AD | GIFTED (NOT PAID)
Floating away, Floating away
Imagine, if you will, floating effortlessly in warm water. Your body softly supported by the stillness below. Peace, quiet, surrounds you. You have time to be still, time for yourself.
I’m talking about Floatation Therapy, the peculiar idea of lying in a pod that wouldn’t look out of place in a sci-fi movie and floating. At first it does sound bazaar but once you delve into the depths a little more, you begin to appreciate what it’s about, what the benefits are, and that it’s actually pretty damn great.
Floatation history, let’s take a look
An American neuroscientist, John C. Lilly designed Floatation tanks in 1954. At that time they were called ‘Sensory deprivation tanks’ but later became popularised as ‘Floataion tanks’.
Based on Restricted Environmental Stimulation Technique (REST), floatation therapy enables a person to drift into a deeper stage of relaxation due to sensory deprivation.
“Floatation REST has many physical and mental benefits because it provides an unparalleled level of relaxation. With the elimination of external stimuli, the central nervous system’s workload is reduced by as much as 90%. This reduction draws a person’s energy inward and promotes relaxation–also known as the parasympathetic response. The parasympathetic response is the mechanism by which the body naturally regenerates itself and maintains chemical and metabolic balance. Old wounds and injuries are allowed to heal faster. Increased T-cell production strengthens the immune system. This deep level of relaxation also benefits the cardiovascular system. Known as the vasodilatory effect, the body’s circulation is increased while the blood pressure and heart rate are reduced. Furthermore, the elimination of gravity on the body allows muscles and joints to release tension and heal more rapidly. For this reason, people suffering from musculoskeletal and rheumatic conditions greatly benefit from Floatation REST.” -TheFloatCentre.com
But how do I float?
Magic. Well no, but it certainly feels magical. Floatation tank water is filled with Epsom Salts; this i-sopod has 525kg of the good stuff so floating is effortless!
The water is at a perfect 34.5°C which is body temperature meaning as you fully relax it becomes difficult to determine the water surrounding you.
You may be asking what’s so good about Epsom salts and i’ll be honest, I’ve not always jumped on this bandwagon myself. However, knowing I was hopping along, to bob along, I did a bit of reading and it turns out people wax lyrical about them for good reason.
Epsom salt is high in magnesium and sulphate ions. When mixed with warm bath water, the salt dissolves, releasing these goodies. There are differences of opinions of how much can penetrate through the skin, however this seems to stem from a lack of research into the salts in this use themselves. However the general, and in fact overwhelming consensus is that Epsom salts do good; providing many health benefits from aiding in pain relief, relieving anxiety and insomnia.
Flotation benefits and research to back it
The benefits seem to be pretty astounding.
It has been seen to help/aid: Stress, depression, anxiety, pain, chronic pain, insomnia, muscle tension and provide overall relaxation.
In one study it was found that flotation tanks had beneficial affects across stress, depression, anxiety and pain, whilst also increasing mindfulness the following day.
“Stress, depression, anxiety, and worst pain were significantly decreased whereas optimism and sleep quality significantly increased for the flotation-REST group” ¹
A study by Dr Michael C Dunham looks into consciousness and the qualitative similarities between the stages of sleep and relaxation achieved through flotation therapy. ²
With regards to pain, A Kjellgren, U Sundequist, T Norlander, and T Archer found in their study that “The results indicated that the most severe perceived pain intensity was significantly reduced, whereas low perceived pain intensity was not influenced by the floating technique.” ³
So now that we’ve got the what’s and why’s out of the way, lets get down to my experience…
I was invited to have a float at Floatation Wellness Centre in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear by Mark and his wife Sandra. First things first I wanted to know why they’ve chosen to open such a business and it was here that I learnt of their passion behind Floating Therapy and that it came from years of experiencing it themselves. Suffering chronic pain himself, Mark sort out something to aid relief and happened upon these bazaar looking pods and after feeling the benefits for himself became a regular of floatation therapy. However over the years, he wanted to give back and allow others to reap the same benefits himself and his wife had; thus their own centre was born.
My regular readers will know I’ve a good host of illnesses to boot (if you’re new and intrigued, feel free to have a nosey here and here 😉 ) so my first conversation with Mark was, a) whether this therapy would be suitable for me and b) if it would indeed be beneficial. Mark was excellent at explaining the process in full and sending links to back up the benefits he mentioned.
Here are the links he shared with me, which definitely helped open my mind to Floating. Within a few moments I’d booked up and in the time between then and my appointment I had done the above research, call me keen… 😉
On the day – Floatation Wellness Centre
You’re required to arrived 15 minutes prior to your appointment time, just to fill out a consent form, as with any therapeutic treatment (massage, sauna etc). Myself and my Mum arrived to a very friendly welcome, just as another very happy client was leaving.
The I-SOPOD goes through a deep cleaning sequence after each client and this was happening as I was filling out my form.
The building itself is beautifully fresh, white, clean and inviting and after a little tour I was ready to get going. Of course, I had to take some photos to share with you all first, but then I was ready to finally get my toes wet.
Once through the reception room you enter, a room I shall call ‘The Pod room’ and goodness are you impressed by it’s enormity and sheer shiny, new, space-like curves. The Flotation Wellness Centre have a state of the art I-SOPOD : what is particularly impressive at first glance is it’s size, you could fit two people inside it.
It’s about you
Mark ensured me that it really is about my comfort level and we went through the options for set up. You can choose to have relaxing spa-like music on the whole time, or for 5 mins at the start of your session and 5 minutes at the end to bring you back round again, or no music at all.
There are lights inside the Pod which you can choose to have on a rotating system where they gently change colours. Or you can choose to have a static gentle blue. Or no light at all.
