Float therapy has been around for decades, but the health benefits are endless finds Vanessa Williams.
Imagine feeling like you’re weightless, as if you’re floating on a cloud and have let go of all the tension in your body while clearing out the busy thoughts that have been running through your head all day.
Welcome to float therapy, an experience like no other that offers you an hour of uninterrupted bliss where you can escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Not only is float therapy known for its relaxing and de-stressing qualities, but studies have shown that it offers an array of health benefits if done regularly.
So what exactly is float therapy? In a nutshell, it involves immersing yourself in a float pod or tank filled with water containing a high salt level that creates a buoyancy effect to support your body and promote a feeling of complete relaxation.
According to Mitch Czepulkowski, who manages the Beyond Rest centre in Wembley, float therapy is a great way to relieve stress.
“The major benefit of floating is stress release, so being able to completely let the body go is very relaxing,” he explains. “The salt that we use is magnesium sulphate, which is Epsom salts, which does get absorbed into your body as long as you’re in the float for about an hour. The buoyancy is so high that you can literally let all of your supporting muscles relax.
“The key is that you need to be an active participant in the process, so if you can allow yourself to relax enough, you do get physiological changes where your cortisol drops quite dramatically, your blood pressure will reduce and that in turn, gives you huge stress release benefits.”
For some clients, the effects of a float can be felt for up to a month afterwards.
“Personally I can feel it for up to a week, but supposedly you can see the small cellular changes up to a month later,” Mitch says. “When you go into deep relaxation, it’s almost like a reset for the body, so even if you have a lot of stimulation and stress after you’ve had a float, you tend to respond so much better.”
Improved sleep is another benefit of float therapy.
“Sleep is massively improved – there’s a lot of studies out there as well that show that the way that you feel after a float has a lot to do with it, because your body feels more relaxed, you fall asleep faster and you can stay asleep better and rest deeper as well. So if you’re (floating) regularly, you get a higher quality sleep,” Mitch says.
“Most of people’s health issues come from stress, fatigue and a lack of sleep. If you can cover those bases, you can cover a lot of the things in your body to naturally heal.”
When it comes to how frequently you should be floating to feel the benefits, Mitch says the key is to do it on a regular basis.
“We recommend people float at least once a fortnight or once a week if they can because they’ll really notice the effects and quite a lot of change pretty quickly,” he says.
“Once you get in about six to 10 floats, that’s when the magic really starts to happen, because you’ve got enough floats under your belt to actually have some data to analyse for yourself. “You’ve done it enough times to hopefully notice a difference.”
Float sessions are a minimum of one hour, which Mitch says is due to the fact that it takes our bodies around 30 minutes to settle into the feeling of complete relaxation.
“For your body to really wind down properly, to know that it’s safe and to actually let go and get to the point where you get a physiological nervous system response of letting go, it takes around 30 to 35 minutes,” he says. “We don’t offer any 45 minutes floats because it just doesn’t make sense, you won’t get a quality experience.”
Even despite being confined to a pod for an hour, Mitch says he has rarely encountered a client who feels claustrophobic during their float session.
Often considered an “all round therapy,” Mitch says many clients who float regularly have reported improved sleep, better clarity of mind, reduced stress and anxiety as well as improvements in chronic pain and fatigue, anxiety, phobias and addiction.
“The floats help with pain because when you relax enough, it does produce natural pain-relieving endorphins,” he says.
“It can also help with other pain like arthritic pain, joint pains or niggly muscle aches. If people are willing to float enough, it can be a really good part of people’s routine to reduce or even stop any pain medication.
“We’ve had people who’ve been diagnosed with chronic pain and fatigue and say that it is has helped them get
off medication all together. So it’s pretty powerful.”
Diabetes WA Clinical Services Manager and Exercise Physiologist Carly Luff says relaxing activities such as float therapy can be a great way to relieve signs of stress, which, if left unmanaged, can have an impact on diabetes management.
“Finding ways to wind down and relax can be beneficial for your mental health but it can also be helpful if you’re experiencing diabetes distress,” Carly says. “If you can find ways to reduce feelings of anxiety and improve sleep through relaxation sessions like float therapy, it can help you feel like you’re better positioned to manage your diabetes well.”
Regular float-goer Teena Townsend discovered float therapy around two years ago and now attends a session once a fortnight.
“Regular floats have been so beneficial to my health over the past 18 months, particularly in reducing the chronic pain associated with Fibromyalgia and the medications I take to control that pain,” she says. “I sleep better, am less stressed and anxious and the concentrated magnesium does wonders for sore, tired muscles.”
Teena says the feeling of weightlessness and listening to the calming music is what helps her settle into a feeling of complete relaxation.
“I take this time to slow down, unwind, and have a really good stretch and twist in the water – usually cracking my back and stretching in ways not possible when gravity is in control,” she says.
“I become so deeply relaxed that I fall asleep in the water during my float. Time is difficult to gauge during a float and it feels like heaven.”
Keen to try float therapy? Mitch from Beyond Rest has the following tips to help you prepare for your first float session:
- Book in at least a week ahead, so you have something to look forward to and can lead you to enjoy the experience more.
- Arrive a bit earlier so you feel more relaxed and ready to start your float session.
- Avoid caffeine.
- Don’t shave for at least 24 hours before your float session.
- Avoid heavy meals before your float session.
- Have a light snack around two hours after your float.