Why I'm a Fan of Float Therapy
Floating, naked in a foot of water with 1,200 pounds of Epsom salt in it... sound like a dream or a crazy wellness scheme? I know several people who think the latter, including my husband who I dragged along with me the second time I went to float. But for me, float therapy is like meditation on steroids. I’ve struggled with anxiety for most of my life, and meditation is the one thing that has been able to calm that inner storm for me. So when I learned from our podcast guest Karolina Stojanovic, founder of Freeze & Float spa in Chicago, that the benefits of float are similar to meditation, I was immediately interested.
What's It Like?
I tried out the float tanks at Freeze & Float for my first experience. Karolina walked me through the steps to making it into the tank – first undressing and putting ear plugs in the ears, then showering to remove the oils from the skin, then getting into the tank (yes, naked) and shutting the door. There were dials on the side of the inside of the tank that you can adjust to your own liking – the recommended experience is complete sensory deprivation, which means no lights or sound for the full 60 minutes that you are in the tank. However, if you know that will be tough or struggle to meditate not in a tank, then there are dials for twinkly lights and music at varying levels. I chose to go all in with no lights or sound, and laid back with my arms up by my head as soon as I shut the door. The first twenty minutes or so, I could not get my mind to quiet. I started thinking that the ear plugs were uncomfortable, that someone was going to attack me in my vulnerable state while I laid there quietly, and various other directions my mind went with no stimulus to which to attach itself. But then, I slowly started noticing that my body was relaxing more and more. My knees were clenching a bit and I was able to let that go. My shoulders, always a reminder of stress for me, became more relaxed. And as my body relaxed I entered a very relaxed mental state – not sleeping, but unaware of space or time. It was hard to tell where my legs and arms stopped and the water began. The 60 minutes went by quickly after that, and soon I heard the calming voice of the tank tell me my time was up. I left the spa feeling slightly buzzed, completely relaxed to a point that I had not experienced in awhile.
Why Float Therapy?
While feeling relaxed is a nice benefit in and of itself, there is actually science that supports the benefits of float therapy. A study by the Feinstein Laboratory confirmed what I felt, that a 60 minute float therapy session can provide significant short-term relief from symptoms of stress and anxiety. It does this by reducing sensory input to the nervous system, and putting you into the parasympathetic state.
My Top Tips for Trying Float Therapy
If your interest is piqued enough to want to try it for yourself, here are my top tips after a few sessions:
Try it out more than one time – it can be hard to completely relax. Karolina recommends three sessions before calling it quits.
Go the sensory deprivation route – it can be scary to have no lights or music on, but my experience is that the mind is freer to relax if it cannot attach itself to stimulus.
Check that the earplugs are sealed – before getting into the tank my first time, I made the mistake of not properly securing them and felt the nagging feeling of water going in and out of my ears.
Want to learn more?
Check out our episode with Karolina Stojanovic - Episode 12: Struggling to Create a Daily Meditation Practice? Try out Float Therapy First!