By Justin Moyer, The Washington Post
This summer, I spent an hour floating in a 4-by-8 isolation tank filled with tepid salt water in a basement in Manassas, Va.
No, this wasn’t a Silence of the Lambs scenario. It was an exercise meant to bolster my sanity, not endanger it.
Floating in a tank of skin-temperature water saltier than the Dead Sea is said to induce an ethereal, meditative state — one that doesn’t necessitate furtive handoffs on street corners or haggling with sketchy dudes who listen to Grateful Dead bootlegs.
Flotation therapy businesses have been popping up around the country, including Bethesda, Md., where Kimberly Boone and Tomas Hyrman opened the Hope Floats spa in April, and Manassas, where Stillness Flotation, now called Om Float Spa, debuted last year.
“The tank teaches you things about ... the noise in your head — stuff that’s toxic and self-deprecating” says Brooks Brinson, who runs Om Float from his Manassas townhouse.
Researchers aren’t sure precisely why floating is restorative. Time in the tank may induce a neurological state similar to sleep, dialing down the sympathetic nervous system — the part of our brains associated with fight or flight — while turning up the parasympathetic nervous system, associated with rest.
Research also demonstrates the many benefits of the “restricted environmental stimulation technique,” or REST, a fancy name for the therapy. Studies show that REST may help people manage pain, battle anxiety and depression, quit smoking and lower blood pressure.
“You lose contact with where your body stops and the water starts,” Brinson says. The company motto: “Relax ... Rejuvenate ... Reconnect.”
Some say its curative powers go further.
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