Relaxing, Restorative Flotation Therapy

Salt-infused flotation containers offer physical and spiritual payoffs.
Photography by Pete McBride

By Michele Shapiro

If you’re looking to decompress from the holidays, you might consider floating. Don’t worry: It doesn’t involve being in an oversize balloon like you’d see at a parade. You simply have to find a facility with a float pod, tank or suite. Regardless of the container used, “floating” is just as it sounds: You get naked, shower, enter a light- and sound-proof chamber, and lie on your back partially submerged in skin-temperature water (around 95 degrees) mixed with up to 1,000 pounds of Epsom salt. Then you shower a second time to wash off the salt. (The skeptic in you should know that floating devotees include such elite athletes as Tom Brady and Steph Curry.)

Floating regulars claim that spending between 60 to 90 minutes in a flotation chamber is just what the doctor ordered after a day of exertion. “The physical benefits are immense,” says Burt Frisselle, manager of the family-owned Fahrenheit Body Spas in Basalt, Colorado. Since it opened in April 2016, the spa has received a steady stream of Aspen locals and vacationers wanting to test out its Floataway Tranquility Pod. “When you take a bath with 1 or 2 cups of Epsom salt at home, it helps with aches and pains. Well, this is the richest Epsom salt bath you’ll ever take. And the salt makes for effortless floating.” Frisselle suggest scheduling your float at the end of the day rather than in the morning, when you’re likely to be jacked up on caffeine or intent on getting through your to-dos.

The benefits of flotation therapy go far beyond decreasing inflammation and pain. First developed in 1954 by John C. Lilly, M.D., a medical practitioner and neuropsychiatrist, sensory deprivation tanks have been shown to improve sleep, reduce anxiety and increase theta waves, the type of brain waves normally produced while transitioning between a sleeping and waking state. These waves allow the floater to reach levels of relaxation typically found only in deep meditation. “It’s a great environment to enhance your spiritual practice,” says Frisselle. “Depriving the brain of sensory stimulation is the best state for healing.”

Since floating in a pod requires closing the lid and lying in complete darkness, Frisselle acknowledges that it may not be for everyone. He encourages claustrophobic clients to seek out float rooms that provide more space. You can also pod-float with the lid open. It usually takes a few sessions to get the hang of floating, but the benefits then begin to accumulate with regular use.

GET YOUR FLOAT ON:

ASPEN

FAHRENHEIT BODY SPAS

Basalt, Colorado, 970.315.1234; fahrenheitbodyspas.com

In addition to float therapy, the spa offers cryotherapy, infrared sauna, massage and yoga. LENGTH OF SESSION: 90 minutes

NEW YORK CITY

CHILL SPACE

New York City, 212.661.3400; chillspacenyc.com

The two 6- by 8-foot float cabins at this comprehensive wellness spa come with an intercom so you can talk to the front desk. Music and lights stay on for five minutes before fading out, and then fade back up five minutes before your session ends. LENGTH OF SESSION: 90 minutes

ARAARAGOT FLOAT CENTER FOR HARMONIC CONSCIOUSNESS

Brooklyn, New York, 718.404.8867; araaragot.com

Once you book one of the center’s two spacious custom-made pools, which are surrounded by strands of tea lights, you can request customized audio programs, embedded high-frequency wave effects and a variety of light and color impulses.

LENGTH OF SESSION: 60 minutes or 90 minutes

LOS ANGELES

FLOAT CLINIC

Torrance, California, 310.702.6870; floatclinic.com

Each of the modern clinic’s three float rooms comes with a private suite that includes a shower. Cleanliness is also key: The water in the tanks is put through a six-phase filtration process between each float.  LENGTH OF SESSION: 90 minutes

PAUSE FLOAT STUDIO

Los Angeles, California, 310.439.1972; pausefloatstudio.com

Floaters here get the option of dim blue light and music in the 10-foot-long pods. The spa also offers Seaweed Co. organic bath products and body wash for post-tank showers, as well as Rishi tea. LENGTH OF SESSION: 40-60 minutes