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, stress, anxiety, 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.
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 recognised 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.
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.
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.
I had always wanted to try a float but was unsure if I could actually do a float because the idea of going into a float pod filled with water and closing the lid on me actually made me feel a little bit clasphobic even thinking about it. But after speaking to my Spa it Girl Contributor Erica Joy Dunn and finding out all about her amazing float experience at The Next
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!
There has been many decades of scientific research when it comes to the relaxation and wellness benefits of flowing, however floating is definitely one form of therapy that is starting to take off in Spa and Wellness Industry.
Before you float it’s recommended that you don’t shave or wax and that you eat a small meal about 1 and half hours prior, that you avoid caffeine, smoking or other stimulants and you remove your contacts.
I floated for the first time at The Float Centre in Cairns
On arrival I opened the door and stepped into a beautiful calm soothing nurturing environment and straight away it made me want to turn of my mobile phone, whisper and talk very softly. It had an instant peaceful effect.
When I looked around everything was super clean and perfect not one thing out of place that to me showed that the people who own The Float Centre in Cairns truly do care! As presentation is everything and as they say first impression’s last forever and yes as a Spa it Girl reviewer it’s true!
I was greeted by Hannah who was absolutely lovely, she made me feel so welcomed and really happy to be at The Float Studio in Cairns she showed me around so I could get familiar with the studio space.
When it was time for my Float Session appointment she took me into my own private room and when I opened the door I couldn’t believe how big the Flotation Pod was and even though I get claustrophobic in small spaces I thought to myself I can do this, this flotation pod is huge!
The floatation pod was filled with water and it had a beautiful glowing low level lighting and it looked so inviting. The private room had it’s very own shower with body wash, shampoo and conditioner on the wall.
I felt very sleepy after my one hour float session so I relaxed some more in their Post Float Lounge area before it was time to say a very big thank you to Hannah and The Float Studio Cairns for everything and for exisiting.
I loved the health and wellness benefits I received from just one float session and I now can’t wait to float again.
I definitely want to make floating part of my Spa it Girl way of life! as I felt that I emerged more relaxed then when I sometimes have a one hour relaxation massage which I know is a big call but that’s how good my very first one hour float session at The Float Studio in Cairns made me feel.
I was only visiting Cairns but I am now adding The Float Studio on my list of must things to do and now invite you to give floating a go too.
The Float Studio: 149 Anderson Street, Cairns, Queensland – Australia
phone: 07 4032 0367