What do high level athletes know about floating that you don’t?
Here’s a sports trivia question for all our athletically-inclined readers:
What do the Dallas Cowboys, the Golden State Warriors, the Chicago Cubs, The Manchester United Football Club, and Michael Phelps all have in common?
You might see this lineup and think “well, the ‘92 Dallas Cowboys won the Superbowl that year; the Golden State Warriors won the NBA Finals in ‘14; the Cubs made history when they won the 2016 World Series; Manchester United is one of the most hono(u)red Football Clubs in the world; and Michael Phelps has won more gold medals than any other Olympian in history! They’re all winners!”
But that’s not all they have in common: they also all used float tanks.
This was posted to facebook today, and it’s worth its own blog post. Enjoy!
Curious about Massachusetts’ cannabis legalization? Below is a Q&A published on WBUR, via Somerville’s Mayor Joe Curtatone.
Issues specific to Float:
1) We are a workplace, and smoking is prohibited. Open flames void our insurance. Please be considerate, and don’t wreck our business!
2) Floating is safe, but water and impairment aren’t a good combo. If our staff doubts that you are coherent enough to keep yourself safe, they will check on you, and deny you service if necessary. This is the same as our alcohol standard.
3) Keep in mind that you need to be together enough to recognize our ending signal, and get yourself out and showered in a reasonable amount of time. Please be responsible for yourself.
See you soon!
Mayor Joe says:Just so people have correct information, here’s a Q&A about how marijuana legalization is taking effect today in Massachusetts. I’ll add that you can’t go walking down the streets smoking a jay any more than you can stroll around with an open container of beer. I suggest people understand what is legal and how that works so that you don’t run into any unnecessary legal trouble.
One of our guest floaters, Joshua, came out of the tank with an interesting comment that he had found the sense of relaxation he obtained to be quite different than his experience of massage or yoga. We asked him what he meant, and he wrote us a great discussion. With his permission, we’re sharing it here:
Many people compare floating to the relaxation available from meditation or yoga. In quick simple terms, I found floating to be the exact opposite of these two techniques. In floating, the mind follows the body. In yoga and meditation, the body follows the mind.
I also experienced a marked difference in the type of “quiet mind” that the other two techniques produce. Having said that, once familiar with the experience of floating, even when going back to meditation it became easier to “get there” and easier to “stay there”.
“The simple act of floating in warm salty water is the most relaxing experience on Earth.” That’s the motto of Floataway, one of the pioneers of the float industry.
A float tank, or float pod, is a small, enclosed pool usually just big enough for one person to lie down in. The water is less than a foot deep, but has so much Epsom salt dissolved in it that it’s more dense than the Dead Sea — each tank contains 800 to 1000 lbs of salt! You float effortlessly, even in such a shallow depth. Epsom salt is used to provide buoyancy, rather than normal sea salt, to avoid the itchy wrinkly pruny effect that comes with long immersion in the ocean. The high concentration of salt does sting quite sharply if it gets in your eyes or nose, but it’s easy to float with your face out of the water, and a freshwater rinse is provided to clean up if you touch your face without thinking.
The pool is heated to skin temperature, so you get neither hot nor cold, and it’s enclosed to block out as much light and sound from the outside world as possible. The roof is high enough that you can still sit up comfortably, but otherwise you are snug in the most womblike possible environment.
With the sounds of the outside world removed, you are left with your own breathing, and heartbeat, and the occasional splash if you move around.
What does this do? There are fairly profound physiological and psychological effects.
You float effortlessly, so the body is relieved of any need to balance itself against gravity or keep any tension in the limbs. You can relax completely. Also, unlike lying on a bed, none of your tissues are compressed, allowing blood to flow freely.
Epsom salt baths have a long history in spas, where they are thought to help soften skin and relieve muscle tension. Scientifically, Epsom salt is magnesium sulfate, and many people also believe that the magnesium can be absorbed through the skin. Magnesium is known to be important in a long list of critical biochemical reactions, and it is common for people to be deficient.
The float tank is designed as a reduced stimulation environment. In fact, that’s the accepted scientific term: Reduced Environmental Stimulation Technique, or REST. Inputs to the cerebral cortex are dampened or eliminated: vision, hearing, touch, proprioception, motor movement and verbal control, thermal sensation and regulation. With the noise of all that normal activity dampened, you can become much more able to hear your inner world. The sensation is somewhat like falling asleep, except that you can sustain that floating state for extended lengths of time. Some people report going so deep that they have visions, mild auditory hallucinations, and out-of-body experiences.
One way to think of it is that flotation provides the most conducive possible environment for meditation. Most people are able to access a trance state within a few sessions, sometimes even the first time, with no training or practice whatsoever.
Whether you experience any altered consciousness or not, the float tank environment is extraordinarily relaxing. Our society is suffering something of a stress epidemic, and stress is recognized as a risk factor for every leading cause of death. More than two dozen studies have shown flotation significantly reduces anxiety, eases depression, helps sleep, and decreases blood pressure. Investigation is ongoing to its use as a therapy for PTSD.
The flotation state also seems to have benefits for creativity and mental focusing. Various studies have shown improvements to memory, idea generation, competitive performance (such as target rifle shooting), and lasting behavioural changes such as losing weight or quitting smoking.
Note: this essay includes a whole lot of comments about “various studies” without links to the science. I am working through the research, and will update each topic as I get to it.
Some people have concerns that they will experience claustrophobia in a tank, but this is rare. It’s bigger than you think — big enough to sit up in easily — and you are not locked in. The door is very light, and does not even have a latch. Some people find it helpful to leave the door ajar, or fully open. That’s okay. There’s no pressure.
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