Mind Over Matter -- Floating
If you are into Matt Groening’s satirical depiction of working-class life, you might have come across the Simpsons episodes that has Homer taking Lisa to a New Age store, where both of them are introduced to a water-filled sensory deprivation tank. What ensues in a spiritual journey for Lisa, while Homer’s journey becomes a real one.
Ever since coming across the aforementioned episode, I was intrigued whenever I came across etablissements offering float therapy and have wanted to try it.
Enter Koa Recovery.
The therapy center Koa Recovery was founded by its owner Shaun’s after personal experience with a back injury and his subsequent endeavours to recover, which led him to North America where he came across the Float Therapy, Whole Body Cryotherapy and the other treatments that Koa Recovery now offers. Experiencing immediate tangible benefits from the treatments, Shaun decided to bring these concepts and therapies to Sydney, Australia where he now offers them to help others – be it for pain management, prevention or rehabilitation of injuries, enhancing athletic performance, preparation for game day or to aid with relaxation and de-stressing to enhance resting the mind and nurture creativity.
Let’s enter the realms of restricted environment stimulation therapy and the actual sensor deprivation tank, shall we?
Apparently “isolation tanks” first emerged in the 1950ies for science experiments before they were modified to resemble the pod-like chambers that I was going to experience at Koa Recovery.
The initial idea was to create a separation from your surroundings through confinement in a tank that is filled with about 25 centimeters of water, heated to around 34 degrees Celsius and hundreds of kilos of Epsom salts so your body floats and to create a sensory transcendence by depriving all senses of stimulation.
The therapy has come a long way and what now materializes at Koa Recovery are luxurious, soundproof pods that allow to pull the plug and disconnect from the white noise of the daily humdrum, constant connectivity and chatter of our minds.
After taking a shower and scrubbing off anything that might taint the water and entering the pod, it took me a minute to acclimatize but it proved to be surprisingly easy to become buoyant, let go and slow down, switch off and allowing every muscle to relax.
It becomes second nature easily.
Having been on a training regime for the recent Sydney half-marathon, the high magnesium concentration and elimination of gravity made the floating session the ideal recovery as the elimination is gravity is ideal for muscle and joint recovery post injury.
Now, what happens inside the pod?
Nothing – and that is the whole idea behind it. You float in darkness – there is opportunity to adjust the lighting or leave the tank open if you suffer from symptoms of claustrophobia – and become one with black velvet.
It is a form of meditation that focus, creativity and productivity with one hour of floating being roughly equivalent to four to five hours of sleep as he sensory deprivation results in a change of brain waves to the relaxed theta state, i.e. the state before actually falling to sleep.
What do you feel?
Well, unless you let the liquid come close to your eyes, which stings a lot, a lot and nothing at the same time.
After a few minutes music stops playing and the lights dim down to blackness.
It is difficult to explain but the pod becomes your universe – the universe.
My weightless session of not using any muscles helped me enormously with my lower back pain, decompression and the realignment of my spine as it allows you to stretch in ways you have never stretched before.
Soaking in the magnesium rich water not only felt amazing after but you also absorb the minerals through osmosis, which aids detoxification and aid in combatting insomnia, both of which I was in dire need of.
Is it a spiritual experience?
It can be. It takes practice. With the first session in the clamshell, egg-shaped tank it is not very likely to experience any Simpsons-esque hallucinations or epiphanies, however, the loss of spatial awareness and not being able to differentiate between water and air definitely offers the perfect opportunity to connect with yourself and take an hour long vacation. Your mind starts to wander zigzagging through a state between being awake and a fluid dream-like state.
Once you emerge from the pod, my skin felt awesome, my back felt pain free and I felt overcome by a Hindu-like sense of Zen calm and clear-headedness.
I ensured to hydrate throughout the day after the session and what followed was a night with the most restful, dreamiest sleep I have experienced in years.
Photos courtesy of Koa Recovery