Floatation therapy; it’s a concept I came across on my recent trip to Los Angeles, and I thought, well, this could be interesting. I am a water baby by nature, a lover of water sports, and I need a regular dose of vitamin sea to keep me content. So when I discovered Pause Float Studio, I couldn’t wait to try it out.
So what’s it all about? Well, in it’s most basic description, the floatation tank is a large, enclosed tub of water, filled with a mix of Epsom salts and imported Dead Sea salts, which keep you afloat while you lie back and relax. The ‘Pause’ part encapsulates the meditative aspect – the sensory deprivation experience that comes with the enclosed environment of the pod as you lie partially submerged in 10 inches of body-temperature water, in total darkness. That’s right, you close the lid!
The experience was truly unique, and it may not be for everyone – particularly if you’re claustrophobic, but you’d be surprised at how roomy the pod is, and how freeing the whole experience is, as you lie back, effortlessly buoyed by the salts, cradled by the water at a temperature close to your own.
Let me run you through it: So you start off by taking a quick shower, then you get into the pod. You can choose to float in swimwear, or your birthday suit – the whole idea is that you create the environment you feel comfortable in. There are two buttons on the inner wall of the pod: one controls lighting and the other, music. You start off with a dim light in the pod and meditative music in the background. You can choose to keep the light on, and the music rippling through the water if that works. You can even keep the lid open if it makes you comfortable, but the whole idea is to experience sensory deprivation, so you take it as far as you are happy to.
So I got in, pulled the lid down (a little hesitantly at first) and lay back. You’ve got to relax into it, drop your head backwards, so that your entire weight is being lifted by the salts, and you cease control in order to release all tension; even holding your head up is continuous work for the cervical spine. After a few minutes I reached for the first button and turned the music off. I was a little nervous about hitting the light switch – you’re in an enclosed pod of water after all, but I felt comfortable enough in the space, so the lights went off too. (After checking that it was easy enough to turn them back on again, that is). And there I lay for the next 60 minutes.
(Disclaimer: the woman featured below is not me).
At first my body swayed a little from side to side – mostly because I’d been fiddling with the switches, but once I relaxed I remained very still. Once you settle into it, your heartbeat and breathing slow down, you feel your body unwind, and I started to feel the tension in my body release a little. I can be quite an anxious person by nature, and my daily life is one packed with numerous activities, so I don’t often give myself the chance to really unwind. I’m also a very light sleeper – so the floatation therapy was a really interesting sensation, a feeling of totally letting go, and ceasing control for those 60 minutes. I practiced my own personal method of meditation, of simply counting, and it took me some time to feel myself go into a meditative state – reminding me just how busy my mind is, and how I dart so frequently from one thing to the next. But I got there, and I felt a strong sense of clarity and calmness in that state where your mind drifts between a half-awake, half-dream state, eliminating your usual sensory overload.
What I like about this method is that you can be anyone and benefit from it; you don’t have to be a yogi chanting along to mantras, and you don’t have to contort your body into any specific poses. You might be an athlete looking to unwind both physically and mentally; you could be a business type looking to de-stress during deadline week; or you could be like me: a curious passerby, looking to alleviate the affects of jet lag, after a 16-hour flight. One word of advice is that you do have to really get into it, not just physically (ha), but mentally. For me, I have to concentrate on not concentrating, to get myself into the right frame of mind before I can fully relax. Go in there with zero expectations, because the experience is totally subjective, and could differ day to day, depending on your own mood and vibe that day.
I am told that floatation therapy can reduce the risks and alleviate the symptoms of anxiety, depression, pain from injury, chronic pain and fatigue – to name just a few. In terms of benefits, consistent floatation therapy has shown to be an excellent enhancer of deep relaxation, creativity, sports performance, athletic recovery and detoxification. But of course this is more of a guideline, rather than factual evidence.
All in all, you’re in a safe, clean environment – I checked on that part too, and was reassured that the water is cleaner than any swimming pool you’ve taken a dip in (less reassuring for my lane swimming activities). Pause Float Studio uses Micron Filtration, Ultra Violet Rays, and Ozone Generators to keep the water clean and nicely filtered – not forgetting the fact that the Epsom salts act as a natural disinfectant in the water. Here’s hoping!
Having experienced floatation therapy and enjoyed it, my advice would be to give it a go – it’s a very cool experience, and with the right motivation behind it, you can really feel a difference after a 60-minute session. I only had time for one session, but I would be interested to see the effects of a weekly ‘Pause’ for a month or so, to see if I felt longer term benefits from the practice. I am a bit of a geek when it comes to how our minds and bodies function – particularly in the context of fitness and a neuro-muscular level of connection, so it’s always interesting to see how different techniques and methods of therapy serve to further enhance that connection and benefit our overall health and wellbeing.
For more meditation techniques, check out the feature with Suki Bains, meditation coach and fitness instructor, to find out what style of relaxation best suits you.