Float therapy, also known as flotation-REST (restricted environmental stimulation technique) or sensory deprivation, has been increasing in popularity across the country. Rochester’s first float center opened in March 2016, giving locals a chance to explore this unique state of body and mind. Jon Maki, owner and operator of Nalu Float, was eager to open a center after he discovered floating 5 years ago. Having dealt with some social anxieties at the time, he decided to give the floating phenomenon a try, and through his floats, Jon began to feel less weighted and more confident.
Float therapy has also captured the interest of people who suffer from chronic pain and has been a source of inspiration for artists. “I’ve had people suffering from headaches or fibromyalgia that become completely pain free between their float sessions,” Jon said. “Floating also sparks creativity among people.” Jon even sponsors an artist program, giving artists two free floats in exchange for a piece of float-inspired-artwork.
By eliminating external stimuli, your brain doesn’t need to focus on gravity, sight, sound, and temperature, enabling what Jon refers to as “profound relaxation,” giving your body and mind a break.
Jon has two flotation pods, both filled with 10 inches of water and kept at 93.5 degrees, which is roughly skin temperature. Over 800 pounds of Epsom salts are added to assist with buoyancy, allowing you to be gravity free and giving your skin a silky smooth feel. Floats are 60 or 90 minutes, and sessions begin and end with a shower to first rid your body of outside bacteria and then to wash away any remaining Epsom salt.
“Some people come out focused and energized, while others react differently and feel calm and peaceful,” says Jon. “My primary focus is to aid in healing and help people.”
5 things to know before you float
1. Practice meditation before you float
Central to the float experience is being able to shut off your mind from outside distractions. It sounded simple enough, but my confidence in my ability to free my mind for 60 minutes wavered once the lights were out.
“Many people find it difficult to let their minds go on their first float. Our brain doesn’t want to give up control. Expect to have some monkey chatter going on up there right away,” said Jon. To help with this, Jon suggests trying some different breathing and meditation exercises before you float. He also provides a pre-float tool called Muse, a meditation aid that measures brainwaves and provides real-time feedback of your mental states during meditation practice.
2. Eat 90 minutes prior and avoid caffeine
Once inside the tank, the soothing music ends, signaling the start of your float. Everything is completely silent, so silent that the noise from your heartbeat seems unnaturally loud and strong. To achieve this silence, Jon advises limiting any stomach noises by eating a small meal 90 minutes before your float and avoiding caffeine as to not interrupt your relaxation and rest.
3. There are lights within the tank
If you’re apprehensive about being in the pitch-black tank for a long period of time, as I was, there are a couple options. While I fully suggest taking advantage of the entire float experience, darkness and all, some may fear claustrophobia. Don’t let this stop you; the tanks at Nalu Float have two underwater, remote controlled lights that you can choose to turn on if needed. If this is not enough, you can also keep the door of the tank open to help ease concerns.
4. Napping is okay
It may feel strange, even worrisome, to fall asleep while floating on water, deprived of any light or sound, but it’s okay to do. The Epsom salts made my body unnaturally buoyant enough to float with ease, alleviating any fears of drowning, and the nap, while short, was extremely refreshing.
5. Allow post-float relaxation time
Lastly, Jon believes another part of the float experience is to continue your relaxation outside the tank. He encouraged me to remain unplugged for as long as possible to allow time to reflect on both my float and how my body was affected.
Though I didn’t enter into this with any major body aches and pain, I could not have been prepared for how weightless and tingly I felt once finished.