I’m always searching for new ways to relax, meditate, and just remove myself from the daily vicissitudes of daily life. I’ve tried community acupuncture, yoga, running, and various forms of massage; some have been extremely crucial in lifting my fog of depression, helping me recover from my eating disorder, and providing some perspective when I’m feeling lost. So I was particularly intrigued when I heard about float therapy, which some credit with helping alleviate psychological and physical ailments, such as insomnia and fibromyalgia. Float therapy is also associated with the release of endorphins and relaxing alpha brain waves. The basic premise is that being isolated from sensory stimuli will help the body relax and heal in ways that it normally cannot when we’re otherwise distracted. If you’re interested in learning more about this new therapy, read on as I share my first float experience.
What is floating?
Floating was first developed sixty years ago in an academic setting and has since been popularized throughout the US and throughout the world (Sweden, which is the size of Massachusetts, has 120 float centers!). The actual practice of floating is quite simple. Clients first enter a float tank, which is essentially an enclosed structure containing a shallow pool of water. The water is laced with Epsom salt, which makes the water dense and easy to float in. Some tanks are larger than others; as you can see in the pictures below, my tank was tall enough to stand in, but there are others that are much more compact. I’m not claustrophobic, but I’d recommend starting in a more spacious tank if you don’t like enclosed spaces. Some tanks are pitch black, while others have some sort of light feature (like stars in a night sky). Once in the tank, you recline in the water and float for 60 or 90 minutes. It’s generally recommended that you consume a small snack and avoid caffeine before floating.
I decided to visit a local business, Float Boston, for my first floating experience. I woke up bright and early for my 7am float appointment, and upon arriving, the receptionist ushered me to my private room. Inside was an open shower, the float tank, various toiletries, and fresh towels for drying off. She instructed me to first put in silicone earplugs, then take a shower (for hygiene purposes, which I appreciated), dry off, and enter the float tank. My tank, called “summer sky,” had a simple star display, which I found to be preferable to the total darkness of other tanks. The shallow saltwater in the tank was lukewarm, and I didn’t have any problem laying on my back and beginning to float.
At first, I felt weird: here I was, stark naked, splayed out like a starfish, in a shallow bathtub with absolutely nothing to do for the next 90 minutes. I fretted about my earplugs for a while, worrying that they wouldn’t work and I’d end up with an ear canal full of salt water. With the earplugs in, I was also acutely aware of my breath, since every inhale and exhale was magnified tenfold. Over the next hour and a half, I entered and exited periods of deep relaxation wherein my mind either felt empty or flooded with thoughts. I thought about everything from sex to democracy to why the US doesn’t just convert to the metric system already (yes, I’m weird). I floated for a while with my eyes closed, and then for a while with my eyes open so I could gaze at the stars. Towards the end of the float, I started to get hungry and anxious, hoping I’d hear soft music playing–the cue that the float is over and it’s time to exit the tank. When the music did start to play, I tried to move but my whole body felt like lead; like I’d just awoken from a deep sleep. Once I exited the tank, I took another shower to wash the salt off and use the ear cleaner that was provided and wrapped up in the complimentary robe and slippers before dressing.
Overall, I found the experience to be deeply relaxing and a unique meditation technique. Next time, I’d probably float for only 60 minutes since a full 90 minutes felt excessive for a beginner. I also recommend trying to book an appointment in the evening or on a weekend, since I didn’t really like having to rush off to work immediately after finishing.
Have you ever tried floating? If not, would you try it?
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Photo: Pexels, Molly Lansdowne