THERE’S nothing more calming than ending a stressful day with a long soak in the bath, with a few candles plotted around the tub for good measure.
But a trendy new-age therapy is taking the calming wonders of floating away your cares to new extremes — by suspending its devotees in total darkness in a sealed pod of water.
It’s called floatation therapy and, according to a holistic school of thinking, it can do everything from help balance hormones and reduce stress, to aid recovery and alleviate insomnia.
It may sound and look like something from a science-fiction film, but with celebrity fans including Wayne Rooney, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Elle Macpherson extolling its benefits, the concept has gone quasi-mainstream over here, with floatation centres popping up across the country.
Essentially, it’s a way of achieving deep relaxation, by spending an hour or more lying quietly in total silence and darkness. It enables you to submerge yourself into a lightless, soundproof tank (called an Isopod), lying flat on your back with your eyes closed. The saline water inside is warmed to 35.5C, the same temperature as the air and your skin, so that you can’t quite tell where the air stops and the water begins.
The floating element is made easy with a secret trick: the water is filled with enough Epsom salts to keep the body gently suspended on its surface.
The idea is that while you bob in total darkness and silence, your brain is stripped of all sensory distractions. Many compare it to the experience of floating in outer space — which can initially feel like an uncomfortable experience if you’re the type of person that’s used to checking their phone every 10 minutes, or juggling a busy schedule.
There’s still limited scientific research into the healing powers of floatation therapy, but converts say it’s a cure-all method for a whole platter of health and wellbeing maladies.
“Floating creates a unique space for our brain and our body to switch off,” says Chris Plowman, founder and director of Floatworks.
According to Plowman, his clients have reported everything from an increased sense of calm and clarity to improved sleep, reduced anxiety and stress, plus faster recovery from sporting injury.
On a physical level, floating is said to be able to help reduce muscle tension, pain, inflammation, and blood pressure, thanks to an extra boost of all-important magnesium in the water.
The benefits can be spiritual too. All that disconnected floating works wonders if you’re looking to get your creative juices flowing (I’m told the tank is particularly good for writer’s block and other artistry mojo issues).
Plowman says the womb-like experience can even trigger hallucinations and out-of-body experiences for some people.
While it all sounds very alternative, it might just be that we’re behind with the times.
It’s classed as a luxury holistic treatment here in Ireland, but in Sweden, which has more than 120 float centres, floatation therapy is actually covered by their national health service.