Float Like a Bee

Article by: Cristiano Del Giacco

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Remember back to the time when you were a child. To that time when an hour felt like it could last an eternity and the only care you had was whether or not Santa could find that particular Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle or My Little Pony toy for your Christmas present. I often think about these times. I grew up in the central Australian town of Alice Springs. No Internet or mobile phones. I could recite all of my friends phone numbers by heart and I had little responsibilities apart from devising excuses to give my teacher for not doing my homework. Those times have fast disappeared. Replaced by constant stress from financial problems, injuries, weight gain and weight loss, diseases, war etc. The list is endless. Is there a way back from this new life? I believe there must be. Thinking back to my childhood, carefree, what was it that yielded so much bliss? Was it ignorance? Naivety? Or was it the next best thing, an unintentional mindfulness? Was my lack of care or stress a result of limited thought? I remember clearly I didn’t think that much about things when I was a child. I’d fall down in the grass in my back yard after kicking the football around and stare at the sky. I would think, “The sky is so big, look at those clouds. This is amazing!” I know if I take the time to look up at the sky nowadays I would think along the lines: “I need to get the car fixed today, hopefully I can get more hours at work to pay for it. Oh man those bills are piling up, I wonder if I could sell some of my gis to cover them this month. Far out my neck is killing me looking up at this stupid sky right now, it’s too bright, where the hell are my sunglasses.” I wish I could just think “This is amazing.”

10517471_1537329899875734_6725989683292518464_nThis desire to regain my limited and mindful thoughts has led me to many forms of meditation. I have experimented with meditation through yoga practice and brain wave frequency audio tracks. But one form of which I have been experimenting with recently, and has had the most profound affect has been therapy through sensory deprivation flotation tanks. In this article I will talk about my own experiences and the results I have had. I would also like to disclose that the float centre I visited is part owned by my friend and long time BJJ training partner. I want to be totally transparent in this article as not present to you an advertisement to benefit my friend but to provide a factual account of the experiences I have had. I have also provided a link to a study conducted on individuals using sensory deprivation flotation tank therapy and comparing their results with a controlled group.

I first heard about floatation tanks via the Joe Rogan Experience podcast… Ok no actually I’m lying. I first heard about them on the Simpsons when Homer was accidentally locked inside one and the Flandereseses thought it was a discarded coffin, which they had decided to bury just as any good Christian family would. So in reality, the second time I heard about the tanks was the Joe Rogan podcast. He was claiming the many benefits derived from this form of therapy and also claiming that it had changed his life for the better. As an avid fan of Joe Rogan and intrigued as I was by his recommendation I felt that I had to pursue my own experience with them. Alas after a quick search on the Internet I found that there wasn’t a place where I could try it out near my city. The closest one was in Brisbane and I live on the Gold Coast. That’s an hour drive plus looking for a park, floating in the tank and then another hour drive home assuming there wasn’t any traffic. Forget that! I was keen to try it out but not to that extent. Then, a few months later, a friend of mine told me that he was in the process of opening up his own floating centre with his wife and another business partner…. “Jackpot!” I thought. I would finally have my chance!

Before I expand on my personal experiences I would like to point out the findings of Kjellgren and Westman’s article on the study conducted in Varmland, Sweden (2014, p. 2) in which test subjects were subjected to the twelve floatation sessions over a seven week period were given a survey, focusing on areas such as: sleep quality, depression, stress and pain levels to name a few. The subjects completed this survey both before and after the seven-week test period. The research found that the therapy yielded significant decreases in stress, depression, anxiety and pain while increasing sleep quality. The study found that the use of floatation sensory deprivation therapy may aid in the decrease in employee sick leave and sick pay benefit claims simultaneously increasing productivity and morale in individuals both at work and in their personal lives (p. 4-6). The full peer reviewed study content is provided in a link at the bottom of this article.

