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What Even Is Floating?

Thanks for checking this out! It means you are an inquisitive seeker who enjoys learning new things. "What is floating?" I get this question a lot, so I decided to create a quick post to introduce some basic concepts. For those unfamiliar with the practice, you're in good company! This therapy has been around for decades, but the particulars still allude people. I'll break down the basics so you can feel comfortable, and dispel some of the mystery (OOOOoooOOooo...) around floatation therapy.

Floating is the colloquial term for sensory deprivation. The aim of this practice is to achieve a state of rest in your body and mind. The theory is that our overworked, overstimulated brains and bodies can find enhanced levels of therapeutic relaxation by removing externals factors. You submerge yourself in a pool of skin-temperate water that is hyper-saturated with magnesium sulfate in a dark, quiet chamber. The mineral composition of the water keeps you afloat, no matter how much you weigh. You are effortlessly buoyant. With no visual or audio inputs to distract you, your brain is allowed to begin working on subconscious processing.

Let's consider the various elements of the floating experience:

What Its Good For

Physically -

Soaking in magnesium sulfate in these quantities boosts circulation, improves blood pressure, soothes sore muscles and aids intense muscle recovery post-workout. Additionally, floating reduces swelling and increases joint flexibility, can reduce the effects of chronic pain, and detoxifies the skin.

Systemically -

Floating promotes serotonin production. Practitioners will often report a boosted mood and great night's sleep that evening, post-float. Additionally, a regular float practice boosts endorphins that combat stress, and strengthen the body's natural immunity defenses.

Mentally -

A regular floatation therapy practice (2 - 4 times per month) can be heavily meditative. Within the quiet contemplation, you can either intentionally clear your mind, or focus on a problem and tease it out within the space of the tank.

The ethereal Cree Max observing her meditation practice in a float cabin.

The Tank

Most people envision a large bathtub with Epsom salt, but the correct water to salt ratio would be very difficult to achieve at home. Commercial float tanks have approximately 1,000lbs of magnesium sulfate (MgSO₄) saturated into the water. The water is only typically 10" deep...not very deep at all!

[My boyfriend, upon reading this post, insisted that 10" is actually very deep, and cannot imagine why anyone wouldn't be satisfied with something much more reasonable..say, perhaps 5 - 6", at most..]

This is what 1,000 lbs of Epsom salt looks like...

There are a few different popular types of tanks:

Pods are modular and can be placed in the corner of a room. They are completely self contained, looking either like a clam shell with a lid that opens upwards, an elongated rectangular box that open at the end, or a large shower stall with a door that slides open or pulls outward.

Some examples of popular pod models.

Float Cabins are very popular. They tend to be larger than pods, so the floater could stand up completely while inside (ultimately to assume the supine position, aka lying down on your back).

Finally, there are large open float pools that have no lid or covering. These are less traditional because its more difficult to regulate temperature and light in an open pool, but can be an option if you suffer from extreme claustrophobia.

Note: I have never felt claustrophobic in a modern pod. They are tall enough inside, or the lid is domed so to optimize vertical space, and designed to avoid any feelings of being closed in. At any point during your session, you are also welcome to open the lid or door at any time you need to.

Cleanliness & Sanitation

Most float spa owners are absolute clean freaks (and you should never settle for anything less.) Float suites - meaning the private individual changing area / room / shower space you are given adjoining to your float pod or cabin - are thoroughly disinfected by hand between each and every guest. The float tank itself has several levels of sanitation defense. Each tank (that is made by a reputable industry manufacturer) has a built in pump and filter that circulates the water. The water itself is run through an internal hyper filtration system. The pod goes through an aggressive and thorough self-cleaning cycle between each person. As an additional safety measure, the worker who cleans your float suite will also wipe down the inner walls of your pod. Finally, before a room is opened for the next guest, the spa staff will test the water for optimal pH, H202, & salinity. You should always feel free to ask each location what type of tanks they use and ask to hear more about the filtration system -- This will usually be addressed in your pre-float tour / Q&A.


Temperature of the air and water is maintained at sensation neutral -- not meant to be too warm or too cool, but matching the surface temperature of your skin. The water temperature is approximately 93.5° F / 35.5° C. A good spa will ask your preference, within a range of 93°-95°, because there is variability in individuals' average body temps. No one should ever offer for the water to be over 96°, for safety reasons. Remember, we're not trying to match your internal temperature, but match your skin surface temperature in order help your mind feel as though the line between the water , air, and your body are seamless and indistinguishable.

Audio & Visual

The purest intent of this practice is "no light, no sound" -- the idea being that you are attempting to free your overactive mind temporarily from the sensory overload that it gets on a daily basis. The pods are designed to be dark and soundproof, but if that feels anxiety-inducing, there are always customizations. Some tanks are built with lights in different colors. Some are wired for sound and can play you soothing music, sound bath tones or guided meditations. Because this experience is "choose your own adventure", you will always be allowed to pop open your cabin door, stream audio from your own phone, or stand up and adjust whenever you want.

Time Constraints

For your first float, I recommend allotting at least 2 hours:

- 15 minutes for your welcome / tour / intro

- 15 minutes to use the restroom, get comfortable in your private suite, rinse off

- 60 minutes for the float itself (I recommend this amount for a first time, but it is variable.)

- 30 (at least!) to continue to relax and unwind in the post-float lounge

How to Prep

Most good spas will have everything you need from slippers to robes to ear plugs, and towels, so you shouldn't need to bring much. People opt to float nude, but bring a bathing suit if that makes you feel more comfortable. This is a completely private experience, and once you close the door to your suite, you will not be seen by anyone, including staff, until you choose to come out at the end. You will be showering in your suite immediately after the float, so bring any toiletries you would want to have for your face / hair / body so that you can emerge feeling as refreshed and presentable as you would like.

Now that you've taken the time to read this really preliminary intro, I invite you to read my most popular post 10 Tips to Having a Great First Float next. Also, I'm always here for questions if there is something I didn't think to address.

Thanks for reading!

- A

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