Sensory Deprivation Floatation Pool

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Sensory Deprivation Floatation Pool - Dead Sea Relax Floatation Therapy - at Royal Orchid Thai Spa

My first Sensory Deprivation Floatation Pool experience - Dead Sea Relax Spa Package

When Sherril asked me to write about the newly revamped Sensory Deprivation Floatation Tank at the spa, I had never actually experienced "floating" - as they call it in the articles I researched online. One writer even referred to the experience as "Getting Tanked" - cute.

After arriving at the spa, I was ushered in to the change room where I put on the throw-away pair of hospital pants (I forgot to bring my swimming shorts - but Royal Orchid Thai Spa was prepared for my “forgetfulness”). The locker was stocked with an ultra-soft gown and a pair of matching slippers - plus a bottle of branded water.

I was ready for my float. I was surprised to find a well proportioned room - not a dingy small space with one of those sensory deprivation pods with a lid - I must admit to being afraid of small spaces. When asked if I would like to visit the Cango Caves in December, I said what a great idea - until I learned that I would have to crawl through tight spaces. No thank you.

Thankfully, this space was not tight at all. And the pool was much bigger than I thought it would be. It's a large round flotation pool that could happily accommodate two people. There would be no claustrophobia here in this cavernous room.

The water was warm - apparently kept at body temperature. That's about 37º Celcius. Also the water is saturated with Epsom Salts which is known to be good for the skin and will help relieve the aches I feel in my neck and shoulders.

At first I just sat in the shallow water. How deep was this pool - was it 10 inches deep (about a 30 cm ruler) as my research articles suggested? I would say a little more - about 40cm deep.

Vetruvian Man by Leonardo Da Vinci

I posed like Vetruvian Man by Leonardo Da Vinci

As I started to stretch out my body - a little miracle - I actually started to float. How novel! I have never experienced floating like this. I mean I have floated in a swimming pool before - with some practice I even managed to keep my head above water - but this was completely different. I didn't even have to try!

"Relax - you won't drown", I kept telling myself. But the experience of floating without effort was just too cool - so I started to experiment with different poses.

I posed like Leonardo Da Vinci's Vetruviun Man with legs apart and arms stretched out.

Still floating. I crossed my legs and crossed my arms. Still floating.

How does a Floatation Pool work?

Salt. A LOT of Salt. The water is so saturated with dissolved Epsom Salts that it literally pushes your body up. It is the science of Bouyancy:

Density is a measure of how much mass is in a given volume. Density affects buoyancy. Buoyancy is the upward force a fluid exerts on an object that is less dense than the fluid. An object will sink if its weight is more than the buoyant force, and an object will float if its weight is less than the buoyant force.1
The National Science and Technology Centre

Normal water is all "Loosey-Goosey". Add tons of Salt and it becomes "Spongey". That's the best way I can explain it. Floating in extremely salty water is like floating in spongey water - the salty water is now too dense to allow your body to fall through the molecules.

How does Epsom Salts benefit my body?

Epsom salts is a natural exfoliant and anti-inflammatory treatment that has been used for decades to treat sore and acheing muscles, soften dry skin, and even to fight various internal health ailments.

Epsom salt derives its name from a bitter saline spring located at Epsom in Surrey, England, where the compound was first distilled from water. It’s different from traditional salts in that it is actually a mineral compound of magnesium and sulfate.
Dr Axe - Food is Medicine

How does the Magnesium content in the float pool benefit my body?

Epsom Salts are a combination of Magnesium, Sulfur and Oxygen - the important bit is the Magnesium content. Magnesium is absolutely KEY to good health and magnesium deficiency is very common. Soaking in an Epsom Salt bath will absorb through the skin and elevate your magnesium levels. 

Magnesium regulates over 300 enzymes in the body and plays an important role in organizing many bodily functions, including muscle control, energy production, electrical impulses and the elimination of harmful toxins. Magnesium deficiencies contribute to today’s high rates of heart disease, stroke, arthritis, osteoporosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, digestive disorders as well as mental illness. By boosting your internal magnesium levels through external use of Epsom salt, you can help improve or ward off many avoidable health ailments.Dr Axe - Food is Medicine

According to a study done at the University of North Carolina, not having enough magnesium in the body will actually INCREASE your STRESS REACTIONS. By simply increasing your magnesium levels, you can decrease your reaction to stress and feel revived without feeling restless.

