Everything you need to know about floating
Floating is slowly becoming a major trend in health and wellbeing industry. This might be happening due to the fact that floatation experience is backed up by science. There are a number of research studies that discuss the benefits of floatation that include deep relaxation, mood enhancement (mainly because of the elevated levels of dopamine and endorphins) and restoration of the body’s metabolic and mental balance.
According to a research study by Kjellgren, Lyden & Norlander (2008), floating induced an altered state of consciousness “varying from a milder state including profound relaxation and altered time perception, to more powerful with perceptual changes and profound sensations such as out-of-body experiences and perinatal experiences” (p.1).
What is floating? How does floatation tank work? Everything you need to know about floating is summarised below.
What is Floating?
Floating is an experience of… well, floating, that happens in a special floatation tank. This tank looks like a big bath tub with a lid and is part filled with warm water, saturated with Epsom salt. Because of the salt, the water in the tank is denser than the Dead Sea, which means that you easily relax in the water and float on the surface.
There are small colourful lights in the tank that can be switched off and on (there is a big button on the side of tank) whenever you want. Essentially once inside the tank, the bath’s lid should ideally be closed, and the lights switched off in order for you to enjoy a full “sensory deprivation” which allows to reach a deep meditative state. In research this is called floatation-REST (restricted environmental stimulation technique).
The tank has an extensive soundproofing system, so external sounds are kept to an absolute minimum. You can also use earplugs if you wish (they are normally provided as part of the experience). A single floating session is normally 60-90 minutes long, depending on the package purchased in the floatation SPA.
See a video that summarises floating here.
What is the process of Floating?
If you are planning to try floating for the first time, this is the usual process of the experience:
- Instruction: A SPA member explains the process and shows how everything works.
- Shower: The room with the floatation tank also has a shower in it. Before stepping into the tank, have a proper shower – including washing your hair.
- Prep: If you wish, put the earplugs in. Most floating places also have a special paste that you could apply on small scratches on your body, otherwise the salty water makes them burn and the experience is not very enjoyable. In general, it is not advisable to float if you have any small wounds.
- Tank. Step into the floatation tank. Get into a floating position (whatever is comfortable for you – hands sideways, behind your head or whatever works). If you are comfortable with darkness, close the lid. Once your eyes have adjusted to the darkness, you can also switch off the small light inside the tank.
- Music. There will be calming music playing in the tank for the first 10 minutes to help you to relax. After this duration, the music stops and starts again when only 5 minutes of floating time remains to wake you up (hopefully) from the deep relaxation state.
- The End. Once you are aware, switch on the light, open the lid and get back into the shower. Your whole body, including your hair, will be covered with traces of salt, so make sure you shower really well afterwards.
- Don’t Stress. Finally, do not stress if you haven’t managed to get into the promised meditative state straight away. Like with any other means of meditation, it takes some time and practice to be able to fully relax. It is common for this to be achieved on or after the third session. It might be that you’ll spend an entire hour thinking about something first time you try floating which is absolutely normal. Just do your best to relax and enjoy.
My Floating experience
So far, I have floated twice, in two different countries, and I really liked it. The first time I tried floating was in West London (Vauxhall), at Floatworks. A single float session costs £50 (yes, it is not the cheapest way to spend your time). There are also a few other places in London for floating, London Floatation Centre in East London (Canary Wharf) and Relax and Float in South West London (Norbury). Both places charge the same fee – £50 per single 60-minute session. However, all three floatation centres often offer various promotions.
The second time I tried floating in Vilnius, Lithuania. The only floating studio in Vilnius is Only Good Vibes and one 60-minute session costs 35 Eur.
I enjoyed both floating sessions, although I found it easier to relax in the second one. The time of the float might also have contributed to the ability to “let go” of all of my thoughts. The first time I floated in the evening, right after a full day of work, which meant that my head was still full of work-related thoughts. The second time I floated early in the morning (at 7am) which felt like getting an extra hour of really good sleep.
Overall, I enjoy floating. It is pleasant and relaxing, and no, it is not scary at all. Whether you struggle with the more usual, accessible ways of relaxing (meditation, reading, bathing etc.) or are just looking for a new experience, floating is a great thing to try. Float yourself into health, peacefulness and calmness!