sensory deprivation tank

How To Experience Sensory Deprivation At Home

Float tanks and people raving about sensory deprivation seems to be all over the media these days. From professional athletes that float, like Steph Curry and the New England Patriots, to comedians Joe Rogan and Duncan Trussell.

So what is all the hype about? And if they are that great (which, they are), how can I experience it at home?

To answer this question let’s dive a little deeper into sensory deprivation and float tanks...

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What is sensory deprivation?

Sensory deprivation is technically when you “deprive” your senses of all stimulus, such as light, sound, touch, etc. Though this may sound freaky, sensory deprivation is a great way for your body to fully relax, your brain to refresh and for you to take a moment, disconnect and be with yourself. This technique is commonly used in meditation, as it allows easier access to deeper meditative states.

As you are probably thinking, it can be very difficult to get total sensory deprivation in today’s world. And that is where a sensory deprivation tank, or a float tank, comes into play. These tanks make it extremely easy to achieve this sensory deprivation. A float tank is basically a giant pod filled with body-temperature, salt-water. The water is supersaturated with epsom salt, so any person can float easily on top of the water. And, because you are in a pod, no light or sound enters, helping to completely remove you from outside stimulation. And with the relief of gravity, your mind and body can relax too.

CLICK HERE to learn more about the different types of float tanks.    

 

What does it feel like to be in a sensory deprivation tank? 

At first, heading into a sensory deprivation tank can seem a little scary. A lot of fear can come up around being claustrophobic and getting anxious (even though floating helps with anxiety… but more about that later). But once you get comfortable and are able to relax, being in a sensory deprivation tank is like nothing else. You feel weightless. Not only in your body but also in your mind. There is no pain in your joints or neck or back. Eventually your mind starts to relax too, you reach a state of deep meditation, and it almost feels like you are asleep.

For anyone new to floating we recommend trying it three times before deciding whether or not it’s for you. That will allow you a few floats to find your groove and get comfortable. For tips on your first float and avoiding claustrophobia check out this blog: 6 Steps To Overcoming Claustrophobia And Enjoying Your First Float   

 

Benefits of Floating 

It's important to understand first what sensory deprivation does to the body, so you can understand why it has so many positive health benefits. 

Sensory deprivation from a float tank provides the body with relaxation, relief from pressure + tension, and a chance to heal sore muscles. Float tanks are filled with over almost 1,000 pounds of epsom salt, and the magnesium in the epsom salt helps break down lactic acid that has built up in the muscles. This allows any tightness or soreness to decrease within the body and prompts muscles to relax. Also, you are lying down but fully suspended in water. This takes the pressure from work and gravity off of your body. It allows your spine and joints to be released of any weight that may be pressing down on it.

The epsom salt in the tanks also lower cortisol levels. Cortisol is our stress response hormone, and even a slight increase in stress can build up overtime increasing your cortisol levels. When our cortisol levels are too high for too long we start to experience anxiety. And floating actually lowers these cortisol levels, helping you relax.  

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Sensory deprivation and floating have a similar effect on the brain as meditation. But, there is much research specific to floating and the brain thanks to Dr. Feinstein at the Laureate Institute of Brain Research. His work has shown that floating in a sensory deprivation tank can have the same effect on your brain as taking anti-anxiety medication (Schumann).

Not only does floating help ease anxiety and panic, but it can also reduce chronic pain in patients suffering from fibromyalgia (Kjellgren, Anette, et al) and patients with severe whiplash (Edebol, Hanna, et al). Though these are very specific studies, floating can reduce pain and tension throughout the entire body.

Lastly, many people using floating for their creative endeavors. One study found that floating boosted creativity by assisting one to think more freely. And floating has been used as an effective tool for problem solving, brainstorming new ideas, and learning new information. 

CLICK HERE to read more about the benefits of floating.

 

How do you achieve sensory deprivation at home?

As mentioned above, the easiest way to achieve sensory deprivation is with a float tank because that is exactly what they are designed to do. There are generally two ways to access a float tank. The first is to go to a float center. Believe it or not, there are full-on float spas popping up all over the world. CLICK HERE to find a float center near you. Some of the benefits of going to a center is you will meet like-minded people, and the employees are float experts who will be able to set you up with everything you need for an enjoyable float. However, they can get costly depending on how often you float.