Now, onto my own experience. I was told, as I arrived at the centre, that the water contained the correct proportion of salt to enable the human body to float with ease, much like the Dead Sea. Also, that I would be naked in the tank… Rock’n’Roll! The water and air temp in the room had been altered to match, as closely as possible, to the temperature of my skin to simulate a lack of the sense of touch. I found this a really interesting concept and upon entering the water I found it to be as close as possible to depriving that sense. For the most part of my body I felt the difference in density between the air and the water and that did force me notice the sense of touch again. But in saying this I couldn’t feel this difference in my extremities. To be honest at times during each session I didn’t feel like I had legs from my knees down or arms from my elbows down. Very freaky indeed. After entering the tank I closed the cover cancelling any light from the room surrounding. Music played for roughly ten minutes until it was slowly lowered to silence. I expect that this was to enable the individual to calm down in the tank and ease them into a state of meditation. And boy did it work. The tank is not a large capsule but it is sufficient to hold a human body. At times my sense of special awareness severely diminished. My hand would touch the side of the tank and I would then give it a gentle push as to not float over and hit the opposing side. But doing this with my lack of spatial awareness made me feel at times like I was in a vast ocean spinning in circles and drifting off out to sea. That was freaking awesome! Here’s a tip though, if you really want to limit the use of senses in the tank avoid getting the salty water in your mouth. It took a long time for that tangy tasting spirit juice to cease making my face look like one of those babies eating lemons videos on YouTube. As I focused on my breathing and tried to limit my thoughts to be as free as possible I found that the majority of my senses had been figuratively disabled and I became lost in thought. It had been a while now that I had been in this state and I began to think “Wait, is this what my life really is? Am I merely a conscious being? Had all of the life I previously experienced been just a dream? Am I Just a conscious thought?” I began to freak out a little and frantically reached out to touch the sides of the tank to bring myself back into the real world, to feel a part of it again. This may seem a bit stupid on my part I must admit but it was my thought process at that point and I am glad I had that mini panic attack as it further ignited my interest in this therapy.

Most of the information that I have read providing tips on getting the most out of each float have said that, like Jiu Jitsu, you get better with each session you do. I thought, “Oh is this just a way to get my repeat business?” Though I found after my second visit that this tip was actually true. The first time I entered the tank I found it took roughly twenty to thirty minutes to stop the infernal chattering within my head. Between my conscious thoughts and that bloody antagonist in my head at times it feels like discussion time at parliament house. Though, by the second session it felt as if I could find a calm and relaxed state almost instantly. The second time was by far superior to the first visit I had. This is not to say that the first time was a less than desirable experience. It’s just that the second time was head and shoulders above water better (excuse the pun).

I do believe my experiences in the tank may differ from yours or others. I have spoken to other people who have had quite different floatation experiences but we have all had similar feelings and benefits after leaving the tank: the increased feeling of relaxation. It is indescribable. The feeling of relaxation alone is worth the money and time. I believe that this blissful feeling is due to a combination of meditation and the absorption of the magnesium from the salty water. My muscles felt relaxed and calm for hours after the session. I found that an attempt to study or complete physical exercise and exertion was pretty useless as all I wanted to do was sit on the couch and smile at the Simpson’s for the remainder of the night (reminded me of my teenage years cough cough). The final benefit I feel I should mention is the amazing nights sleep I had. As a person who suffers from inconsistent sleeping patterns I was thoroughly knocked on my arse for a good nine hours uninterrupted much to the dismay of my friend I was supposed to meet early the next morning, unsuccessfully I might add.

I feel that, for me at least, this form of therapy will be a great asset in calming the mind, recovering from the long hours of Jiu Jitsu and weight training sessions and the day-to-day stresses of life. I don’t expect you to take my word as gospel here but I do suggest that wherever you are you make an attempt to hunt down a float centre near you and give it a try. I wouldn’t have spent a good portion of my day writing about this subject today if I didn’t feel that it could be of a benefit to others.

I would just like to say thank you to the staff at Float.life for providing me with the sessions at their centre to write my experiences about and to cure my curiosity. They have also extended their support to the readers of this blog by offering a 50% session to those of you who are on the Gold Coast, Queensland. Visit their site http://float.life/book-a-float/ to book a float and enter the code HWRFLOAT to get the discount on your first session. This offer is valid until the end of April 2015.

Article by: Cristiano Del Giacco


References:

Kjellgren and Westman: Beneficial effects of treatment with sensory isolation in flotation-tank as a preventive health-care intervention – a randomized controlled pilot trial. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2014 14:417.

http://www.biomedcentral.com/content/pdf/1472-6882-14-417.pdf

About The Author

Cristiano Del Giacco
Co-Founder & Lead Editor

Co-Founder of howweroll.com.au. BJJ enthusiast based on the Gold Coast and collector of Kimonos, travelling the world training with some of the worlds best.

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