Disclaimer: True Rest Float Spa provided a free trial therapy session in return for an honest blog review. As with all content on The Nature Nurse™, PLLC platform, this is not medical advice. Always consult with your licensed health professional team before trying a new treatment.
What if we had the opportunity to return to the womb, that warm watery, weightless space? The place where we all started our earth journey, where our every need was met and there was no influence from the outside world, we were just in a pure state of being? Well, now thanks to new technology we have something close to that. It's called floating spas. These spas provide warm, salt-dense water tanks, where we can float in a reduced stimulation environment for a set period of time, allowing us to let the outside world go and completely just be once again.
I have written about these spas, read the research that touts its many benefits, mostly led today by Dr. Justin Feinstein, but I have never tried it myself. I have experienced floating in a pool with foam noodles, and floating tools like Flothetta, which are widely used in Iceland where floating sessions are a common practice. These simple options are relaxing, but not free of outside stimulus.
The science has shown that for most people these floating spas provide deep relief from stress and anxiety. A study conducted in 2018 found that people with anxiety and stress-related disorders had profound reductions in stress as well as reporting significant reductions in muscle tension, pain, depression and negative affect with no major complications. Studies are being expanded to evaluate other ways floatation therapy can be of benefit. Professional athletes find floating helps them establish a winning mindset before competing, as well as quicker muscle recovery after a game.
I was introduced to this therapy at the 2018 Blue Mind Summit focusing on Water is Medicine. The research is compelling. Anecdotally, I have heard from many people- friends, acquaintances, colleagues who have found float spas very relaxing and use the therapy regularly. As with any intervention, there are situations where people may not be appropriate for this or may have adverse effects. For example, I have heard of repressed traumatic memories being awakened during a float, which could be an opportunity to heal those. Post float nightmares for short period of time, potentially repairing something from the past, have also been known to occur. If you try floating, and find that you have these reactions, please reach out to your licensed healthcare professional, and a trauma-informed therapist to help process these memories.
Those with active open lesions in the skin are asked to avoid floating until they are healed as the Epsom salt saturation level will cause pain in these areas. Those who live with epilepsy, kidney disease, low blood pressure, or claustrophobia are discouraged from using this therapy. Other health issues may also be a problem so always consult with your licensed health care professionals before trying a new treatment.
So, what was my experience like? After being welcomed to the float spa, I was asked to sit in a salt-stone walled room to watch a short video on the float experience I was about to try. The video was just a few minutes and covered the basics of what the therapy is, the many benefits, and how to best experience the floating session including various positions one may want to use to achieve the best float. Then I was given a brief tour of the spa including the restrooms, after float lounge and post-float area where one could dry their hair, apply makeup, and return used slippers /towels.
Then onto the actual floatation room, a small, fully-tiled room with the float tank, stand up shower and bench. I was thoroughly briefed on further details on how to float including: shower first, emergency button in the tank, lighting button, the music I selected would play for the first ten minutes, followed by silence, and return 5 minutes before the end of my session. At the end I would get out and shower, get dressed, use the after spa touch up area as needed and then relax in the post float lounge. To ensure my privacy, I was to lock the door when the staff member left. The manager was very thorough in his explanations and open to questions.
Eager to get in and try this, I followed the instructions and entered the tank in the nude as they suggest, and closed the float pod’s doors. The soothing music played while I oriented myself, a blue light allowed me to see and get my bearings, I clumsily made my way into a floating position on my back, the dense salt water making it a bit awkward to move around. Once I felt comfortable, I reached over and turned the light off, while the music continued to play and I waited to see what would happen.
I can imagine that it would be easier, and quicker, to shift into the nirvana-like float state that is mentioned repeatedly when it comes to float therapy the more you go, but the first few minutes for me were a bit restless. The water was holding me up, but it was like trying to move around in a water bed. I tried the hands by my side position for a while, then hands resting above my head, then hands resting on my belly, each position okay for a while, but eventually not feeling right. Then, ever so subtly, I felt what I can best describe as space opening up between my joints. I felt the need to gently stretch and further release the tightness in my muscles, shoulders, neck, ankles, hips. I noticed myself beginning to yawn a bit between breaths. The tense, tight, feeling in my body effortlessly dissolving into the water. As my mind marveled at what my body was experiencing, the music turned off and the silent, stimulus free part of the treatment began.
Dense, profound, complete stillness- I will struggle to put into words what this phase of the float was like. Somethings can only be known by experience. This is one of those situations. The only thing I can come up with, which doesn’t truly compare to the depth of the stimulus reduction experience would be the dull, stillness that happens when you walk outside to a fresh snowfall that seems to stop the world around you.
Time became irrelevant. My breath the only sound I heard. I felt safe, and began to let my body let go more. My thoughts wondered, “Is this what it was like in my mother’s womb?” Then, I’m guessing after twenty minutes or so, in an instant, I felt a major shift, into a new way of being. Just being. No demands, no worries, no “after this I need to…”. I was with my body, which no longer felt like it was wrestling in a pool trying to find a comfortable position, but not feeling like I was in my body. My body now felt more like it was floating in air. My stomach started to grumble a bit. I longed for nothing. I felt at complete ease, peaceful.