Two alternatives to going to a float center are either building or buying a tank for your home. Up until only a few years ago a sensory deprivation tank would cost upwards of $20k to purchase. However, now with Zen Float Tent/Tank you can get started with a floating practice at home for just a few thousand dollars. And if you float enough this will save you money and time. Some more pro’s to having a float tank is you can float at your own convenience, no scheduling necessary. Plus, you can do it from the comfort of your own home.   

If you want to learn more about the new Zen Float Tank CLICK HERE   

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There is also the option to build your own float tank. The founder of Zen Float Co. built his own home tank about 8 years ago.All of his plans to build an at-home float tank can be found online at isolationtankplans.com. This comes with shopping lists, receipts and step-by-step instructions.

 

Confused about what option would be the best for you?

Register for a FREE float consultation with one of Zen’s floating experts by clicking the button below. They will be able to answer any questions and come up with a solution of the best floating options for you and your lifestyle.


Bibliography

  1. Edebol, Hanna, et al. “Chronic Whiplash-Associated Disorders and Their Treatment Using Flotation-REST (Restricted Environmental Stimulation Technique).” Qualitative Health Research, vol. 18, no. 4, Apr. 2008, pp. 480–488

  2. Kjellgren, Anette, et al. Effects of Flotation-REST on Muscle Tension Pain. Karlstad University, Sweden, Nov. 2000.

  3. Norlander, Torsten, et al. “Treating Stress-Related Pain with the Flotation Restricted Environmental Stimulation Technique: Are There Differences between Women and Men?”Pain Research & Management : The Journal of the Canadian Pain Society, Pulsus Group Inc, 2009.

  4. Norlander, Torsten, et al. “Effects of Flotation REST on Creative Problem Solving and Originality.” Research Gate, Dec. 1998.

  5. Schumann, John Henning. “Floating Away Your Anxiety And Stress.” NPR, NPR, 16 Oct. 2017.

  6. Seppala, Emma. “20 Scientific Reasons to Start Meditating Today.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 11 Sept. 2013.

  7. Turner, J W, and Thomas H Fine. “Effects of Relaxation Associated with Brief Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy (REST) on Plasma Cortisol, ACTH, and LH.”Research Gate, Apr. 1983.

  8. Vigneron, Peter. “Steph Curry's Secret to Mental Strength.” Outside Online, 14 Nov. 2016

  9. Vigneron, Peter. “Steph Curry's Secret to Mental Strength.” Outside Online, 14 Nov. 201

  10. Wagaman, Jeffrey D., et al. “Flotation Rest and Imagery in the Improvement of Collegiate Basketball Performance.” Research Gate, Feb. 1991

So what about sound proofing?

Here’s the question we get a lot.. “Does your tank have any sound proofing?” Basically, does the Zen Float Tent cut down on noise during a float?

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When designing the Zen Float Tent we really focused on a light-weight, thin walled design so it would be affordable, shippable, and easy to move. We want to make floating accessible to the whole world, and that comes with some limitations. Even the most expensive float tanks don’t eliminate sound, they only reduce it. You’ve got to have a quiet setting.

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Real sound proofing in any float tank comes from the room. It’s the reason float centers are in quiet locations, and the reason they tell all their patrons to “keep quiet.” It’s all about the room and environment. The best way to have a silent float is to tell anyone in the vicinity that you’re floating. Then they can help keep it quiet.

Another big reason sound isn’t a scary issue is because your ears are under water. It really cuts down the sound! I’ve been floating for years and let me tell you.. when your ears are under the water you don’t hear much. Try taking a bath and sticking your ears under the water, you will see what I’m talking about. Not to mention so many floaters use ear plugs. What does get through is the deep thuds, the loud booms, or heavy footsteps. If you can’t get rid of these, you may have problems.

Naturally there are going to be people in apartments, in cities, etc. and it will require sound dampening the room. I use to work in sound studios and it was all about insulation and absorbing the sound. In fact, I had a sound booth in my basement and I lined it with mattresses and threw a rug on the ground, it worked great! It dampens the sound waves, and makes for a more quiet environment. Check out some great ways to quiet a room here 

Here’s the rule of thumb if you’re thinking if purchasing a tank. Do you have a room and environment you could meditate in without distraction? If you have that.. you can have a successful float there. You can always throw in ear plugs too.

