Shut out the world in a sensory deprivation float, and control-alt-delete your mind.

Imagine how slow your phone would be if you never turned it off and back on again. Now apply that principle to your mind, your joints, and your poor tired body. True, we all sleep for hours each day, but nothing comes close to the deep relaxation of a sensory deprivation float. Immersed in hundreds of gallons of water fortified with pounds of medical-grade Epsom salts, you will be buoyed by the water and completely weightless. Studies show the effects of floating include decreased stress, anxiety, and overall pain.

Once you turn the lights and music off, you will be left alone with just the sound of your heartbeat. With practice, you learn to let go of your thoughts and the tension in all of your muscles. 

Courtesy of Pexels

Before you go:

  • You can bring your own soap and shampoo, but the spa should furnish them, as well as towels and a robe.
  • The expectation is that you will be floating nude. If you prefer to wear something in the water, let the spa staff know and ensure that it is color-safe. Also, let them know if you have recently colored your hair; they may have rules about how long you have to wait before having a float session because of the permanent dyes.
  • Make sure to eat something at least an hour before you float. You don't want a growling stomach to interrupt your float time.

Courtesy of Mystic Flow Wellness Center

What can I expect when I go for a float?

  • The treatment room should be furnished with a shower and a float tank. Take a brief shower before entering the tank, and a longer one afterward to rinse off the salt. 
  • You may be offered a few comfort devices to make your float easier. Earplugs will keep the salty water out, but don't worry if they come off during your float. A foam halo can also be used to keep your ears above the water line.
  • You are in control the whole time. The spa staff will show you to the treatment room and how to use the controls, but they will leave you to it after that. Turn off the treatment room light before climbing in if your tank has internal lights. Clamshell float tanks will have a hinged lid that can be lowered as much as you want. If you're not sure how you'll feel in an enclosed space, leave the lid open a few inches so that you can easily see the rest of the room behind you.
  • Cimb in and get acclimated to the tank. The water will be set at just over body temperature to give you a surreal feeling of floating outside of yourself. When you're ready, turn off the lights and music, then try to relax. You may need to remind yourself that you are devoting this time to completely shutting down, and that an hour is not that long, in the scheme of things.
  • Enjoy the sense of weightlessness and really try to melt down into the water. One of the biggest benefits of float tanks is the liberation of your entire body weight from your joints. People with arthritis and overweight individuals find an incredible amount of relief after a float because of this.
  • The float tanks are filtered after each session, so expect the water to begin to churn through a cleaning cycle once your session ends.
  • Make sure to hydrate after floating!

Where can I float in the DMV?

Mystic Flow Wellness Center in Gainesville, VA, features clamshell-type float tanks and a full spa offering massage, sauna, and other therapeutic services. Address: 6884 Piedmont Center Plaza in Gainesville, VA

Hope Floats Bethesda is open daily from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and features pod-like flotation tanks. Address: 4709 Chase Avenue in Bethesda, MD

Soulex Float Spa in D.C. features both pod and open-air float tanks. Address: 1010 Massachusetts Avenue NW in Washington, D.C.

Synergy Float Center in Alexandria, VA, has three options: a pod-type float tank, a float cabin for two, and an open float pool for two. Address: 1240 North Pitt Street in Alexandria, VA

What do you love about floating? Have any questions you'd like answered before you try it? Let us know in the comments below!

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