Floating, also known as floatation therapy, sensory deprivation or Restricted Environment Stimulation Therapy (REST) is the practice of entering a specialised floatation device in which you are suspended effortlessly in a super-saturated solution of magnesium sulphate (Epsom Salt) and water, within a light and sound controlled environment.
The water within the pod is maintained at skin temperature so that, after a short while, you lose the awareness of where the body ends and the water begins. This unique environment reduces external sensory stimulation and effectively suspends the effects of gravity.
Floating in this environment induces a state of profound relaxation, augmented by the full body absorption of magnesium, and allows the mind to enter a deep meditative state. You experience a sense of focus and clarity that is difficult to achieve with other techniques, and profound and measurable changes occur within the mind/body system, which have been shown to improve overall function and performance.
Whether you are using floatation therapy as a tool for relaxation, rehabilitation, meditation or creativity, a session in a pod can have a wide range of benefits for the mind and body. And all can be achieved without any prior experience or special training. After floating, you may feel the effects immediately and while many of these effects may last up to 48 hours, some are even longer lasting. Furthermore, the effects are cumulative – in other words, the more you float the better it gets!
Below are some of the amazing benefits of floating, all backed by many decades of scientific research.
By eliminating external stimuli, the environment inside the pod induces a state of deep relaxation that is not usually achieved by other relaxation techniques. The sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for our ‘fight or flight’ response is suppressed during floating, and the parasympathetic nervous system is activated.
This response results in a measurable decrease in blood pressure, a lower heart rate, decreased muscle tension, decreased production of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline and an increase in the production of endorphins. Tension melts away as you float effortlessly and weightlessly. The pod also allows you to simply take time away from the constant clamour and pressure of the outside world for the much-needed “me time” we all could use in our daily lives.
Our lives are becoming increasingly stressful and the impacts of this stress on our physical and mental health is becoming more and more apparent. Chronic over-activation of the stress response and the resulting flood of stress hormones can create a cascade of negative physical and mental effects commonly associated with stress disorders.
Floatation offers time away from these stressors as well as offering some direct benefits to physical and mental health. Floatation has been shown to reduce stress and its effects by promoting the production of endorphins and boosting the immune system, and by reducing the production of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Blood pressure and heart rates are also lowered during floating, creating a sense of deep calm and peacefulness. Floatation can also be used to enhance mindfulness, which is a useful tool to manage anxiety.
In 2005, a meta-analysis further confirmed that flotation was more effective at reducing stress than other popular methods such as relaxation exercises, biofeedback or relaxing on the couch.
Floatation is becoming more widely recognized as an effective tool to manage pain as more research is conducted in this area. The feeling of weightlessness as the body is held in perfect spinal alignment can bring immediate relief for many joint and muscle pains, and these effects may be felt for several days.
Many people who suffer from chronic pain have reported a reduction in the use of medications after floating regularly. There is compelling evidence that floatation can be beneficial in alleviating arthritis, back pain, neck pain, migraine, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, post-operative pain and the discomforts of pregnancy.
Floating also aids in pain relief by boosting circulation and muscle and nerve function, by reducing inflammation and reducing the production of stress hormones as well as by increasing emotional and mental resilience to allow you to cope with chronic pain.
The Australian Institute of Sports has been recommending floatation therapy to its athletes for many years. Many Olympic and other high profile and athletes use floatation as a part of their training regime, to help recovery and to aid in mental training through visualization techniques.
Floating can aid in speeding up recovery from sports injuries by reducing muscle tension, cleansing the body from lactic acid build up, reducing inflammation and swelling, enhancing the growth of muscle tissue, and reducing pain through the production of endorphins.
Floating is also very beneficial when used in conjunction with other forms of rehabilitation, such as physiotherapy. Sport psychologists at the AIS believe the tanks work in both a preventative and rehabilitative way, and athletes and coaches support their use.
Floatation has been shown to enhance sports performance across a wide range of sports including basketball, darts, gymnastics, tennis, golf, running, rifle shooting, body-building and martial arts. Several studies have also demonstrated that musicians can achieve better technical abilities after regular floating.
In the deeply relaxed state achieved within a floatation pod it has been shown that a person can become more receptive and able to focus more clearly, making them the ideal space to practice visualization techniques, to focus on past performances and practice sessions and to mentally prepare for performance.
Float tanks have been called ‘the gateway to creativity’. Floatation directly affects our brain wave frequencies. There are four basic brain wave frequencies, each correlating with a specific state of consciousness. Beta waves are associated with being alert, active, and whenever you concentrate on learning something or doing an activity that requires focus. During floatation our brain waves gradually shift from beta waves to alpha waves and even to theta waves. Alpha waves are associated with relaxed, daydreaming states of mind; a state of relaxed, detached awareness. Some people consider alpha waves to be the link between the conscious mind and the subconscious. Just before you drift off to sleep alpha waves disappear and theta waves appear. Theta waves are associated with vivid imagery, insight and inspiration and are found in deep states of meditation, peak spiritual experiences and higher states of consciousness. Interestingly, children, who are highly creative and always learning, are predominately operating in a theta brain wave state. Research has also shown that regular floaters continue to generate large amounts of creativity-promoting theta waves for several weeks.
