To Float or not to Float?
There is so much to say about floatation therapy or R.E.S.T it is hard to know where to start. The scientists call it R.E.S.T. or Restricted Environment Stimulation Therapy but most of us know it as floatation, or floating, but all I know is I am a floater and floating always gives me what I need. Each session is different for me, no two floats are the same, so everybody’s experience is different, each one is unique and it always gives you exactly what you require at that moment in time.
“The novice floater shouldn’t expect miracles the first time around, as it primarily involves getting your body accustomed to the new environment. It is recommended to float three to five times to initially understand the process of flotation and begin to reap its long-term advantages. The benefits are cumulative, which explains why flotation devotees incorporate this therapy into their everyday lives.”
You arrive in your “normal” mental, and physical state, whatever that may be, sit for a moment to have a drink of water and a quick flick through “Floating Guidelines”. You knew you were coming in to float in 10” of body temperature water, (carefully kept at 35.5 degrees, the exact temperature of the body without muscular action) with over 375kg of Epsom salts dissolved in it but, you have only just found out that if you rub your eyes with this salt water you are going to regret it, apparently, it stings. So you know not to rub your eyes. You know that much of the first float is spent getting used to this new and wonderfully strange environment. You and your mind are open to this new experience.
Time to move into the float suite. Your first look at the float room, ah, not a little coffin like tank but a room with a 2m high ceiling, beautiful blue lights show off the tranquil looking water, and what is that, wow twinkly little star lights on the ceiling. You have total control of the lights and now a little rush of calm excitement washes over you, you can’t wait to get in there, but first a shower.
You step into the float room and feel the warm water on your body; you tentatively lie back and FLOAT. WOW! YOU ARE FLOATING. You become aware that you are not aware of where your body ends and the water starts, yet you are totally aware of your body in this dark serene environment. The breathing deepens and finds a natural steady rhythm, you are aware of your heartbeat. You are floating effortlessly as if you are in space, warm, relaxed and calm. The carefully chosen music is playing and helps you to drift off in to that deep state of relaxation.
The adrenaline levels in your body drop, cortisol levels drop and any high blood pressure drops. You relax. Endorphin levels climb the body’s own happy drug fills your being. You become aware of little twitches in your muscles as your nervous system relaxes and triggers all the tension held in your muscles to release and float out of you. The mind becomes quiet and mental and emotional stresses dissolve and float away. You relax more and more. You release more and more. You are FLOATING.
The music gently brings you around, you weren’t asleep but you weren’t awake…
As you climb out of the float room into the shower you become aware that the Epsom Salts in the water leave your skin is silky smooth and little skin irritations like eczema and psoriasis have calmed down beyond belief. That sore neck now moves painlessly and effortlessly. The feeling of well-being is outstanding, the feeling of relaxed bliss is overwhelming, and you smile and look to the heavens. A drop of water from your hair lands in your eye, ouch it does sting, still it can’t be perfect all the time.
Float to relax, recharge, rejuvenate and release.
Benefits of Floating
Getting rid of all sensory input allows the ‘constantly-make-sure-you’re-not-dying’ part of your brain to chill out for a second, allowing the creative, relaxed part of your brain to come out and play. Without the constant pressure of analyzing the world around you, your body lowers its levels of cortisol, the main chemical component of stress. Your brain also releases elevated levels of dopamine and endorphins, the neurotransmitters of happiness.
Not having to fight gravity lets your muscles, joints, and bones take a well-deserved break. Your body suddenly has loads of extra resources (usually spent supporting your weight, regulating temperature, and trying not to get parking tickets), which it gets to focus on things like healing and resting.
Without old-man gravity pushing you down all the time, your spine lengthens an inch, chronic pain is relieved, and your muscles get to fully rest. Unlike lying on a mattress, lying in water allows blood to flow freely all throughout your body. There’s no need to readjust your position to get comfortable.
About 40 minutes into your float your brain stops producing its normal Alpha waves and starts churning out Theta waves. These are responsible for that ‘between-waking-and-sleeping’ state, and you make them naturally every night before you conk out. While it only lasts for a few sparse moments in your bed, you can achieve a prolonged Theta state in the float room, a state of consciousness that is usually only seen in children and people who have spent years practicing meditation.
Even the magnesium-based Epsom salts we use in the tank are good for you. They soften and replenish your skin, and help counteract the magnesium deficiency that most of us have due to depleted magnesium levels in our soil.