I can’t tell you how long that peaceful sense of being lasted, but I was instantly disappointed when the music began to gently play, alerting me that my session was coming to a close. I could have stayed there forever. I now knew what people rave about when it comes to float therapy and why they come back for more.
After climbing out of the tank and connecting with gravity again, I instantly thought, now I need a massage. It was as if I was aware that all of my muscles and joints had been restored to their healthy state and a massage would further secure this by removing any hidden knots and tightness. I showered and made my way to the post-float lounge where a staff member invited me to try the aromatherapy induced oxygen bar to help clear any “float brain” that I may have. For me, this wasn’t necessarily needed, I felt clear and vibrant, but I tried it. I can see how it might be of benefit to some people, but I didn’t notice it changing the calm, clear, joyous state that I was enjoying.
While inhaling oxygen and sipping on water, I had the chance to flip through the journals on the coffee table in the lounge, where people can write their post-float thoughts. It was clearly evident that people enjoyed their experiences at True Rest. It warmed my heart to know that those who need relief the most after trauma found a safe place that provided them peace. One Veteran wrote how floating allowed him to experience peace after battling with many traumas and thoughts of suicide. A mother of four wrote how this was the only place she could truly feel alone and be with herself and how this helped her be a better parent. Another person drew a picture of a blog and described her experience as becoming an amorphous blog that melted into the calm, safe, neutral ether. There were four journals filled with similar testimonials.
So, you may be wondering, will I return? The answer is a big, YES! My husband even commented when I got home, “You look so relaxed. I’m guessing you enjoyed it.” But, don’t take my word. The best way to know if this is a good fit for you is to try it for yourself. I would love to hear what you think of it if you do.
To learn more or to make an appointment to try this yourself, visit True Rest Float Spa.
On June 21st, at 11:54 EDT, those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere will experience the longest day of the year, while those who live in the Southern Hemisphere will experience the darkest day, and the beginning of winter. Just the word, summer, conjures up images in all of us. Playing flashlight tag, sweet, juicy watermelon refreshing our parched throats, and hours surrounded by water.
Mention summer and water immediately comes to mind for many. Trips to the beach, fishing on a lake, hiking to a gushing waterfall deep in the forest, diving into the clear, blue tranquility of a pool-the options are endless. As we indulge in the fun and joy of water this summer, perhaps we will also consider expanding our awareness of water does for us.
In case you missed it last fall, I shared a series on water and the healing benefit it offers. Feel free to take a look.
Part 1: Water-The Big Story
Part 2: Is Water In Your Wellness Toolbox?
Part 3: Wow! Water Can Heal That?
Let's soak up this precious resource as much as we can this summer!
"An ounce of prevention, is worth a pound of cure." - Benjamin Franklin
Just how powerful can a pairing of hydrogen atoms with a single oxygen atom that creates a molecule of water be? H2O is apparently, very powerful, especially when multiplied. So powerful, that we may want to look at that trip to the beach, swim after work, or hot shower in the morning in a new way as we read this series, Water-The Big Story. What can water do for us, and why might we want to be more mindful about adding this resource to our health and wellness toolbox? Let's take a deeper look in part two of this series.
The California wildfires occurring as I write this, are an extreme example of just how intense life can become without water. Just like hurricanes and tsunamis, fire holds intense energy. But what if we coupled fire with water? What would we get? Artist, Barnaby Evans, did just that in his artistic creation Waterfire. The result? Pairing of these two elements in a controlled environment creates peace, harmony and tranquility.
The city of Providence, Rhode Island hosts several lightings of Evan's Waterfire exhibits throughout the year. After sundown, volunteers dressed in black, glide through the water in black gondolas and add wood to fires burning in huge caldrons in the middle of the city's three rivers. Simultaneously, deep music that resonates through the body like a whale's song, fills the walkways around the rivers that resemble Venice, Italy's canals. Thousands of people gather to experience the simple, yet complex, pairing of water and fire. What is unique, in my opinion, is how at ease the crowd is, exhibiting almost the same type of affect that a restorative yoga class has on its participants. The crowd is mostly silent, harmoniously sauntering along the pathways that line the rivers. Occasionally, there may be something else to pause and experience, like a silent, performing mime. There is no pushing, shoving, just a seamless blend of the crowd.
Today scientists are studying what is it about water that has the power to affect our moods in such a way. How it facilitates our healing. Much of this is due to new technology that allows neuroscientists to actually track how our brains react to different stimulus.
Before we go on to explore this phenomena, and the why, and how, we may want to integrate water into our wellness toolbox, let me first pause to explain healing versus curing. Put simply, curing, is the elimination of the signs and symptoms of disease. It is consistent with the western diagnosis and treat medical model. Healing goes deeper; more complete, and may or may not include curing. According to Dossey and Keegan (2009), healing is “the return of the integrity and wholeness of the natural state of an individual; the emergence of right relationship at, between, and among all levels of the human being; the process of bringing together parts of one’s self (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, relational) at deeper levels of inner knowing, leading to an integration and balance, with each part of having equal importance and value.” It is pretty safe to say that most of us are in a continual state of healing as there are so many factors pulling us away from this delicate balance. If you want to understand this definition further, you may want to do some exploring of the terms on your own. A discussion of these terms with our health care provider may lead to a better understanding of our health goals and how to achieve them.
