Float Your Way to Relaxation
Laura McLeod is making healthy choices for a better life.
As a kid, I’d lay in the grass on a warm summer’s day, look at the billowy shapes above and wonder what it would feel like to float on a cloud.
Flotation therapy is the next best thing.
What is flotation?
I can’t help but hum Also Sprach Zarathustra when entering a float center – the “pod” looks like something out of 2001 – A Space Odyssey. First introduced to the public in the early 1970s, flotation tanks were developed by neuropsychologist John Lilly 20 years before that to examine the impact of sensory deprivation on the brain. Today, a typical float center has several private rooms with a shower and the sci-fi-esque pod, which is filled with body temperature water and a high concentration of Epsom salt (along with a dash of chlorine for sanitation).
Flotation therapy fell out of favor during the 1990s, but is gaining momentum again as people look for ways to power down and unplug.
Why do it?
Flotation tanks today are largely used for relaxation and stress reduction, but they also have numerous health benefits, including lowering blood pressure and cortisol levels, as well as pain relief. Endorphins released from the anti-gravity effect are said to be mood elevating, and some people use flotation to improve focus and visualization. Some studies also say that flotation helps with depression and sleep disorders.
In previous posts, I’ve mentioned the hamster wheel in my head. What I haven’t mentioned is that I also constantly fidget. I twirl my hair, tap my foot and crack my knuckles. But inside a flotation tank, I can’t do anything. It’s just me, alone with my thoughts and my breath (which at first seems very, very loud). There is no stimulus. There is no fidgeting. There are no distractions.
What’s it like?
Although my first float was more years ago than I’m willing to admit, I still felt edgy as I drove up to Urban Float in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood – the stillness I expected made me nervous. But Urban Float is a delight to enter and my private room was warm and comfortable. After showering with Every Day Shea products (a fair trade body care company out of Olympia, Washington), stepping into the pod felt like a soft caress.
The water inside the pod wasn’t deep and the temperature was perfect. I chose not to have music (earplugs help block external sound and keep the salt out of my ears), and after closing the lid, I turned off the soft blue light from inside the pod. Then… nothing. Well, a little bit of itching. And incessant thinking. But eventually, even my brain slowed down, the itching stopped, and I – finally – relaxed. I was weightless. It’s a lot like meditation without any effort. It’s nearly complete sensory deprivation, and yet I felt completely supported.
An hour went by and it felt both too short and at times, too long. Ambient music played five minutes before my time was up.
My takeaway at the end of the hour? My body is amazing. Everything functions impeccably. I am completely supported.
I hadn’t planned on a new mantra, but I kind of like this one. I feel toxin-free (in addition to creating buoyancy, the salt pulls toxins away from the body) and very relaxed.
Urban Float provides everything you need – shower products, towels, ear plugs and more. The upstairs lounge – for before and after your float – has filtered water or hot tea, with low lighting and comfortable furnishings. It’s a good idea to sit a bit to gather yourself before heading out.
The impact of floating can last for days. I breathe easier, and my body flows a little more smoothly. My daily 60 seconds of mindfulness comes effortlessly.
Give it a try
Flotation tank centers are popping up all over. In Seattle, we have Urban Float and Float Seattle, and in Tacoma, Northwest Float Center. In Portland, there’s The Float Shoppe. North of the border, the Float House recently opened in Victoria and Vancouver.
Laura McLeod is convinced that lifestyle trumps genetics. Because her genetics include many lifestyle-based illnesses, she strives to eat well, exercise and get regular check-ups. While she’s officially reached ‘mid-life,’ she believes you’re only as old as you feel. Laura lives in Ballard with her long-time partner and her energetic, playful cat.