (like the one I went to) are more like huge enclosed bathtubs. My tank had about 10 inches of salt water in it, which was about one-third salt to two-thirds water. The water is kept at a temperature that’s right around normal body temperature so it neither feels cold nor hot to the touch.
The Epsom salt water used in the tanks is so dense that you float effortlessly and your body can completely relax. With nothing else to do, your internal systems and organs can direct their precious resources to recovery and repair functions.
The float center I went to had a book that was chock full of information on the benefits of floating and its implications in the future of health and wellness. Lots of interesting and amazing stuff. Here’s a few of the highlights:
- Reduced gravity. Since the salt water is so dense that you can literally float on it, most of gravity’s effects on your body disappear. This means that your spine and joints can experience space and decompress, moving them into a more natural alignment. Additionally, because your muscles no longer have to work to keep your bones in place, you get to experience total muscular relaxation.
- Sensory deprivation. We live in a world of constant overstimulation. Lying weightless in a pool of body temperature water in a sound-proof room with minimal stimulation can be a bit of a shock to the system at first. But soon you’ll be in a state that’s very similar to the moment right before you drift off to sleep at night. With nothing there to interrupt or steal your attention, you hover in this dream-like state of consciousness where your brain can slow down and everything is completely clear.
- Stress relief. Without the effects of gravity and outside stimulation, your nervous system can switch out of its “fight or flight” response mode and into its “rest and digest” mode. In this state, the body can stop producing stress hormones and focus on proper function of all bodily systems — meaning your body will be operating at maximum efficiency.
Well, if you hadn’t already gathered, my experience was absolutely awesome. Like, amazeballs.
After I arrived, I was escorted into a private sound-proof room with a shower and my float tub. The staff showed me the filtration system for my tub and explained that the water was filtered seven times between clients. I was given earplugs and told to shower using the provided tub-safe soap and strip down into my birthday suit.
So that’s what I did. Then I climbed in and turned out the lights. It took me a while to notice how much tension was still in my body from trying to hold myself up. Eventually though my body surrendered and let the floaty donut-shaped head support hold my face out of the water. Slowly, my hips began to lift and my head sank until my body was about 50 percent submerged in salt water, floating effortlessly.
It was a weightless mediation. I was so relaxed that I completely lost track of time. Best meditative experience of my life. I remember feeling incredibly refreshed for hours after my float — like I’d taken a championship-level nap.
One quick note: Be sure to follow the rules and guidelines for your float center. For example, recently dyed hair is usually a no because the chemicals can contaminate the water or damage the filtration system which could mean a pricey clean up fee for you.
Who’s ready to float? —Alison