One more reason to get yourself into a float pool saturated with the glorious stuff.

How does the Sulfur content in the float pool benefit my body?

As mentioned earlier, Epsom Salts contain Magnesium AND Sulfur - which also has huge benefits for for your health - most notably to DETOXIFY. Without getting too technical, the toxins in your cells are pulled out through your skin by a process called "Reverse Osmosis".

Okay - Science lesson over. But a bit of Learning and History follows:

Time to Relax - or R.E.S.T.

Floating is also called Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy (REST) and promises the following lifestyle and physical benefits:

  1. A lasting calmness
  2. Heightened Creative Thought
  3. Greater suppleness of Skin
  4. Relieving Stress on joints and muscles
  5. Faster recovery from muscle and joint strain
  6. Encouraging easier and deeper sleep
  7. Relieves pain and may lowers blood pressure (due to endorphin release)

Doctor Who? The History of Sensory Deprivation

As I floated away, my mind kept wandering. I did not feel calmness - instead my mind was working overtime. Thinking about how I was going to write this article, how I was going to convey this whole floating sensory deprivation experience. But that's when I remembered reading this:

Remember, the positive effects of flotation are cumulative. The more frequently you use the therapy, the more you benefit.

Well okay then. I won't force myself to HAVE to experience the deep Theta sleep that the therapy promises:

It enables us to drift into the elusive Theta state, which is hard to achieve.2 Originally “invented” by neuro-scientist Doctor John Lilly in the United States during the mid-1950s, the therapy was called “Sensory Deprivation Tanks” and sometimes “Isolation tanks”.
The History of Floating - FLOAT - San Francisco

Dr John Lilly's work was based on a scientific approach to deep relaxation by eliminating external stimuli, or restricting the body's external senses. By doing this the body is allowed to deeply relax while allowing the mind to be free of distraction. This state enables the whole being to drift freely.

Floatation therapy is based on a scientific approach to deep relaxation called Restricted Environmental Stimulation Technique or R.E.S.T. for short. The idea was developed in 1954 at NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health) in Washington. Floating in a floatation tank triggers a deep relaxation response, much deeper than normal sleep.3

The History of Floating - FLOAT - San Francisco

Sounds like "kooky science". And for many years it attracted the weird and the strange:

Sensory-deprivation tanks, once popular with stoners, scientific geniuses, and the sorts of people who prefer to polish their own chakra crystals, are reentering our culture in more mainstream therapeutic forms. It is possible now to go lie in one after lunch, much as you might visit a spa—except that tanks, unlike spas, are intended not only to help the body but to serve the mind.4

Getting Tanked - Vogue

But just like science fiction becomes science fact (Captain Kirk's communicator in 1950s Star Trek - how kooky was that to my parent's generation? - we now have cellphones that do much more), it turns out that Dr Lilly may just have been on to something.

Getting the most from your REST Floatation

It seems to me that there are two ways you can enjoy the Floatation Pool at the spa:

  1. Enjoy the fun physical sensation of floating - like floating in the Dead Sea right here in your own backyard
  2. or going beyond and practice achieving the mental benefits associated with Dr Lilly's pioneering work

It all depends on your goals for floating. I was not having trouble with the first - floating is fun. And it was a new experience - I loved every minute of it.

But the second objective of allowing the mind to drift to places unknown was far more elusive in the 30 minutes allotted. I now want to go back for more sessions and experience the twilight zone known as the Theta state.

