by MyFitness Pal
Looking for a moment of pure, quiet, therapeutic bliss? You could try sealing yourself in a dark tank of warm water, effortlessly floating with no lights or sound to distract you, in the hopes of relieving pain, easing stress and clearing the mind.
Sound a little odd? It’s good enough for two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry. Four-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Tom Brady is a huge fan, too. The Navy SEALS are also regular devotees, inspiring college athletics programs like Ohio State’s football team to incorporate it into its recovery program.
Floatation therapy may be trendy, but it’s not new at all.
Invented in the 1950s, floatation therapy – also known as restricted environmental stimulation therapy – had a brief period of popularity in the ’70s and ’80s, and it’s now experiencing a sort of renaissance moment. In 2015, the New York Post reported there were 267 float centers in the U.S., a significant increase from only 85 centers in 2011.
How It Works
Practitioners fill a special tank with warm water and nearly 1,000 pounds of Epsom salts, creating a dense solution that allows for effortless flotation, thereby releasing the body from gravity. You might have see this in a Stranger Thingsepisode. This treatment is usually performed in a quiet, lightproof pod, encouraging the brain and body to relax. The temperature of the water and surrounding air are warm enough to be “skin-receptor neutral,” making it difficult for the float subject to differentiate where the water ends and where their body begins.
Your heart rate slows down, your breathing slows down, your blood pressure lowers. The treatment lasts for approximately one hour and is supposed to help decompress the spine, draw out toxins and release stored tension, while also providing a meditative atmosphere for further relaxation.
Studies have shown that float therapy has the ability to decrease stress, anxiety and severe pain while increasing optimism and sleep quality, the latter being a key factor to the repair and recovery of overworked muscles and overstimulated minds. It’s no surprise that this treatment attracts clients with extremely physical jobs, but it can also benefit anyone with chronic pain or stress, regardless of age, size or fitness level.
The price tag isn’t outrageous either. Sessions range anywhere from $74 intro floats at Float Nashville to $192 “3 Float Package” which is close to 1-hour massage pricing.
But while there’s no denying that most people would benefit from an hour of total relaxation, there has been no significant scientific data that has shown float therapy to be a factor in accelerating healing. And while some studies have claimed that one hour of float therapy can equate to about four to eight hours of restful sleep, that result is hard to measure consistently.
Salt baths are advantageous though. Epsom salts are chemically known as magnesium sulfate, and an Epsom salt bath allows for the absorption of muscle-relaxing magnesium (in addition to other minerals) through the skin. Epsom salts have also long been credited for relieving pain, muscle cramps and inflammation.
In a world where we’re hyperconnected and moving at warp speed on a daily basis, those moments of solitude and self-care are worth every penny.