Floating - A 'New" Way to Meditate

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You know how relaxing it is when you finally make the time to take a long soak in the bath? Imagine stepping into a tub the size of a walk-in closet, adding 1,000 or more pounds of Epsom salt, turning off the lights and soundproofing the room, and matching the water temperature exactly to the temperature of your skin. Now, you're floating, literally. And this womb-like experience just might be the "new" way to meditate.

Floating has been around for 40 years or so and piqued interest in the '80s and '90s, but it's having a renaissance right now due to vastly improved float cabins as well as the popularity of mindfulness and meditation, says Jim Hefner, owner of Just Float in Pasadena, California, aka the world's largest float therapy spa.

“You can point to the mindfulness thing, of course, which is happening right now, the float tank is the most perfect place in our opinion to practice mindfulness due to the lack of distraction. But it's also word of mouth. People come float and have a beautiful, amazing, profound, transformative experience. They tell their friends and come back."

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So, What IS Float Therapy?

Here's what you can expect: Floating can take place in an open "float room" or a closed cabin or pod, with lighting or in total darkness, and with or without music. At glowspa we have two large float rooms. The water temperature is matched to skin temperature, helping you lose perception of where your body ends and the water begins. And the salt, obviously, helps you float. "The part of the brain responsible for tactile input, the two-way communication between brain and skin, turns off, because there is nothing for it to do anymore, along with turning off the lights and blocking out sound (both of which are optional), these are all "tools to promote the meditative state."

David Leventhal, co-owner of Lift/Next Level Floats, a float spa in New York City, says experienced meditators trying to achieve a “theta" state, or the lower frequency brain waves associated with deep relaxation, visualization, and creativity, may get there very quickly during a float, and newbies may also be able to get there with little effort. “Some of our clients experience a pre-sleep, dream-like state where they couldn't tell if they were asleep or awake. That sounds like theta."

Just Float is currently participating in a study (dubbed The Blue Mind Project) in which neuroscientists will do brain scans to compare first-time floaters with experienced floaters using an electroencephalograph (EEG), a machine used to measure brain wave activity.

See also The Big Brain Benefits of Meditation

“Early findings are seeing similar brain-wave activity [during a float] to very high-level meditators," says Hefner. "We hear stories that floating reduces anxiety and blood pressure, and creates general feelings of well-being. People say they slept better and felt happier and more aware. The hypothesis is that floating reduces coritsol (the stress hormone) and increases dopamine [the neurotransmitter associated with happiness]. We want to demonstrate and validate all of this anecdotal evidence." There is some research on floating from the '80s and '90s, but the studies used really small sample sizes, Hefner adds.

See also 7 Ways Meditation Can Actually Change the Brain

Leventhal also acknowledges that a lot of the benefits of floating are still anecdotal, but says he sees “amazing things" every day. “It provides literally instantaneous pain relief for people with chronic pain conditions. One man who had broken his back the year before and had lingering pain felt great instantaneously. It's intuitive … Epsom salt has been viewed as healing for centuries, and in a float tank, almost all gravity is taken off the spine. One client with TMJ (pain during jaw movement) who used to go to sleep every night with a mouth guard doesn't need the guard since starting to float. Pregnant women seem to love it – it helps them deal with taxing on the body of carrying a child. Also clients with eczema and psoriasis say their skin looks and feels better when they float than when use prescription medicine."

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“We're used to a lot of people saying, 'I'll be shocked if I make it a half hour,' then the music comes on to signal that the float is over and an hour has gone by,"

Another common concern: nudity. Floating is something you do in your birthday suit, but you're completely alone with the door locked and the water is clean. The water is completely recirculated at least 3 times between each float, then treated with a combination of a germicidal UV lamp and hydrogen peroxide. Plus, clients are asked to shower before and after each float.

“Floating works," Hefner says. "For me it was a state of sort of feeling myself. To feel and arrive at my own pure consciousness so easily was profound – you can call it the space between your own thoughts, you can call it consciousness, you can call it pure love, you can call it God, you can call it a mystical experience … whatever you call it, it feels very distinct, and when I arrived there I felt like I had been there before and it was home."

To book your float at glowspa visit us online.

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