One of the very first skills a beginning swimmer learns is floating. For many first-timers, it can be a frustrating task, but as the foundation of all water activities, it soon becomes second nature and even relaxing. In fact, when performed in a “float tank,” floating has proven to reduce stress and physical pain. However, this kind of floating is not your typical weekend in the backyard pool; it is a science, and it has become a trend in alternative medicine, meditation, and relaxation.
Float tanks, otherwise known as sensory deprivation or floatation-REST (Restricted Environmental Stimulation Technique), are lightless, soundproof fiberglass capsules, inside which you float in skin temperature-maintained saltwater. During a “float,” you lay back in the dense water and effortlessly rise to the surface without expending any physical energy to maintain your position, experiencing a zero gravity environment. After normalizing to the water, there is no tactile input on your skin and no pressure points running along your body.
The line between the air and the 94-95 degree F water becomes imperceptible, and when you choose to turn out the lights, your eyes rest in comforting darkness that is the same whether you open or close them. Sessions typically last about an hour and provide a sense of deep, lasting relaxation, as all stressors caused by sensory experiences are paused and the mind and body are provided a needed space for relief and reflection. Not to mention, cortisol, a hormone closely correlated with perceived stress, has a natural tendency to reduce during floating.
The psychological effects of floating are far reaching, considering your mind is cleared of clutter and changing stimuli and free for other brain activity, which allows you to focus on whatever you please. It is common for participants to dip into the theta state, which is usually crossed briefly as we fall asleep. During which, creativity and spontaneity are heightened, and you experience deepened perspectives, problem solving, and new and creative thinking. Some even use floating for exercises in memory, recounting pleasant ones and even tackling negative ones.
Perhaps the most studied and documented effects of floating are physical. As your mind goes into a deep state of calm, your body follows. Your body moves away from physical tension related to the fight or flight instinct and enters a natural state of rest, accompanied by reduced blood pressure and maximum blood flow. Often, your neck, back, and joints will pleasantly adjust while your body resets and realigns. Lactic acid is flushed from tired muscles as your body absorbs magnesium from the salt-infused water. Academically published research in the U.S. and Sweden show that floating reduces stress and pain from acute injuries, physical exertion, and chronic conditions like tension-related muscle pain and fibromyalgia.
The lightweight, circulated tank allows you to exit as you please. When you emerge, your senses are sharpened, your mind refreshed, and your body rejuvenated, leaving you happy, at peace, and calmly attentive – a feeling that can last for hours, days, and potentially much longer.
In open water, the Nekdoodle® creates an effortless float similar to that experienced in float tanks, and you can even bring your Nekdoodle® along with you to a floating session for additional head and neck support. Visit Nekdoodle® at the Float Conference on August 20-21 in Portland, Oregon for the world’s largest float tank event to learn more about the increasing number of spas providing float tanks and their countless benefits!