Sensory Deprivation and the Dream State

Now this part is not for everybody - but it is the ultimate goal for dedicated "floaters". And apparently needs practice. Michael Hutchinson wrote a book called "Brainwave Explanation" and in it he describes what happens at each stage - I highlight the Theta stage below:

As a person floats, the brain waves slow down into theta frequencies, a state of tranquility, creativity and very deep relaxation. Theta waves, measured at 4-7 Hz, represent the brain in a state of REM sleep (dreams), hypnosis, or lucid dreaming. Theta is the twilight state just before sleeping and just after waking, the border between the conscious and the subconscious world. By learning to consciously use a conscious, waking Theta brain wave we can access and influence the powerful subconscious part of ourselves that is normally inaccessible to our waking minds. While in the Theta state, the mind is capable of deep and profound learning, healing, and personal growth.5The History of Floating - FLOAT - San Francisco

For those who know, the brainwave states are classified as Beta, Alpha, Theta and Delta:

  1. Beta - you are completely awake
  2. Alpha - awake but relaxed, not processing much information
  3. Theta - light sleep or extreme relaxation
  4. Delta - deep dreamless sleep

The Theta brainwave state is the ultimate goal of frequent floaters. Why? Because this is the world of dreams. One is "capable of profound thought, learning, healing and growth".

The body's response to Floating in a Sensory Deprivation Chamber

When floating without external stimuli, the central nervous system's (CNS) workload is reduced by about 90%. This reduced CNS activity enables your energy to be channeled inward promoting unparallelled relaxation - also called the parasympathetic response:

The parasympathetic response is the mechanism by which the body naturally regenerates itself and maintains chemical and metabolic balance. Old wounds and injuries are allowed to heal faster. Increased T-cell production strengthens the immune system. This deep level of relaxation also benefits the cardiovascular system. Known as the vasodilatory effect, the body’s circulation is increased while the blood pressure and heart rate are reduced. Furthermore, the elimination of gravity on the body allows muscles and joints to release tension and heal more rapidly. For this reason, people suffering from musculoskeletal and rheumatic conditions greatly benefit from Floatation REST.6
The History of Floating - FLOAT - San Francisco

Physical Benefits of Floating in the Theta State:

  1. Old wounds and injuries are allowed to heal faster
  2. Increased T-cell production
  3. Increased blood circulation
  4. Reduced blood pressure
  5. Reduced Muscle and Joint tension for faster healing
  6. Lasting muscular reduced tension for up to 3 weeks

I love this description from Michael Hutchinson's book:

In the warm Epsom salts of the float tank, however, free from the tug of gravity, your muscles unfold like Chinese Paper flowers in water, growing supple and pliant. Several studies have used an electromyograph (EMG), which measures muscular tension, to compare groups who simply floated with groups of non-floaters who relaxed by using various relaxation techniques.
In every study floaters quickly became far more deeply relaxed than the non-float groups. Significantly, this reduction in tension persisted, according to one study, for up to three weeks after a float.7Brainwave Explanation - Michael Hutchinson

Mental Benefits of Floating in the Theta State:

This is where floating in a sensory deprivation environment becomes interesting. I must point out that I did not experience any of the following during my first float - to be honest, I managed to get get salt water in my eyes about 15 minutes into my float - so had to get out of the pool to wash the salt away.

Floatus Interruptus.

But here's what the experts have to say (and what I will be aiming for in my next float session):

One of the most widely noticed effects of floating is a feeling of mild euphoria, mental clarity, and sensory acuity that lasts many hours, even days, after leaving the tank. The euphoria can be explained by the continuing deep relaxation and the increased flow of endorphins and perhaps other peptides. The mental clarity is largely due to the alteration in brain waves – slower frequency, higher amplitude, more hemispheric synchronization – that studies indicate also continues long after emerging from the tank.
The sensory acuity – floaters speak of finding colors brighter, richer, more saturated, of seeing more sharply, hearing more clearly, having intensified senses of touch and smell – seems to come from having allowed the senses to take a short vacation. They return to the world refreshed, having been what psychologist Arthur Deikman calls “deautomatized” with their doors of perception cleansed.8Brainwave Explanation - Michael Hutchinson

So, in summary, the mental benefits are:

  1. A sense of mild euphoria
  2. Mental Clarity
  3. Heightened senses of taste, sight, smell and hearing
  4. Increased learning and Long-term memory

Yes, you read that right - Increased Learning and Long-term Memory. How?

In the book, Michael Hutchinson writes about control studies that showed one group retaining information a lot longer than another. Both groups were required to read a long passage from Tolstoy's "War & Peace" (not an easy read btw). The group that underwent a sensory deprivation session straight after their "study period" had actually remembered more after being re-tested for recall. The control group did not remember as much.

