Monthly Archives: September 2013

Epsom salt and magnesium

A float tank contains a lot of epsom salt.  Like, a lot a lot.  Eight hundred to a thousand pounds each, to make the water so dense you literally can’t help but float.

Epsom salt bags
Amount of Epsom salt that goes into one float tank. © Float On

People sometimes wonder, though, why epsom salt? It’s hardly the easiest thing we could lay our hands on in bulk.  Most importantly, it’s harmless to soak in for long periods, and it doesn’t cause the itchy, pruny feeling you get from soaking in sea salt. But there are other benefits.

Epsom salt is called that because it was first produced from natural springs at Epsom, England, around 1618, and from 1695 chemists and pharmacies were selling purified “bitter salts” all over England. For three hundred years since it’s been used to cure just about anything, from muscle aches to skin health, foot odor, wrinkles, psoriasis, eczema, mosquito bites, bruises, inflammation, hangovers, migraines, constipation, and the common cold.

Do any of these really work? Let’s look at the science.

Continue reading Epsom salt and magnesium

Floating and creativity

Peter Gabriel, the musical legend, says, “[My isolation tank] was quite useful, in the sense that you could get into a dream state, and I think that did allow…different thoughts and pictures to come through.

by Tia Davis
Float-inspired artwork by Tia Davis

Joe Rogan, the comic and MMA host, says, “The sensory deprivation chamber is the most important tool I’ve ever used for developing my mind, for thinking, for evolving.

Matt Stangel of the Portland Mercury reports that after floating, “I began to write creatively for the first time in months, but with an uninhibited ease that I haven’t experienced in almost five years. In short, I was astounded by the changes I saw in myself.

What’s going on here? Why does everyone seem to come out of the tank talking about peace, clarity, and cosmic oneness, or “colors — of cars, of buildings, of the sky — [being] more lush“, or achieving “profound, ecstatic nothingness“, or even “like a DJ had showed up to the party and started remix­ing my brain“? People seem convinced the tank increases their creativity, but does it really, or are they just tripping?

Continue reading Floating and creativity

Floating and sleep

One of the most common causes of insomnia is simple stress.  And loss of sleep not only makes it harder to deal with the outside stress in your life, but it is itself stressful.  It’s a vicious circle.

by Kevin Reynolds
Float inspired art by Kevin Reynolds, from the Float On artist project

There are well-known remedies, but most have equally well-known drawbacks. Most drugs are actively habit-forming, or at least have diminishing returns if you rely on them.  Meditation can be very powerful, but requires disciplined practice and focus to achieve, practice that becomes harder to do when stressed out and short on sleep.

Simply taking 90 min to stop and float, though, can help you break the vicious cycle.  It triggers your relaxation response physiologically, so there’s no need for you to summon concentration when your brain is out of resources.  And astonishingly, it actually shows increased effect with repetition. Continue reading Floating and sleep

Floating and pregnancy

“It’s just that I am feeling so heavy, cumbersome and sore this pregnancy that I would love to feel weightless if only for an hour.”

by Shinichi Moriyama
Float inspired art by Shinichi Moriyama, from the Float On artist project

As always, check with your health care provider first, for any conditions that might be specific to you.  Many women, though, report that they find wonderful relief from the stress of pregnancy in a tank. The dense Epsom salt-laden water gently takes up all the unaccustomed weight you’re bearing, and gives respite to your strained joints.

“I was eight months pregnant when I floated for the first time. Pregnancy takes a toll on every muscle in your body, especially your torso. Ironically, the times when you get a chance to rest is when the baby becomes more active and its weight continues to put stress on your muscles. While floating, I expected the baby to be very active, but was pleasantly surprised. Since there was no pressure from any side, the baby didn’t feel the need to kick or roll around. It was the best rest I’ve had in several months. I would recommend floating to anyone, pregnant or not, for a time of physical and mental renewal.”
(Heather Warren, Oakland, CA)

Continue reading Floating and pregnancy

Fibromyalgia update

Last week I wrote about the Fibromyalgia Flotation Project and said “fibromyalgia is not well understood at all”.   This week I found interesting new research, just published in June! Here’s a quick update.

Function of arteriole-venule (AV) shunts
Function of arteriole-venule (AV) shunts

For what I believe is the first time, a physiological mechanism for fibro symptoms has been found.  This is important, and not just because it means that medications for the disease can now be contemplated.  Fibromyalgia has been such a mysterious condition that many doctors have thought it might be entirely in the mind, or even faked.  That at least should now be disproven, and a surprising new method of diagnosis is available.

Continue reading Fibromyalgia update