By Haley Huchler
To some, swimming in an enclosed pool sounds less like relaxation and more like a nightmare. But those who take it will tell you not to knock until you’ve tried it. The benefits and full experience may surprise you.
What is Saltwater Flotation Therapy?
Saltwater flotation therapy is a sensory deprivation experience that is believed to be of great benefit to the brain and body. It was first developed by physician and neuroscientist John C. Lilly in 1954, and there are now more than 300 swimming centers in the United States.
A saltwater swimming tank contains water with a highly concentrated amount of Epsom salt, which makes the water incredibly buoyant. The water is kept at the same temperature as the human body, and the tank is soundproof and completely dark.
The goal of the tank is to eliminate the sense of sight, hearing, and touch to create a calming sensory deprivation experience that encourages floaters to enter a meditative state. The buoyancy of the water allows the muscles to relax and relieve any tension in the body.
Tanks are usually meant to be closed, but Adriana Benoit, founder of the Mystic Flow Wellness Center in Gainesville, Virginia, says she leaves her tanks slightly open to reduce the feeling of claustrophobia and make customers feel that they feel more comfortable. Describing the tanks, Benoit says they are 3 by 8 feet in their shop.
“Imagine your car with nothing in it,” said Benoit. That’s about the size of a swimming pool.
Floating pods can be used open or closed depending on the comfort of the user.
Saltwater flotation therapy has been lauded for the many health benefits it offers both mentally and physically. Floating can help manage and manage chronic pain, as well as stress and anxiety. It helps relax the muscles as well as the mind. The benefits also include improved focus, improved mental clarity, soft and regenerated skin, and better blood circulation.
Benoit opened the Mystic Flow Wellness Center in 2016. Benoit, who is from Costa Rica, says she got into saltwater flotation therapy first because she missed the benefits of swimming in the ocean.
“What I love about it [salt-water floatation] I am allowed to be present in my body. We live in a very busy world so sometimes we are not really connected to our body … your body really tells you everything for the hour you are in [in the tank]“Said Benoit.
Saltwater flotation has also been shown to help with sleep disorders. Benoit says floating can help relieve insomnia and that one hour in the tank is equivalent to four hours of REM sleep.
The experience of being in the tank can be different for everyone. Most describe it as a time of total relaxation where the absence of sensory stimulation allows the body to relax completely and the mind to wander.
Drew Hall, a supervisor at Stillpoint Wellness in Asheville, North Carolina, is a frequent flyer himself.
“It just forces you into that really deep state of relaxation that sometimes surprises you,” Hall said. “You start to lose the sense of where you are, which really enables you to experience the things that are going on in your head vividly.”
Hall says his experiences in the tank range from total muscle relaxation to deep thinking and strange visions. He even mentions his time in the saltwater flotation basin as a creative source of inspiration.
“Sometimes it can lead to cool breakthroughs, being a painter personally, so sometimes I have creative thoughts that I can use later in my work,” Hall said.
Brooks Brinson, owner of Om Float in Ashburn, Virginia urges folks who are wondering what the experience is like to try saltwater flotation for themselves.
“I can not tell you [what it’s like], everyone is different, so try it for yourself, ”said Brinson.
Brinson’s advice to novice swimmers: “Let go. Whatever you’re holding on to in your head, let it go. “
Where can I find saltwater flotation therapy
Would you like to experience the relaxing and health benefits of saltwater flotation for yourself? Visit the Mystic Flow Wellness Center at 6884 Piedmont Center Plaza in Gainesville (571-284-7612). And Om Float is a short drive from Prince William in Ashburn, at 43490 Yukon Dr # 111. (703-858-3730) Have fun floating!
Haley Huchler is a contributing writer for Prince William Living.