As I cleared my mind during a three-month sabbatical and tried to reset from what my doctor called an “extreme case of burnout,” I was tasked with finding ways to eliminate stress, relax, and find excitement. I didn’t take my doctor’s orders lightly because, simply put, chronic stress can kill you.
According to research from the National Institutes of Health, almost every system in the body can be influenced by chronic stress. When it goes unreleased, it suppresses the body’s immune system and ultimately manifests as illnesses, including coronary heart disease, gastrointestinal diseases, and psychiatric illnesses.
Between yoga, long walks, getting more active with my trainer, and finding new hobbies (I’ve recently joined a ceramic class), I’ve been researching other holistic ways to de-stress. To my surprise, float therapy was an activity that kept appearing in my search bar.
I’m not the best swimmer, which is something else I’m working on during my time off, so I found the Google suggestion annoying. That is, until I was finally moved to do some digging.
Float therapy involves what’s referred to as a sensory deprivation tank that’s filled with about a foot of water and Epsom salt. The tank, combined with the water and salt elements, creates a zero-gravity environment designed to help your mind, body and spirit to relax.
What I found most intriguing, besides the fact that you don’t need to know how to swim, was the benefit of feeling just as rested and relaxed in a 60-minute session as you would sleeping between six and eight hours. This was just what my doctor prescribed. So I booked my first session with SOULEX Float Spa in Washington, D.C.
“In 2014, I had my first experience with floating, and it was a revelation,” Pedramin Vaziri, the founder of SOULEX tells ESSENCE. “The effectiveness of floatation therapy in achieving deep rejuvenation and inner peace captivated me. I realized how this magical therapy could make a profound difference in the lives of others and committed to bringing this transformative therapy to the Washington, D.C. metro area.”
If you’re a first-time floater like I was, here’s what to expect during your introductory session.
Float therapy is about eliminating the chaos and distractions in life, whether that is technology, partners, children or all of the above. During my orientation, Vaziri said darkness and silence are how people achieve optimal rest while floating.
You can choose to have music play during your full-hour session at SOULEX, but be sure to tell your attendant. Otherwise, the music and lights will be on for the first 10 minutes to get you acclimated and comfortable before shutting off for the next 50. When the lights turn back on, and you slowly hear music, you will know your session is ending before the water drains.
Floating Can Be Challenging
You don’t need to know how to swim for float therapy. The water, which adjusts to your body temperature, is shallow, and the concentration of Epsom salt allows you to float naturally. However, closing the lid to your pod is intimidating, especially for people who don’t like confined spaces.
I closed the lid entirely to get the whole experience, but floaters can shut it to their liking. There’s a button to communicate with spa staff in the pod in case you experience any issues.
SOULEX and other spas have open basin floating options for claustrophobic people that don’t require shutting a lid.
You’ll Need Some Supplies
Spas offering float therapy will supply you with a robe and slippers because you need to shower before entering the pod to eliminate oils and dirt. Staff will also provide you with petroleum jelly to cover minor scrapes, cuts and bruises to prevent discomfort from the salt water.
The most important tool the spa will supply you with are the wax earbuds to place over your ears to keep salt away from your ear canals. SOULEX also offered me a floating pillow to put under my head to alleviate tension during my session.
I used a swim cap to cover my braids. The swim cap kept most of the salt off my scalp and braids, which made wash day more manageable.
Less Tension = Less Stress
Once I got over the fact that I was floating in the dark with a device over my head, I ultimately felt the tension release from my muscles like I was experiencing a massage. I’m learning to meditate and found float therapy helpful in kickstarting this journey as I lied there alone. I left feeling a sense of mental clarity and look forward to becoming a frequent floater.