What is floating?

A float tank is a small shallow pool filled with water nearly saturated with Epsom salt, so it's dense like the Dead Sea. You float completely effortlessly. The tank is kept warm, body temperature, and it's enclosed so it's completely dark and quiet.

It's your own private world. It's utterly relaxing.

“I didn’t just feel relaxed, I felt like the giant baby at the end of Stanley Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’.”

But I'm not good at relaxing.

That might mean you get the most benefit of anyone! Flotation REST (Reduced Environmental Stimulation Therapy) triggers your physiological relaxation response directly, so you don't need to meditate or focus or manage your thoughts in any way. You just float ... and relax.

I really don't have to do anything?

Nope. The super-dense water and dark, quiet environment take care of everything for you. You just float.

There's this ironic thing where the people who most need to relax have the most trouble doing so. Floating helps you out a lot.

“I emerged in a profound daze. I spoke slowly and quietly, like a smooth-jazz DJ, to the person at the spa desk who inquired how my session had gone. I felt more rested than if I’d slept for 16 hours on a pile of tranquilized chinchillas.”

What does it feel like?

There's no universal float experience, though generally it is soothing and restful. Sometimes you can completely lose track of time, sometimes you feel tranced-out, sometimes your brain gets full of creative ideas. Sometimes there are even visions.

When you're in the tank, you're alone with yourself, and your experience will depend on your mood, your stress and fatigue levels, and a bit of the randomness of dreams.

Isn't this sort of weird?

We were sceptical at first, too. But it was developed in universities sixty years ago, and the science behind it is by now well established (if never as complete as we'd like). Floating is popular on the West Coast, from Los Angeles to Vancouver, and in Canada, England, Australia, and parts of Europe. The country of Sweden, not much bigger than Massachusetts, has 120 float centers.

It's really taken off across the country in the last few years.

“The way you physically feel afterwards is like getting a massage, doing a full workout, and getting 8 hours of sleep all at once… Until you try it, you won’t understand what I’m talking about.”

Floating has a lot of benefits, then.

There are so many! We live in an overstimulated, overstressed, non-stop world. Our brains need downtime.

Medicine is discovering so many ways that stress harms our bodies. Floating is one of the most powerful relaxation techniques known. It reduces anxiety, and improves your sleep for days afterward. And it has virtually no side effects (apart from salt in your hair).

I heard about sensory deprivation. Isn't that a CIA thing?

Not the way we do it. Anything, even floating, can be unpleasant if you're forced to do it. But at FLOAT you're in complete control. It's completely safe. You can get out any time. The door doesn't even have a latch.

Someone said it makes you trip out.

“My right shoulder twitches. My left calf muscle. It’s like those involuntary muscle twitches you get right before you fall asleep. Except that I’m not falling asleep, I’m waking up. Or letting go. This body doesn’t seem to belong to me. Muscles are releasing like the first raindrops of a quickening spring shower.”

There is a trance-like altered state associated with floating — it feels a bit like that drifting feeling when you're half asleep. Hallucinations are possible, but usually mild. A bit of swirling color, or a feeling like you're flying through space. It can be interesting, but it doesn't happen all the time. And if you want you can stop it instantly by opening the door.

Isn't it claustrophobic?

A lot of people have that reaction before they try it, but it’s very rarely a problem. For one thing, the tank is actually much bigger on the inside than you might think, and you can sit up and move around easily. And if you want, you can leave the door cracked or wide open with a light on — some people find that helpful. The key to remember is that you’re in total control of the experience.

Could I just put some Epsom salt in my bathtub and turn out the light?

Baths can be great, of course, and far be it from us to discourage you. A float tank is like that, but turned up to eleven. Your bathtub will get chilly quickly, while our tanks are kept warm. Your bathtub is probably not big enough to stretch out in — our tanks are eight feet long. They take 850 lbs of salt so that you really float. And your bathroom is probably not really soundproof or lightproof. Our tanks are so dark your eyes can be open or closed, doesn't make any difference.

More information

We've collected a ton of links to articles, video clips, and personal experiences on our Further reading about floating page.