At the end, sound is the easiest variable to fix, and with a little creativity you can figure out a quiet setting to float in.

Heating Your Float Tank Water: Time and Cost

If you've ever considered buying a sensory deprivation tank for your home, one of the first thoughts that probably came to your mind is, "What does it cost to heat a float tank?"

Most people assume that keeping a float tank heated year-round is expensive, but we've tested it and the costs equal out to be more affordable than most might think. 

Let's dive deeper....

The ideal floating temp is 93.5 F, this is because even though your core temperature is 98.7 F, your skin isn't. Depending on your personal preference you may choose to keep your float tank water anywhere between 93-94 degrees F. 

How long does it take to heat up a float tank for the first time?

While we can't speak for every tank, we've experimented with the Zen Float Tent using our handy dandy electrical meter and these are the results we found: 

  • We started by dropping the tank to room temperature which turned out to be 61 degrees (water is colder than air at room temp), and then proceeded to heat it back up. 
  • It took 30 hours to raise the temp 30 degrees. We designed the heating system to be affordable, and always on.  This means it's not about speed, it's about efficiency. 
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How much does it cost to heat a float tank up and keep it heated?

  • It took 23.9 Kwh to raise the tank 30 degrees.  In Utah it's 8.8 cents per kilowatt.  Just over $2.10 to heat up. 

• Temperature maintenance has come in cheaper at about $1.20 a day in Utah. Keep in mind I we recommend keeping your home float room at about 78 F. If your tank is in a cooler room it will affect your daily cost.

PRO TIP: when the air temp is 78 F, it makes it so that the air being drawn into your tank while floating will feel like the water temperature. 

Another thing to remember is that when you first put in your salt it will drop the water temp SIGNIFICANTLY!  Don't worry, once all the salt is dissolved the water will return to a normal temperature, and then you can heat it up. 

So that's the skinny on heating costs and maintaining your float tank water temperature. If you have additional questions about floating or buying your own tank, make sure to check out our Ultimate Guide to Buying A Float Tank.

 

The Zen Float Tent: Everything You Need to Know

The Zen Float Tent is an isolation tank. Ever seen the movie Altered States? Well…it’s nothing like that. Now that we got that out of the way, let me give you a quick rundown on what exactly an isolation tank is. Also known as a sensory deprivation chamber, it does exactly that…deprives your senses.

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How does it do this? The tank is well, a tank. Picture a rectangular box about the size of a twin bed. Got it? Now imagine roughly 12-inches of water completely saturated in Epsom salt.  The user gets into the tank and lays down, much like you would in say, a tanning bed. The interior of the tank is completely dark (depriving you of sight), and totally soundproof (depriving you of sound). The high proportion of salt in the water renders the user weightless (depriving you of touch). And lastly, both the air in the tank and the temperature of the water are set to match that of the human body, making it difficult to differentiate one from the other. By removing these external stimuli, the mind is then free to operate without restriction.

Isolation tanks were first introduced in the 1950s by a man named John C. Lilly. Lilly used the tanks in sensory deprivation research and its effects on the brain. If you short circuited reading that last sentence, just know that essentially Lilly was researching human consciousness. Groovy right? Other researchers like Peter Suedfeld and Roderick Borrie hopped on the bandwagon and continued isolation tank research through the 1970s. And yes, they did what all scientists in the 60s and 70s would do…experimented with mind-bending hallucinogens.

However, by the early 1980s isolation tanks had pretty much dropped off the grid. They remained in the shadows, used only by diehard enthusiasts until recently. Within the last 10 years, isolation tanks have seen a resurgence in private and commercial usage.  Up until now, if you wanted to float you could either fork over $15K-$30K for your own tank, or drop $50+ for a single-use session at a float spa. Now, most of us don’t have multiple thousands of dollars hanging around in our bank accounts so purchasing a private tank has only worked for a small fraction of the population. And unless you live in a progressive, free-thinking city (i.e., New York, Los Angles, Portland, Denver etc.) that actually has float centers, well then…you’re screwed.

By this point in the article your interested should be piqued just enough to want to know the essential question: Why float?

