The Benefits of ‘Floating’

Photos Courtesy of Meghan Tansey-Whitton

“We live in a society that is on sensory overload all the time. Having tools that allow your senses some time to reset is extremely valuable. You never know what to expect. Sometimes it is a powerful visionary experience and other times it is healing on a more physical level.”

There are many glowing remarks about Sensory Depravation Therapies. This particular comment comes from Steve Gauthier, a ‘floating therapy’ enthusiast. He believes there is no such thing as a good or bad float; each person and experience is unique.

Sensory Depravation Therapy, or REST (Restricted Environmental Stimulation Technique) is the practice of eliminating all distractions – such as light, excess noise, touch and disruption from an individual’s environment. One method of creating this atmosphere is ‘Floating’ – to submerse the client in a specialized light-proof, sound-proof tank full of dissolved magnesium water (Epsom salt), for a 75-minute session.

The water is approximately 93.5 degrees, to match the body’s external temperature, and after a while, there is no sensory distinction between your skin and the water.

The tanks were originally used in 1954 to test the effects of sensory deprivation.

The benefits of this treatment are widespread: improved athletic performance, improved mood, memory and mental recognition, accelerated recovery from injury, reduction in stress, chronic pain from rheumatoid arthritis, healing from accidents, athletic injury and fibromyalgia. It promotes relaxation and increases circulation. Floating has been shown to suppress cravings and aid the release of addictive habits.

The magnesium mineral water is absorbed through the skin during a session and can regulate blood pressure, assist in detoxification and aid in prevention of cardiovascular disease.

A one-hour float session is roughly the equivalent of 4-6 hours of deep sleep.

The therapy also induces meditative states and reduces depression and anxiety. This is due to the increased production of dopamine and endorphins – the neurotransmitters responsible for elevated mood. There is a reduction in the production of cortisol, as well, which is a stress hormone.

Practitioner Lindsay MacPhee says clients book sessions to manage pain, stress and experience meditative benefits.

“Lots of folks just want to relax and rest. Floatation Therapy removes the everyday distractions that make it difficult to practice mindfulness and to be still. This is what sets it apart from most treatments. [When I float] I have zero anxiety attacks; my body feels great and I am deeply rested. My meditations are very insightful when I’m floating on a regular basis.”

Approximately 90 per cent of our brain is busy dealing with external stimuli. When we take away those distractions, we start to see the potential of our mind.

During a clinical study of floatation therapy, published with BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, participant’s levels of stress, energy, depression, anxiety, pain and sleep quality were measured.

Over the course of the trial, participants each received twelve flotation sessions. It was noted that stress, depression, anxiety and what was deemed to be the participants’ ‘worst pain’ were significantly decreased. Psychologically, optimism and sleep quality were significantly increased.

MacPhee say that for the more experienced floaters, the option of utilizing solfeggio tones can enhance the experience. Solfeggio tones are subtle vibrations, played in the tank, that can soften the layers of mental and physical stress. The vibrations flow through the water at 5000 feet per second and help with over 50 per cent of the body’s processes. 

She adds, “It’s 100 per cent holistic and helps to heal and repair your body physically, while allowing your mind to relax and sink into the meditative state. The body holds unresolved physical and emotional trauma which can be stimulated by sound energy encouraging the body and mind to LET GO.”

Shawn McNally, another floating enthusiast, says the therapy has been profoundly self-revolutionary.

“I had been battling depression for more than year; I was crippled with anxiety and barely left the house for anything but work. Floating allowed me to focus and gain a better understanding of myself and why I was feeling the way I did. I continue to learn new things about myself with every float.”