Float to bet­ter health

Herald Sun - - FEELING GREAT -

WHAT good is noth­ing?

Ad­vo­cates of flota­tion ther­apy say an hour of noth­ing — float­ing in an en­closed pod with ab­so­lutely no ex­ter­nal dis­trac­tions, also known as sen­sory de­pri­va­tion — is in­valu­able.

While clos­ing your­self off from the world in a dark pod is the stuff of night­mares for those suf­fer­ing claus­tro­pho­bia, for oth­ers it’s the ex­act op­po­site and of­fers a deep re­lax­ation that has phys­i­cal and men­tal health ben­e­fits.

Flota­tion tank ther­apy, also known as sen­sory de­pri­va­tion or re­stricted en­vi­ron­men­tal stim­u­la­tion ther­apy (REST), has been around for more than 50 years but is cur­rently en­joy­ing a surge in pop­u­lar­ity.

A float tank looks like a large, en­closed bath­tub con­tain­ing 1000 litres of wa­ter and 500kg of Ep­som salt and mag­ne­sium sul­fate.

The wa­ter, about 25cm deep, is heated to skin tem­per­a­ture of 35.5C and when the lid of the pod is closed the in­side is de­void of light, sound and tac­tile sen­sa­tion.

The su­per-sat­u­rated Ep­som salt so­lu­tion al­lows you to float ef­fort­lessly on the sur­face of the wa­ter and en­joy a feel­ing of weight­less­ness.

Ad­vo­cates of the prac­tice say float­ing can re­duce the pain of arthri­tis, mi­graines and in­jury, re­duce men­tal and phys­i­cal stress and en­hance cre­ativ­ity.

There are hun­dreds of claims made about the men­tal and phys­i­cal health ben­e­fits but there are few large-scale stud­ies to back up the en­tire list of pos­i­tive as­ser­tions.

The science be­hind flota­tion ther­apy is that cut­ting all ex­ter­nal stim­uli takes a per­son to a deeply re­laxed state and their mind to en­ter a med­i­ta­tive state.

For some it’s sim­ply a chance to dis­con­nect with the hec­tic de­mands of a busy life.

In re­cent years, the re­lax­ation and en­hance­ment of this sen­sory de­pri­va­tion has be­come more pop­u­lar with at least seven cen­tres of­fer­ing flota­tion ther­apy in Mel­bourne.

Prices are gen­er­ally un­der $100 for an hour-long float. Ex­perts ad­vise first-time floaters to start with an hour though some float vet­er­ans spend far longer in the sen­sory de­prived state.

A re­cent study found most peo­ple say do­ing some­thing re­lax­ing is the most ef­fec­tive way to deal with stress.

“Float­ing is like train­ing wheels for med­i­ta­tion, so if you have ever tried med­i­ta­tion with­out suc­cess but still want to feel zen, try this re­lax­ing al­ter­na­tive first,” says Nick Dunin, owner of the Be­yond Rest flota­tion cen­tre which will soon open in Prahran.

“Apart from the ben­e­fits of stress and pain re­lief, float­ing en­er­gises and re­vi­talises, which im­proves mo­ti­va­tion and pro­duc­tiv­ity. Ath­letes in par­tic­u­lar are drawn to float­ing to help heighten their vi­su­al­i­sa­tion and clar­ity,” Mr Dunin says,

“That sim­ply trans­lates to bet­ter per­for­mance.”

Ath­letes are known to use flota­tion ther­apy to en­hance con­cen­tra­tion and vi­sual­mo­tor co­or­di­na­tion.

Sev­eral West Coast Ea­gles and other AFL foot­ballers, Aus­tralian crick­eters and AIS ath­letes are known to use flota­tion ther­apy lo­cally, while in the US many NFL teams in­clud­ing Su­perbowl cham­pi­ons the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots use flota­tion ther­apy for re­cov­ery and fo­cus dur­ing the de­mand­ing sea­son.

Pro­vid­ing nothingisa boom­ing­busi­ness,

MICHELLE writes POUNT­NEY

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