I could go on and on about the positive benefits associated with floating, but that might give me carpel tunnel trying to type it all out and you might get bored, so I’ll only give you the highlights. The first and probably most common reason to float is relaxation. The isolation tank gets rid of worldly distractions to allow your mind time to rest, think, and recharge. It’s pretty much like meditating….but way better. Folks who regularly float often report they feel more calm, centered, happy, and balanced.

In addition to experiencing all those feel-good emotions mentioned above, floating is also a helpful tool for pain management. Remember how I said the water is saturated with Epsom salt? Well, Epsom salt contains a high proportion of a compound known as magnesium sulfate. In an environment like the tank where the user is immersed in a magnesium rich solution, the salty water has the ability to draw toxins from the body, reduce swelling, relax muscles, aid with skin problems, lower blood pressure, increase the effectiveness of insulin (for folks with Diabetes), and can even help ease problems associated with the common old and congestion. Bottom line? Floating is good for your mind, body, and soul.

So now that you’re jazzed on floating, let me wrap up by bringing this whole thing full circle and coming back to the Zen Float Tent. The Float Tent is what it sounds like. It’s a sensory deprivation tent. It maintains all the traditional elements of the isolation tank, but in a new revolutionary design that is affordable and intended for home-use. For less than $1,800 users can purchase the Zen Float Tent and not have to worry about expensive plumbing issues, or time constraints. Set up the Float Tent in any part of your home and float as many times a week as you wish, for as long as you want.

This is cool not only for me as a writer, but for everyone in the floating community and industry. It is the first time that floating has been made available to the masses at a cost effective price. Think of the people who can now afford to float…and all the positive rewards from floating they’ll now be able to reap! Don’t know about you, but I’m excited for better vibes to be brought into the world. Many thanks to the creators of Zen Float Tents for making it possible.

Here is a link to our Kickstarter which will run until May 29th, 2014http://floatathome.com

Affordable floating for sports rehab

Floating is tailor made for athletes looking to repair their bodies and minds.

Nothing bugs an athlete more than being on the bench or sideline instead of playing in the game. Sports injuries can keep an athlete out of action and force them to watch others make plays.

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Floating is a tool that can help an athlete deal with sports injuries in a better way. Spending extended time in an isolation tank can help a person rejuvenate both their mind and body.

Even one floating session melts away stress and promotes peace. You can feel it in your muscles and joints. For an athlete recovering from an injury, this type of relaxation can promote faster healing and give them a better foundation for strengthening those important muscles and joints. Floating can truly help their body feel like new again.

Taking time out to go to the spa and take a dip in the float tank isn’t always feasible or practical. The good news is now you can do floating on your own terms with the Zen Float Tent.

It is the next stage in floating. The Zen Float Tent brings the isolation experience directly to you. It is lightweight and does not take up a ton of space. You can set up a float tent in any average sized room.

What this means is that floating is available at any time and for any purpose. There’s no reason to spend tons of money on regular floating sessions elsewhere. If you are an athletic trainer, you can buy a Zen Float Tent, set it up and make it available to athletes you are treating. It delivers the whole floating experience at a fraction of the cost.

This is great news for an athlete looking to rehabilitate an injured ligament or tendon or strengthen bones or muscles after an injury. Just like a regular isolation tank, the tent uses warm water infused with 800 lbs of Epsom salt to provide a true floating experience. It is composed of lightweight and durable materials that are completely leak proof.

Sports injuries do not need to be an obstacle to athletic goals. Floating can help heal your body and mind so you can get back in the game on your timetable. There’s no better time than now to turn to the Zen Float Tent and start on that road to recovery.

Our Kickstarter is running until May 29th 2014. Here’s a link FloatAtHome.com

John C. Lilly: Floating Pioneer Timeline

Exploring our minds only works when we know where to start. John C. Lilly did more than anyone else to give humans the perfect mental compass.

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No single person had a greater impact on our understanding of the powers of floating than Lilly. He was a pioneer in researching floating and developing the modern isolation tank. Lilly was driven to peer deep inside the human mind and see what made it tick. The isolation tank became his tool for opening the door to that unexplored frontier.

It is impossible to condense Lilly’s life and work into a single blog post. But it is also important to gain a better understanding of his contributions to the development of floating.

