When an old, crunchy-granola roommate first described the concept of floating to me, I thought she'd had one kombucha too many. Who would want to voluntarily spend time suspended naked in an enclosed space filled with saltwater?
But then, one afternoon I stumbled into the Samana Float Center—a Denver studio that looked like a hybrid between a high-end spa and high-tech laboratory, decorated with candles and scientific literature on sensory deprivation.
The owners, a lovely couple named Paul and Heather, discovered floating serendipitously and decided to sell their house and everything they owned to open the center to help as many people as possible experience the life-changing benefits of floating. I was still slightly skeptical, but their story intrigued me enough to dive in.
Due to my mild claustrophobia, I first tried floating inside a large cabin with a 7-foot ceiling but quickly realized that once inside, the sensation of being completely deprived of any sensations overtakes any other feeling. Floating is like meditation on crack—it's an instantaneous shortcut to that elusive flowlike mind-state, unfettered by distractions.
The next time I opted for the futuristic pod that looks like something out of Gattaca, and the more I floated, the more I realized that the benefits of floating are endless and can be customized to your personal goals.
Here are five reasons to try floating:
1. It's instant meditation.
If one shortcut to meditation exists, it's floating. Many people find it challenging to attempt even five minutes of meditation, but floating forces you to just let go and breathe. The water temperature is at a skin-responsive 93.5, so you can't even tell where the water ends and where you begin. There are no noises or lights to interfere with focusing on your breath. It's a gentle introduction to the meditative mindset, and all it requires you to do is relax into the water.
2. It can improve your athletic performance and reset your circadian rhythm.
Floating sessions at Samana are 90 minutes long, a time period that intentionally aligns with your body's natural sleeping rhythms. A session can help reduce fatigue, eliminate jet lag, and assist in sleep. For athletes, floating can expedite muscle recovery by decreasing lactic acid buildup. It also relieves blood pressure and improves circulation. Famed NBA player Steph Curry is a known floater who uses the practice to improve his focus in the game. As an avid boulderer, I have overworked muscles and tight joints and have found that the near zero-gravity environment the pounds of Epsom salt provides relieves stiffness.
3. It can combat addiction.
One of the most common addictions of our age is phone addiction—the tiny shots of dopamine we get from checking emails or notifications are dangerous. But whether you are addicted to food, social media, or drugs, floating can help the brain subvert that feedback loop and help battle addictions.
I struggle with the instant gratification of looking at my phone daily but always find that once I emerge from a floating tank, I look at the world with fresh eyes. I'm more interested in all the bright colors and people around me and relieved of that dark craving to check my Instagram for likes.
4. It might soothe anxiety and PTSD.
Groups such as the Float Clinic and Research Center are currently investigating floating as a potential therapeutic treatment for those suffering from anxiety and PTSD. Floating reduces activity in the cortex, which decreases the production of stress hormones and simultaneously allows for a deep relaxation that leads to release of endorphins.
5. It inspires creative and fuels productivity.
Ninety minutes is a long time to simply float and think. Even as someone who completes a daily meditation practice, floating brings my consciousness to a new level. After floating for a while, your beta or alpha brainwaves transition to theta waves, which normally occur right before sleep and again before waking. I've had creative breakthroughs and stumbled upon solutions I hadn't seen before while immersed in the tank. Without any external distraction and a solid block of time, I'm able to think about problems more freely.
I've only been floating for a few months now, but I've already seen improvements in my meditation practice, creativity, and productivity at work and have felt physically better after grueling hikes and long days of climbing outside.
At Samana, they have cool bonus features like color therapy and an auxiliary hookup for playing mantras while you float. "It's all about the intention you set for floating," Heather told me, "it gives you what you need."