The physical response to floating increases the mind's ability to transfer information from Short-Term Memory (STM) into Long-Term Memory (LTM).

While I was interviewing floaters, one man mentioned to me a “strange experience” he had while learning Dutch. On one occasion he went in for a float immediately after his lesson. For various reasons he didn’t have any time in the next few days to review the lesson, but when he went in for his next lesson, he found that he had virtually total recall of the last lesson, and his instructor remarked that he must have studied very hard in the interim.
He felt that somehow the float had subconsciously solidified the information in his brain. Was this possible? he wondered.9Brainwave Explanation - Michael Hutchinson

Well apparently it is possible. For this reason I learn that Pro-Athletes now use this technique to train their brain for self-correction and better performance in the field. Next time I have to write an exam... perhaps I would have gotten better grades in Math.

What to expect in your first Float Therapy Session at Royal Orchid Thai Spa

As I intimated before, all I got was the novelty of floating. Was I relaxed? Yes I was completeley relaxed body-wise. I loved every second (except when I got salt water in my eyes).

Practice makes perfect - it stands to reason that one's First Time is a test-drive. It's a new experience. Enjoy it for what it is. But armed with knowledge (which is what this article is about), I will be booking my second float session with a few goals in mind:

  • Deeper relaxation

    I now know that physically floating is effortless in the extremely salty water – so I don’t have to worry about drowning

  • Aim for Theta Sleep

    Let myself drift into a light subconscious dreamy sleep

  • Avoid getting Salt in my Eyes

    (very important) – don’t wipe your face with your salty hand – you’ll get it in your eyes

The Floatation Pool Chamber at Royal Orchid Thai Spa

As noted before, the Flotation Tank room at the spa is a good-sized space - you won't feel claustrophobic at all. You can ask your attending therapist to either leave the deep blue ceiling lights on or completely switch them off. This is entirely up to you.

Also, the chamber has piped spa music - If you're gunning for as much "sensory deprivation" as possible - you can also request it be turned off.

The room is equipped with a shower and basin - and plenty of towels. Once your session is over (the spa only offers a standard 30 minutes), your attending therapist will alert you.

Booking your Floatation THerapy Session at Royal Orchid Thai Spa

Here are your options:

  1. Book a 30 minute Float Session
  2. Book a Dead Sea Relax (Option 1) package which includes a 30 minute float plus a 60 minute Swedish Massage
  3. Book a Dead Sea Relax package (Option 2) which includes a 30 minute float + 60 minute Swedish Massage + Express Facial

Bookings for the Float Pool are currently Unavailable

  1. Suspended Egg | Questacon - The National Science and Technology Centre, Suspended Egg, https://www.questacon.edu.au/outreach/programs/science-circus/videos/suspended-egg
  2. The History of Floating at FLOAT - Floatation Center and Art Gallery located in the Jingletown district of Oakland in the San Francisco Bay Area., The History of Floating, http://www.thefloatcenter.com/history.html, float
  3. The History of Floating at FLOAT - Floatation Center and Art Gallery located in the Jingletown distric of Oakland in the San Francisco Bay Area., The History of Floating, http://www.thefloatcenter.com/history.html, float
  4. Getting Tanked: One Writer’s 60 Minutes in Sensory Deprivation - Vogue, Getting Tanked: One Writer’s 60 Minutes in Sensory Deprivation, https://www.vogue.com/article/sensory-deprivation-tanks-float-spa
  5. The History of Floating at FLOAT - Floatation Center and Art Gallery located in the Jingletown distric of Oakland in the San Francisco Bay Area., The History of Floating, http://www.thefloatcenter.com/history.html, float
  6. The History of Floating at FLOAT - Floatation Center and Art Gallery located in the Jingletown distric of Oakland in the San Francisco Bay Area., The History of Floating, http://www.thefloatcenter.com/history.html, float
  7. CADT: Feuilleton, CADT: Feuilleton, http://www.cadt.de/reading/Floater.htm
  8. CADT: Feuilleton, CADT: Feuilleton, http://www.cadt.de/reading/Floater.htm
  9. CADT: Feuilleton, CADT: Feuilleton, http://www.cadt.de/reading/Floater.htm

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