Enjoy this timeline exploring Lilly’s life and his development of the modern isolation tank:

January 6, 1915 – Lilly is born in Saint Paul, Minnesota

1938 – Graduated from the California Institute of Technology with a degree in physics and biology.

1942 – Graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a medical degree.

1951 – Published a paper at the University of Pennsylvania after extensive research on the physical structures of the brain and consciousness. Lilly showed how to display patterns of electrical brain activity using electrodes inserted into a living brain.

1953 – Lilly took a job studying neurophysiology with the US Public Health Service Commissioned Officers Corps

1954 – Working with the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Lilly devised a prototype isolation tank. He created it through a desire to isolate the brain from external stimulation. Lilly was the first subject for his research. The original tank required masks for breathing underwater, which was later eliminated through modifications.

1958 – While floating in his isolation tank, Lilly communicates with two other beings monitoring his evolution on a subconscious plane. This is the famous First Conference of Three Beings.

Late 1950s – Lilly established the Communication Research Institute on St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. It was a facility devoted to fostering development of communication between humans and dolphins.

Early 1960s – Lilly published several papers revealing that dolphins could mimic human speech patterns.

1960s – Lilly experiments with LSD while floating in the isolation tank. The results cause a greater fear and a greater bombardment of images and ideas than he had ever experienced.

1972 – The US Government passes the Marine Mammal Protection Act, making it illegal to kill dolphins as a result of Lilly’s research.

1980s – Lilly directed a project which attempted to create a computer language dolphins could learn and use to speak with humans.

1990s – Lilly moved to Maui in Hawaii and continued his research from the island during the remainder of his life.

September 30, 2001 – Lilly died in Los Angeles from heart failure. He was 86 years old at the time of his death.

Filtration Design On The New Zen Tank

UPDATE: Our filtration system has been upgraded since this post. Click here to read about the new Single High-Powered UV Filtration System that comes with every Float Tent purchase. 

Peace of mind is the most important part of floating and if you’re concerned about how clean the water is it’s going to affect your float. You need confidence the water is fresh and clean which is a two part process. First you’ve got to kill the bacteria, second you’ve got to filter the debri (hair, skin, oil, etc). Think of it like zapping the germs, and catching the gunk in a net. lol

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The first part of our design is a custom submersible pump with UV filter (black piece). This piece draws the water in and runs it under an actual UV light that kills the bacteria. If you want to read up more on this process click here. Once the water is sterilized under the UV light it’s pumped out through the filter, that’s the cream piece on the left. This picture shows the filter connected directly to the pump, but in the actual tank we send the water down a hose to the other end of the tank where it then goes out the filter. We designed it like this so that water is drawn in on one end of the tank and exits on the other. This creates a natural circulation so all of the water is cleaned instead of just one area in the tank.

The tank holds about 240 gallons of water and our pump cleans about 26 gallons per hour. SO, your water will be totally cycled and cleaned about once every 8 hours. Pretty sweet considering the system is always on when you’re not floating. Almost 3 full water cycles of cleaning every day.

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Check out this technical drawing of the filtration system. The water enters at one end of the tank in the submersible UV Filter/Pump. The water is sent down a hose to the other end of the tank where it exits through the filter. The filter is actually on the end of the tank with the door so each month or so when you clean the filter you just lean in, disconnect the filter, wash it, and reconnect. It’s that easy. Trust me… low maintenance is the key to good home floating.

Date Night Floating and the Benefits For Couples

Floating is a perfect bonding activity for couples.

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Picture the perfect date night: dinner, shopping, a movie, a concert or something as simple as a walk in the park. For extra romance, a date night may even include a couples’ massage or a night’s stay in a hotel.

Now you can add floating to an already perfect date night mix. It may seem counter-intuitive at first, but floating really can be a perfect activity for couples. Floating sessions are an individual activity, of course, but two tanks can equal a perfect date night activity.

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Many couples will schedule a couples’ massage to relax and connect through a shared experience. Floating can produce the same relaxing effect and offer the same avenue for connection through a post session discussion.

Every couple faces stress from work and home. Often stress found in work and family life creates roadblocks for a couple trying to have fun and relax. It can magnify problems and create friction and fighting in a relationship. Floating may not repair a relationship, but it does offer therapeutic effects. This can be in the form of both positive mental and physical energy.

