By Haley Huchler
To some, floating in an enclosed pod of water might sound less like relaxing and a little more like a nightmare. But those who embrace it will tell you not to knock it until you’ve tried it. The benefits and full experience just might surprise you.
What is Salt-Water Floatation Therapy?
Salt-water floatation therapy is a sensory deprivation experience intended to provide major benefits to the brain and body. It was first developed in 1954 by physician and neuroscientist John C. Lilly, and today, there are more than 300 float centers in the United States.
A salt-water floatation tank contains water with a highly concentrated amount of Epsom salt in it, making the water incredibly buoyant. The water is kept at the same temperature as the human body, and the tank is soundproof and completely dark.
The goal of the tank is to eliminate the senses of sight, hearing and touch to create a soothing sensory deprivation experience that encourages floaters to enter a meditative state. The buoyancy of the water allows muscles to relax, relieving any tension within the body.
Tanks are usually meant to be closed, but Adriana Benoit, founder of Mystic Flow Wellness Center in Gainesville, Virginia, says she leaves her tanks slightly open to reduce feelings of claustrophobia and make clients feel more comfortable. Describing the tanks, Benoit says the ones at her business measure 10 by 8 feet.
“Imagine your car with nothing in it,” said Benoit. This is about the size of a floatation tank.
Floatation pods can be used open or closed, depending on the comfort of the user.
Salt-water floatation therapy has been applauded for the many health benefits it provides, both mental and physical. Floating can help treat and manage chronic pain, as well as stress and anxiety. It helps relax both the muscles and the mind. Benefits also include improved concentration, enhanced mental clarity, softened and replenished skin, and better circulation.
Benoit opened Mystic Flow Wellness Center in 2016. Benoit, who is from Costa Rica, says she first got into salt-water floatation therapy because she missed the benefits of floating in the ocean.
“What I love about [salt-water floatation] is it allows me to be present within my body. We live in a very busy world, so we’re not really connected sometimes to our bodies…your body really tells you everything in the hour that you’re [in the tank],” said Benoit.
Salt-water floatation therapy has also been proven to help with sleep disorders. Benoit says that floatation can help relieve insomnia and that one hour in the tank is equivalent to four hours of REM sleep.
The experience of being inside the tank can be different for everyone. Most describe it as a time of total relaxation, where the lack of sensory stimulation allows the body to fully relax and the mind to wander.
Drew Hall, a supervisor at Stillpoint Wellness in Asheville, North Carolina, is a frequent floater himself.
“It kind of just zones you into this really deep state of relaxation, that kind of hits you by surprise sometimes,” said Hall. “You kind of start to lose a sense of where you are, which really lets you vividly experience the things that are happening in your mind.”
Hall says his experiences in the tank range from total muscle relaxation to deep thinking to strange visions. He even cites his time in the salt-water floatation tanks as a source of creative inspiration.
“Sometimes it can lead to cool breakthroughs, like personally I’m a painter, so I sometimes have some creative thoughts that come through that I can then use later in my work,” said Hall.
Brooks Brinson, owner of Om Float in Ashburn, Virginia, urges people wondering what the experience is like to come try saltwater floatation for themselves.
“I can’t tell you [what it’s like], everybody’s different, the best thing for you to do is to come try it yourself,” said Brinson.
Brinson’s advice for first-time floaters: “Let go. Whatever you’re hanging on to in your mind, let go of it.”
Where to Find Salt-Water Floatation Therapy
Interested in experiencing the relaxation and health benefits of salt-water floatation for yourself? Check out Mystic Flow Wellness Center at 6884 Piedmont Center Plaza in Gainesville (571-284-7612). And Om Float is just a short trip from Prince William in Ashburn, located at 43490 Yukon Dr #111. (703-858-3730) Happy floating!
Haley Huchler is a contributing writer for Prince William Living.