Now that I am based at Floating Point Float Centre in Pangbourne and having experienced my first float yesterday, I wanted to explain what floating is, why do it and how it is relevant to the treatments that I provide.
What is floating?
Float therapy is a form of sensory deprivation that promotes deep relaxation. The first floatation tank was built in the 1950s by researchers in America studying the effects of sensory deprivation on conscious activity. For the next thirty years the design was modified and the experiments refined by other researchers around the World. In the 1980s floatation tanks started to be used by the wider population because of the many potential benefits and applications. Float therapy is gaining in popularity, particularly in Scandinavia where it is now prescribed as a treatment.
I will explain what a float entails from my experience yesterday. At Floating Point in Pangbourne there are two float rooms each with a pod and shower in it. Having undressed completely, I stepped into the float pod, closed the lid and lay on my back in a solution of Epsom salts (magnesium sulphate) strong enough to support my weight. It was at body temperature, so I could hardly feel it. As I was floating, I had no contact with the sides of the pod, so there was no sensation of touch. If you are claustrophobic, you can leave the lid open and lights on. I chose to float in total darkness.
I had booked a float because last night I did the Shine Walk, a 26-mile overnight walk round London, so needed to get some rest in beforehand to compensate for the lack of sleep. To speed up my relaxation and optimise the rest, I chose to listen to 10 minutes of music at the beginning and end of the float, which is designed to promote meditation. You can float in silence throughout or to music all the way through (Floating Point offer a choice of tracks depending on what you want to get out of the experience).
At first I felt as though I was rotating even though I wasn’t and my head felt unexpectedly heavy (I might use a neck support next time). What struck me most was how aware of my heart beat I was from very early on: it was the only sound and sensation. I could feel it rippling the water. I also felt at times as though I was tilting to the right, which I assume is because I am right handed. I used the time to focus in on the experience and to meditate. I didn’t fall asleep, but I came close to drifting off at one point.
At the end of the one-hour session, a blue light came on and the music stopped. It was then time to lift the lid, shower off the salts and get dressed. There is a chill out room if you feel the need.
It is a unique experience and it worked for me as I managed to complete the walk!
The sensory deprivation of floating relaxes the nervous system and the magnesium sulphate relaxes the musculoskeletal system, so there are many benefits and applications of floating as a treatment:
- To promote health and well being as a regular part of a healthy lifestyle
- To enhance sports performance and aid recovery
- In pregnancy
- To improve sleep
- To optimise mental function (meditation, concentration, problem solving, habit changing)
- In pain management
- To reduce stress, anxiety and depression
- To counteract fatigue
How is floating relevant to manual therapy?
As floating relaxes body and mind, it optimises the benefits of manual therapy, so that you relax more deeply and the therapist can manipulate tissues, limbs and joints more easily. If you feel that you would benefit from that or just want to try the experience, contact Floating Point to book your float and me to book your treatment.