Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Flotation Therapy : My Next Adventure In Self Care

As training and work take up ever more of my time and energy, I'm seeing changes in my energy levels, recovery, sleep patterns and moods, not always positive. If I'm at home I struggle to sit still and relax (there always seems to be housework) and sleep has evaded me more frequently in recent weeks than it used to so I was looking for something to try alongside my vitamin supplements, dietary changes and regular massages for a bit of self care.

My swim coach suggested that I try Flotation Therapy to help with relaxation and muscle recovery. Flotation therapy is the practice of floating in a pod or tank, buoyed up by a 25cm deep Epsom-salt solution heated to 35.5 degrees C. The salts are rich in magnesium which is know for it's muscle rejuvinating properties and is also linked to improving sleep. The temperature of the water is roughly the same as your skin temperature which is meant to help you relax and floating helps to realign your body as well as hopefully inducing a meditative state to revive you. Some people reported that it made their skin very itchy, others that it felt claustrophobic in the tank, so I went with the expectation that anything might happen.
The pod!
I booked an hours session at The Floating Point in Pangbourne to see if it would do anything for me. The Floating Point has two float rooms, each containing a pod and shower facilities. You have the room to yourself so after your briefing you can lock the door and have total privacy. On arrival I was offered water and the process was explained. I chose a piece of music from the playlist to have played at the start and end of my float session, to help me relax and then bring me back round again. Vaseline is provided to cover any small cuts as they will sting in the water and you're given towels and toiletries as well. Once in my float room I disrobed and showered before putting in ear plugs provided and getting into the pod and closing the lid. The room is fitted with a motion sensor so one it senses you're not moving around, it is assumed you are in the pod and the music and timer starts. You bob around a little bit before settling and it really is quite comfortable. 
Inside the pod, disco lights optional
I wondered if I might get claustrophobic but the pod is fitted with lights (which you can turn off) and actually when you've got your eyes closed I find it makes little difference. It took me some time to physically relax but I didn't get my mind to switch off entirely. Ironically I kept wondering if I'd manage to relax before the music restarted to mark the end of my session. The hour went neither quickly nor slowly. I didn't really want to get out but I had an evening of classes to teach so needs must! Once out and showered I was shown to the relaxation room and served water, herbal tea and sorbet.
I stayed there for sometime, enjoying a peaceful feeling and slowly "coming round" before re-entering the world outside. Had I felt inclined I could have read a book or done some colouring that was thoughtfully provided.
How did I feel afterwards? Peaceful, physically lighter, as though my posture was improved, a bit more focused. My sleep has been better since then but I don't think I can attribute it all to the floating. I really enjoyed the session, the enforced time of total relaxation. I'm sure there are other ways to achieve it but with the added mineral and postural benefits this was a hit for me. The centre recommend weekly floats but that's not feasible for me (in terms of time or budget) but I would consider it on a monthly or after-event basis, or even just ad hoc when things are getting on top of me.
Floating seems to be quite popular with sports people, with some teams being booked in regularly as part of their training regime. I haven't booked in a return visit yet but I fully intend to; hopefully it will help me to train, recover and live a little better.

Have you tried floating? What was your experience? Is it something you've considered? What other forms of recovery and self care do you partake in?

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