Floating sessions calm frayed nerves and harried thoughts. Floating sessions relax tired bodies and minds. People will come out of the floating sessions calm, relaxed and refreshed. The rest of the night can be freed from stress and the couple is liberated to enjoy each other and to build their relationship.

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Floating can also be a good activity to add to a girls’ day out. Many women already go to spas and undergo different treatments like massages, facials and body wraps to rejuvenate their skin and body. Adding a floating session to regular spa activities will create the ultimate girls day out. A floating session is also a perfect way to start out the weekend. Doing a Saturday morning floating session, for example, allows people to recover from a work week and start out the weekend with their batteries recharged.

When it comes to floating the possibilities are endless. Floating has so many health benefits, that it is really the perfect fit anytime someone needs to rejuvenate their body and mind.

Fringe and floating

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There are no boundaries to where an isolation tank will take you in the world of “Fringe.”

FBI agent Olivia Dunham, the lead character on the TV series, uses floating – combined with psychedelic drugs and electrodes placed on her body – to enter the consciousness of a comatose former lover.

Floating is a major plot device during the during the first season of the show, which ran from 2008 to 2013. Olivia, played by Anna Torv, uses the float tank to enter the mind of her boyfriend John Scott, played by Mark Valley. John is in a coma after an accident in the debut episode.

Olivia uses psychedelic drugs to aid her journey into a different state of consciousness. Electrodes hooked to her brain and linked to John’s brain allow them to enter a shared dream state together.

After her initial session in the tank, Olivia finds part of John’s consciousness has crossed over to her mind. She begins to have hallucinations and waking dreams as her mind tries to purge itself of John’s memories. When he dies, Olivia continues to use the tank to access John’s memories that are trapped in her subconscious. Those memories contain vital information pertaining to a vast conspiracy involving a parallel world.

Eventually a session in the tank allows Olivia to not just access John’s memories, but finally connect with his consciousness as though he was still alive. This is only a temporary connection before John is finally completely purged from her mind.

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Many of the feats accomplished on “Fringe” through using an isolation tank are purely fiction. One thing that “Fringe” does get right is that isolation tanks can be used to access memories, just maybe not those of your dead boyfriend.

Isolation tanks are the perfect way to explore the subconscious. Floating opens the door to meditate, problem solve, and even work out your next big idea. Olivia uses the tank to explore memories trapped in her subconscious, but real life floating can also help you visit your subconscious. Floating lets you relax and purge your stressful thoughts of the day, so that more pleasant thoughts or memories may take their place. Floating is a perfect way to visualize a creative thought or revisit childhood memories.

Floating is designed to learn from the past, enjoy the present and embrace the future. As long as your session doesn’t involve a mad scientist and electrodes linking you to a comatose person, it should be an experience in complete bliss. 

Athletes and floating

Floating is like an extra practice for athletes, strengthening body and mind.


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Athletes spend countless hours shaping their bodies into a precision tool. It’s one reason they can do feats – like dunking a basketball or throwing a long touchdown pass – that are out of reach for the average person. Getting physically fit helps athletes sharpen their natural skills.

Mental fitness is just as important of a component in creating athletic success. An athlete who lacks confidence or plays with fear will take themselves out of the game. They will make avoidable mental errors that cost their themselves or their team victories. A lack of mental focus can also lead to serious physical injuries.


Floating can be a good tool for mentally strengthening an athlete. When they spend regular time inside an isolation tank, they can come away feeling better both on a physical and mental level.

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Athletes can use floating as a time to visualize success. They can contemplate on a big game, meet or race ahead and imagine how they will approach it. This is a perfect time for an athlete to build a positive attitude on a subconscious level. They can let things play out in their mind and envision how they will come out a winner.

Floating helps an athlete to feel more relaxed. Negative thoughts are cast out and their mind grows more calm. Their body begins to relax and they begin to understand what they need to do unlock their natural abilities.

On a physical level, floating in water filled with Epsom salt helps an athlete’s body bounce back from the aches and pains associated with competition. Salt helps the skin, muscles and other tissues absorb important nutrients. It also aids in flushing out harmful toxins and reducing inflammation.

There’s no reason why floating can’t be part of an athlete’s preparation for competition. It will do enough for them in mind and body to give them an edge over competitors.