With alternative therapy, stress floats away

Flotation therapy is a practice that utilizes sensory deprivation to promote relaxation and healing. And a new wellness spa in Bethesda offers the experience to the public.

WASHINGTON – Before I climbed into the 9-by 5-foot tank — baring nothing but panic-induced goose bumps — and shut the door to sit in complete darkness and 11 inches of water, I was told my “floating” experience would be like no one else’s.

“Some people come out and say they’re floating in space, floating in an ocean,” says Kimberly Boone, owner of Hope Floats, a wellness spa in Bethesda, Md.

“Every time is different, and it is a personal thing.”

After a brief wave of claustrophobia passed, I laid my head toward the back end of the tank and began to float.

Flotation Therapy

Flotation therapy is a practice that utilizes sensory deprivation to promote relaxation and healing. The therapy takes place in a flotation tank, a device that was first developed in 1954 by Dr. John Lilly at the National Institute of Mental Health.

Typically, a tank is filled with 10 to 11 inches of water and enough Epsom salt required for a human body to float with ease. When the door is closed, the tank blocks distractions from light.

Sense of touch is cut off by the temperature of the water, which is kept at the same temperature of one’s skin, typically 93 degrees Fahrenheit. And the only sound is the water.

“You’re trying to cut off all senses. And your body will eventually feel like it’s not even a part of you,” says Boone, whose business has two flotation tanks.

After a few deep breaths to reassure myself, I slowly became aware of every minor cut and abrasion on my body. After all, 850 pounds of pharmaceutical-grade Epsom salt will do that to you.

When several minutes passed, I closed my eyes. I was finally able to relax. I gave into my body’s natural tension to keep my head above water and let go.

“It’s a very cool feeling. It’s effortless, you know, complete effortless. You just float,” Boone says.

Boone first tried “floating” about a year ago when she was looking for a way to overcome issues associated with anxiety and depression.

“From the first time that I got out of the tank, I felt this serenity I hadn’t felt in a long time — maybe ever