I closed my eyes and was transported to a tranquil world. I felt weightless, as if I was resting on top of a fluffy cloud. My arms floated out beside me. No, I wasn’t flying. I was trying float therapy for the first time.
Float therapy is a type of hydrotherapy that is becoming more popular these days. There are now hundreds of float centers popping up across North America and Europe. Float therapy provides a lovely relaxation experience that truly allows you to escape from your worries and just enjoy the peace and quiet of the moment. Floating is a great tool to try if you are looking for a new way to reduce stress and anxiety for you or your family.
How Float Therapy Works
The general concept is that you pay to float in a special water tank for about 45 to 90 minutes per session. You can book a float therapy session at a spa or a center that specializes in it. The experience involves relaxing in water that is about ten inches deep in a dark, private room.
You are able to easily float because of the high concentration of Epsom salt in the water. It provides a relaxing experience because of the weightlessness and sensory deprivation. By removing sound, light, and other outside stimuli, float therapy can be very meditative.
During my session, I kept the door slightly open to allow some light to come in. The floating chamber was part of a private room that had a sink and shower. I was asked to shower before entering the water and after my session was over. I was also given special moisturizer to apply after floating because the salt can dry out your skin. You can choose to wear a bathing suit or not, but if you wear a bathing suit, just be aware that the color could fade.
The attendant also provided me with a flotation device to place around my neck to keep my ears above the water and my head stable. Some centers have the option to listen to soothing music while you float, or you can just enjoy the silence.
I was a bit apprehensive about feeling claustrophobic in the float chamber, but it wasn’t an issue at all, especially since I kept the door slightly ajar. I really did feel transported to an alternate universe and was so in touch with my own thoughts and feelings during that time as my body melted in weightlessness.
Benefits of Float Therapy
Research has found that floating can actually change our brain waves and reduce cortisol levels, therefore making us feel more relaxed. A 2001 study found that spending time in a flotation tank effectively decreased anxiety and depression, and increased optimism.
Experts believe that float therapy allows the brain to transition from a waking state to a state of deep meditative consciousness similar to the moment between waking and sleeping. In this altered state, our mind settles down and we can experience a blissful feeling.
According to Clinical Neuropsychologist Justin Feinstein at the Laureate Institute for Brain Research (LIBR) in Tulsa, Oklahoma, floating creates an ideal environment for practicing meditation. So much of meditation is about focusing our attention, and floating very naturally reduces all the external distractions that often get in the way of reaching a mindful state. He also thinks that floating can help put the nervous system into an extremely relaxed state, reducing heart and breathing rates and lowering blood pressure.
We also know that spending time in water, in general, has a tremendous soothing effect. Some believe this is because it is reminiscent of the time we spent in our mother’s womb surrounded by amniotic fluid. It may also be related to how the water makes us feel airy and free. We are also naturally attracted to the blue color, shininess, sparkles and reflection of light, and motion of water.
Essentially, when we are immersed in water, such as floating, we feel lighter and more relaxed. As a result, we enjoy lower stress levels; relief from anxiety, pain, and depression; improved mental clarity and focus; and better sleep. Float therapy gives us a chance to reset and recharge both our bodies and minds as we disconnect from stimuli like electronics.
Can Kids Do Float Therapy?
Children can do float therapy, but just be sure to ask what the age requirements are at the center near you. Some have a minimum age and require a parent or guardian to sign a release form or be in the room with the child.
While float centers say that the therapy poses little danger of children drowning in the tank because of the salt and minimal depth of the water, it is still a good idea to monitor your children while they are in the tank so that you can be there to help them if needed.
Here are some other ways for your children to spend mindful time in water to feel relaxed:
- Encourage them to practice floating on their back in the swimming pool.
- Turn bath time into a mindfulness moment by asking them questions about how the water feels and sounds.
- Take trips to visit rivers, lakes, and the ocean.