Inside the pod are two buttons, one allows you to control the lighting yourself should you change your mind, the other enables you to contact reception at any time, should you wish.
They also provide a clean water spray bottle and dry cloth, just incase you accidentally get any salt water in your eyes, which I thought was a nice touch.
The lid of the pod is mechanical and has handles on the inside so you are in complete control at all times. I’m thinking of my friends with claustrophobia here! The great thing about this is that you don’t have to have the pod lid down at all, you can float with it open if you wish. Should you bring the lid down, you have the ability to open it at all times, you really are in control.
Shower the day off and…relax
Adjacent to ‘The Pod room’ is a lovely room to get changed in and later, dry your hair and such; equipped with a hairdryer, hair brush, hand cream, deodorant and wipes; great touches. I had taken my Mum along with me and she made good use of the sofa in this room as I defied gravity next door.
Back in The Pod Room and it’s a quick shower down (all brand new shower gear), and fitting of soft earplugs before entering the tank. And buoy do you float (pun intended)! Straight away your legs rise and your torso follows. The I-sopod holds 525kg of Epsom salts and goodness does it make you weightless. You really can lie back in this tank fit for a sci-fi movie, close your eyes and think of star wars, if thats your thing…I’m more of a Galaxy of the Guardians kinda gal… Moving on!
How I felt – Did I float to heaven or were my expectations popped like a ballon?
It was amazing. Truly. Somehow my body felt supported. Anybody reading this with M.E will understand the feeling of all of your limbs constantly being weighed down, with added weights on your shoulders pressing you down. This seemed, I’m guessing by freeing your body from the sensation of gravity I was at least temporarily lessened of some of that burden.
My joints felt supported. Again they did not have to support any weight and both them and my muscles could truly, along with the added soothing benefits of the Epsom salts, begin to relax.
Of course, my busy mind was to-ing and fro-ing but slowly it began to chill and I’d realise I wasn’t focusing on what I was thinking about, or couldn’t remember my train of thought. I’ll be honest, I was perplexed by how I was feeling, it was odd, I felt relaxed and in less pain; I’m not used to that.
My neck is the thing that surprised me the most. The worst muscle pain and tension I have from my Fibromyalgia is in my neck which reaches all the way down my neck, across my shoulder and into my spine. Nothing can stop the spasms, not even sports massages can stop the constant tension. I’ve spoken before over on my instagram @myillnessmythoughts on how I rely on spiky pilates balls and ice packs to get me through and here in this post of the topical pain relief methods that aid some relief.
But nothing has eased the tension quite like this and so quickly. My head being completely supported in the water, my torso too gave such relief. And while I cannot comment on any physiological changes that may have occurred, I was certainly very relaxed and can appreciate the earlier quote of how floatation therapy creates such a deep relaxation that it creates a parasympathetic response.
An heightened sensitivity to light, sound and touch is something many of us with chronic illness (spoonies) suffer and it’s horrid. A huge benefit I found when floating is the sensory deprivation. You really are enclosed away from the real world and all it’s harsh noise. As I mentioned before I chose a gentle light, just to feel comfortable in an unknown situation for the first time, next time I’ll be going for the complete sensory deprivation experience; I truly want to dull down my symptoms and gain all I can from this.
If you know me, you’ll be aware that the more poorly I am, the worst insomnia I suffer. Defies logic doesn’t it? Honestly, I have not had such a good night sleep in years as I did the night after my float. Mind officially blown.
(Currently wondering if I could fit a tank in my bathroom as I’m typing this… 😉 )
With regards to accessibility The Floatation Wellness Centre is wheelchair friendly. There is a slight thresh at the door, as to be expected. The centre is at a downstairs level and all areas can be accessed via a wheelchair. However there is currently not a shower stool, although I’m sure this is feedback Mark and Sandra would happily take note of. If this is a necessity, please call ahead. Also the shower is on a small plinth and is a step in shower.
To be able to access the floatation tank you will need to step into it. I would estimate this is a depth of approx half a metre, again please contact Mark for further information, he is very accommodating.
The adjoining room is kitted out and available for use should a carer join you on your visit.
There is street parking outside, which is flat.
1 Hour Float £40
90 Min Float £90
3 x 1 Hour Float £100
I’m a fan. I’m a convert. So much so, I booked myself and my Mum in for appointments this week. I have a feeling I’m hooked. As a therapy, I can only see benefits. As a company, Mark and Sandra at The Floatation Wellness Centre are great. A well thought out business, run by people who believe in it, because it works for them, with a simple message that they want to help others.
Now, as for me, I’ll be drifting through the week counting down the days till my next appointment…
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*This session was was kindly gifted to me. Due to recent changes in the CMA, ASA & CAP guidelines, ‘gifted’ items need to be listed as ‘AD’, even when monetary payment for an advertisement has not been received. To be as transparent to be readers as possible I will be listing gifted items as ‘AD | GIFTED’. While gifted to me I am under no obligation to talk about or review this product. My views are entirely my own and influenced by my true experience using this product. Please see my disclaimer page for further updated details.
1 Kjellgren A, Westman J. Beneficial effects of treatment with sensory isolation in flotation-tank as a preventive health-care intervention – a randomized controlled pilot trial. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2014;14:417. Published 2014 Oct 25. doi:10.1186/1472-6882-14-417
2 Dunham CM, McClain JV, Burger A. Comparison of Bispectral Index™ values during the flotation restricted environmental stimulation technique and results for stage I sleep: a prospective pilot investigation. BMC Res Notes. 2017;10(1):640. Published 2017 Nov 29. doi:10.1186/s13104-017-2947-4
3 Kjellgren A, Sundequist U, Norlander T, Archer T.
Pain Res Manag. 2001 Winter;6(4):181-9.