Floating can increase mental clarity and focus, with research showing improvement in memory and recall activities, making this an ideal tool for learning and for increasing productivity and innovation.
Floating is a safe environment for finding relief from pregnancy symptoms. By entering a weightless environment, the pressure and strain on the body, spine and pelvis are lifted and you are able to lie comfortably in a soothing and relaxing environment. Floating is also a wonderful method for reducing muscle cramps and pains through the effects of the magnesium solution.
Many women are able to finally achieve some restorative sleep while floating, as well as a sense of calm and connectedness with their baby. Some women have even reported being able to hear their baby’s heartbeat within the silence of the float pod! If you have any complications in your pregnancy, or if you have any concerns, please consult your doctor before floating.
Infertility is a major cause of stress amongst couples, and stress can have a major impact on fertility. As floating is a powerful tool for reducing stress and is also known to increase the production of endorphins, many women who are trying to get pregnant or who are undergoing IVF have found better results after regular floating. It is an ideal tool for couples that are struggling with fertility as floatation therapy leaves you feeling more positive, more rested and stress-free.
Sleep matters. Lack of sleep has been associated with impaired attention, judgement and concentration, with chronic diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure and depression. Floatation has been used to combat fatigue caused by poor sleep, insomnia, jet lag and shift work. It has been said that one hour in a float pod is a restorative as 4 hours of sleep.
With all these amazing benefits we have explored, it is easy to see how floating is great for anyone of any age. Chronic conditions such as stress, high blood pressure, fatigue and pain can be effectively managed but even without specific ailments it is clear that regular floating can have positive effects leaving you relaxed, refreshed, balanced and more connected with yourself and your world.
Within the float pod all external sensory stimuli are reduced which allows the mind to enter a deep meditative state. Research has shown that floatation can induce a shift in brain waves to frequencies that are achieved during the tranquil experiences of deep meditation. Floatation is able to achieve this state quite rapidly, without requiring years of experience and dedicated practice.
The benefits of meditation are now well known and accepted, new and exciting research using fMRI to study the effects of meditation on the brain suggests that meditation can profoundly influence your experience of the world by altering the structure of your brain. Studies from Harvard University have shown that regular meditation increased the amount of grey matter in the brain in the regions that are important for attention, mental flexibility and mood regulation. Meditation is also a powerful tool for mitigating stress and its effects.
Preliminary studies suggest that regular floatation sessions encourage a state of being that is conducive to cutting down on cigarettes, alcohol and other drugs. Much like the effects of meditation in terms of reducing anxiety, stress, blood pressure, muscle tension and changing brain wave activity, floatation therapy allows the person to experience a change in their state of being, which is more relaxed and at ease.
There is an increase in the production of endorphins during floating which satisfies the biochemical drive to seek pleasure, therefore reducing the likelihood of needing to find alternative ways to meet this need. A floatation pod can also be an ideal space to relieve both the physical and mental symptoms of withdrawal, and to increase motivation and concentration on a plan to tackling addiction.
Magnesium is a remarkable mineral and often overlooked. It exists in many forms, each producing different effects in the body. In our float pods you are floating in a solution that has been super saturated with magnesium sulphate (Epsom Salts). Epsom salts have been used for decades to soak aching joints and muscles but research has now shown that there is effective transdermal (through the skin) absorption of magnesium when soaking in Epsom Salts, which causes a rise in magnesium levels in the blood.
Similar to vitamin D absorption from the sun, transdermal absorption of magnesium is a self-regulated process – the body only absorbs as much as it needs. Magnesium is essential to digestive health as it is used in the production of the body’s digestive enzymes as well as playing a role in over 325 enzymatic reactions in the body.
Magnesium deficiency can be mild or severe, and studies suggest it is becoming less uncommon. The National Academy of Sciences and the World Health Organisation report that most of us are magnesium-deficient. Magnesium deficiency can produce symptoms of depression, muscle fatigue, muscle cramps, insomnia, poor memory and mood disregulation. It aids in relaxing the smooth muscle in arteries, thereby reducing blood pressure and has a role to play in managing irregular heart beats. It has also been shown that magnesium supplementation can help to lower stress and anxiety levels as well as enhance the body’s ability to use insulin and regulate electrolytes. The benefits of magnesium in the body are almost endless and floating is a safe and easy way to boost your levels. Plus, it will leave your skin feeling silky smooth!
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