(Image by Ryan Moreno)
Darkness surrounds you, except for a few twinkling lights. You’re weightless, your arms outstretched, palms to the sky. You close your eyes and give in to the calm, quiet water.
There are no children calling your name. No lunches to be packed, no toys to put away. For one, blissful hour, you leave the stress of your day behind you and gently, peacefully, float.
Floatation therapy is the newest way for tired moms (and everyone else) to get away from it all.
In cities like New York, Seattle, and Washington, DC, you can relax in an egg-like chamber designed to deprive you of your senses. A favorite of athletes like the Golden State Warriors’ Steph Curry, retired NBA player and “Inside the NBA” analyst Shaquille O’Neal, and Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis, studies show floatation therapy helps reduce stress, pain, swelling, headaches, depression, and insomnia, while lowering your blood pressure and helping your skin.Need a vacation? Try floatation! @liftfloats Click To Tweet
“Several studies show ongoing flotation chamber sessions can positively ‘reset’ stress response hormones like cortisol, ACTH and epinephrine,” says Mia Kyricos, Spafinder Wellness Trend Report’s chief brand officer. “Much of the research found that these positive effects last months after ‘floats.’ Studies on flotation’s brain impact showed it improved creativity…and boosted focus in academic examinations.”
But it’s not just winning athletes who praise the benefits of floatation therapy. Tim Ferris, entrepreneur and author of the New York Times best seller, “The 4 Hour Work Week” calls floatation therapy “one of the most anxiety reducing experiences I’ve ever had.” The Beatles’ John Lennon credits floatation therapy with helping him kick his addiction to heroin. Saturday Night Live and “Bridesmaids” star Kristen Wig told David Letterman, “You come out and everything is great!…and your skin feels really good.”
And I, your friendly parenting journalist, say it’s amazing.
DaddyVents and I visited LIFT/Next Level Floats (where your faves from OITNB have floated) to experience what some say is like “meditating for years.” After stepping into a spa-like area with couches, philosophical books, and herbal teas, we got a run through of floating basics.
The pods (for the adventurous) and rooms (for the claustrophobic *waves hello*) are filled with about 10 inches of skin-temperature water and 1,000 pounds of Epsom salt. Remember that scene in Stranger Things, where Eleven’s in the kiddie pool of rock salt in the school gym? It’s kind of like that, only much more relaxing.
To help dull your senses, you can turn off the lights and pop in earplugs (which also come in handy for keeping the saltwater out of your ears).
Oh, and you’re naked.
Nekkid. Nay-ked. Bare. But don’t worry. Each suite locks from the inside, and comes with its own shower with and dressing area. The experience is heightened if there is no barrier between skin and water, says Jim Hefner, founder of Just Float in Pasadena, California. If you want to wear a bikini instead, no one will force you to get in the buff.
I stepped into a tub with a six-foot-high ceiling, closed the door, and tried to relax. I told myself to be open to the experience, but as soon as I felt my body start to drift, I’d panic. Once I realized I could touch the bottom of the tank and there was absolutely no possible way for me to drown, I closed my eyes and opened myself up to the possibilities.
I started to fall asleep…I think.
When you’re deprived of outside stimulation, your brain makes its own. A 2000 study found that visual cortexes became more active after less than an hour of visual deprivation. You can see, and even hear things, that aren’t really there. Other studies say that floating increases theta waves, the type of brain waves we produce in that half asleep, half-awake state–like after that 3am feeding. They’re also the kind of brain waves produced during meditation, so floating can feel like you’re dreaming while you’re awake.
The twinkling lights began to look like stars, and I thought I saw them start to move. I heard my husband’s voice in my ear. “Relax, babe. You’re okay. Everything’s okay.” I heard the 2 Live Crew. “It’s okay, Mommy.”
Floaters say they’ve experienced intense relaxation, out-of-body experiences, spiritual awakenings, total mindfulness, feelings of lightness and peace, alternate universes, and an “overwhelming sense of happiness.” One writer says, “This is the closest you will ever come to having a drug-like experience without taking drugs.”
When it was all done, I felt relaxed. I took a long, hot shower and headed to have some herbal tea and decompress. My mind felt clear, my hair felt luxurious, and I felt ravenous. We headed to a Mexican restaurant to grab lunch and talk about the experience.
Everyone who floats doesn’t have the same sensations. While I heard my family’s voices telling me to chill out and had dreams, DaddyVents stayed awake the entire time. “You are getting into your own brain waves during a session,” says Kimberly Boone, who runs Hope Floats in Bethesda, Maryland, one of the most well-known floatation spas in the country. Sandra Calm, co-owner of the Float Shoppe in Portland, Oregon, says “Each float is dependent on that day’s psychology and physiology.”
People with injuries like back and neck pain, physical therapy patients, and fibromyalgia patients have shown improvement in their symptoms after floating. As someone who spends most of the day hunched over a keyboard, I was able to sit up straight with no pain in my neck, shoulders, or lower back–the way I can after a session with my chiropractor.
So, would I go back? Definitely. At $99 a float ($85 for first timers), it’s a self care treat, but the benefits are amazing. I plan to go back at least once every three months. I got out of my head for an hour and got rid of my nagging back pain, and guess what? I even missed my kids.
Try it for yourself at LIFT, or find a sensory deprivation center in your area.