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As you probably gathered from my not-so-conventional review, I had a float, and I actually enjoyed it thoroughly.
Floating is a very straight-forward “mindfulness practise” (for a lack of a better wording” that involves you floating in a sensory deprivation pod, very much reminding me of the womb symbology (just throwing it in there).
The pod is a spacious tank filled with a super-saturated Epsom-salt solution, 25cm deep and containing 525kg of magnesium rich Epsom-salts (which makes the floatation experience possible).
After a few minutes of gathering yourself, the floating really allows your mind – and especially body for me – to take a well deserved rest in this Dead-sea like water solution.
I recommend you reading my HBC article for more in the history of floating, but I am going to quote one of my favourite answers from Chris, co-director at Floatworks.
The brain uses a lot of power to deal with the huge strain that gravity places on the body. In a floatation tank, your body is totally supported and you feel weightless. So because there is little for your brain to do, every muscle can fully relax. With no commands needing to be sent out, activity in the logical side of the brain slows down until it synchronises with the creative side. (…) In this state, the brain releases vast amounts of endorphins, a ‘feel good’ chemical. While the state of relaxation may be deep and profound, your brain will stay dreamily alert. To get technical, the brain gradually shifts from its usual alpha state to generate theta waves. This is also the state of mind that Buddhist monks try to reach through hours of meditation and years of training.
Pretty cool, uh?
Now, I am not going all about it Joe Rogan style (here) but I am more of a Tim Ferris gal: Time called it “…one of the most anxiety reducing experiences I’ve ever had” and I can totally see why, especially as we both seem to struggle a great deal with filling the void of nothingness (source)
As floatition tanks have been fascinating areas of research since the 50s – going through a more trippy phase during the 70s (but who didn’t really) in the 90s floating enjoyed a new Golden Era, thanks in part to recent studies that empirically prove its mental and physiological benefits (more on this on this blog about the History of Floatation Tanks)
Any proof that this helps people with stress disorders is anecdotal at this point, but something special appears to happen in brain while the body floats. Now, some scientists, like the neuropsychologist Justin Feinstein, are trying to find out what.
A relatively recently Time article discussed some of the existing and ongoing research around anxiety and floating, includig PTSD.
Even with the ongoing research being in its early stages, Feinstein and his team are seeing that floating tamps down anxiety in the brain in a way that rivals some prescription drugs and meditation. The article is quite long, yet it raises some rather interesting points on the effects of floating on the brain.
Essentially what we found in the preliminary data is that the amygdala is shutting off post-float. It’s nice to see that can be done in a way that doesn’t require medication.
(from the same Time article)
Last year Feinstein opened the world’s first ‘float lab’: the Float Clinic and Research Center in Oklahoma, proving that the interest for floatation as a practise is constantly growing.
Floating appears to reduce activity in the Salience network which comprises 2 brain regions which are highly activated in patients suffering from anxiety. These areas are also activated in other negative emotional states. The research is so strong that they have begun clinical trials (source).
Now, I am not saying that just because Zac Efron took a selfie in a pod we are onto something.
However, the research is proving that floatation tanks are gaining more and more traction, which is an overall exciting development, which makes me hope the floatation bubble won’t burst too soon.
(I know, I am finishing on a bad pun, but I kinda had to).