I share this distinction because as we discuss some of the information shared at the Eighth Annual BlueMind Summit, I want to be clear that what I am discussing is not medical advice. This year's BlueMind Summit theme was Water Is Medicine. Wallace J. Nichols, PhD (a turtle researcher, not a medical doctor) and I respectfully disagree on what wording is best used to discuss water's ability to make us feel better. He chooses to use the hashtag #WaterIsMedicine. I, on the other hand, choose to use #WaterHeals. To his credit, Nichols has spearheaded international discussion on the topic of water as it relates to health, as well as a number of other, not well-recognized links. Semantics aside, we do agree, as do countless others, that there is something magical to water and what it can do to us.
Some of you may be shaking your head and rolling your eyes at this point. Perhaps this is something that you already know. Going to the beach for the weekend, for example, leaves most of us relaxed, rejuvenated, restored. A saying commonly expressed by those who turn to water to relieve stress, and find their way back to their true north, is that water is like a "reset" button. The difference is in intention. Do we intentionally use water for the benefits we will discuss?
I, for example, already know water helps me feel better. However, I always thought of the beach as a treat, an indulgence, or for fun and recreation. Now that I am aware of just how powerful the healing effects are, I go more often for my preventive health. Why wait until I need a trip to the beach? Why not go and "reset" before I am exhausted, so that I am generally calmer, more relaxed and think clearer. Have you integrated this strategy into your lifestyle?
This is just the surface of what water may be able to help us with. We'll discuss more of the health and wellness benefits that we may reap, while engaging in water, as we continue in this series.
So, let's get to it, shall we?
At the BlueMind Summit: Water Is Medicine the hour-long sessions were broken down into specific themes:
I will be reviewing some of the information presented within these themes and adding further data and information. Surprisingly, the conference attracted people from all walks of life and a multitude of professions. I was the only nurse there and there were a few doctors. It was refreshing to be surrounded by like-minded people who are interested in, or already using water, in various ways to help their fellow human beings: surfers, inventors, educators, marine biologists, journalists, aquarium personnel, spa owners, and health coaches just to name a few.
The key takeaway from the conference: Water has the power to make us not only heal and improve our lives, it can also transform us at times. How exactly that happens, we do not know exactly, but we are starting to get some information.
In order for humans to have the best opportunity to indulge in what water has to offer, learning how to swim at the earliest age that is appropriate is beneficial. This diminishes the possibility of being fearful in, on, near or under water.
As of this publish date, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that depending on the child, and the surrounding conditions such as the amount of water nearby, some children may be ready to learn to swim as early as one years old. This does not, however, relinquish a parent or caregiver’s responsibility for ensuring that child’s safety around water with supervision and structural barriers to the water. A variety of factors go into the decision when it is appropriate to teach a child to swim. To learn more, visit the American Academy of Pediatrics informational page on the subject here.
Let's begin exploring in more detail exactly what water might actually do for us by looking first at the topic of pools and swimming.
In Tel Aviv, Israel, hydrotherapy is a well-accepted, and widely implemented means of providing therapy for individuals with a variety of medical situations including chronic pain, traumatic brain injuries, autism, and orthopedic rehabilitation. I can speak to the benefit of this personally.
A few years ago I dislocated and broke my ankle in three places. When the cast, and later the boot, were removed, my ankle was as stiff as a brick. It was painful and frightening to bear weight on it or try to rotate it. After the initial few weeks of physical therapy in their office, I instinctively turned to water to help me progress.
As Caroline Barmatz, Director of Hydrotherapy at Sheba Medical Center, Tel Aviv, Israel, stated at the BlueMind Summit, "I see abilities in water that are disabilities on land."
That indeed was what I found. The weight that water helped me bear gave me confidence to stretch my ankle a little more. When I saw it was possible to move it that much in the water, I felt more confident to allow my ankle to stretch that far on land.
Barmatz's hydrotherapy program provides over 27,000 treatments a year in Israel. There are several hydrotherapy pools around the city and medical professionals of all levels are educated about, and invited to experience, the therapeutic effect of water in order to assist with or advocate for it.
Looking at how other cultures are using water as therapy allows us to discover best practices and inspires us to think differently. Bob Hubbard, co-founder of the Hubbard Family Swim School in Phoenix, Arizona, was another speaker at the BlueMind Summit. Hubbard referenced a study done by Griffith University in Australia in which researchers surveyed parents of 7000 children aged five years old and under from Australia, New Zealand and the US over a four-year time period. It found that children under the age of four who swam at least once a week, were anywhere from six to 15 months ahead of the average population when it came to cognitive skills, problem solving in mathematics, counting, language and following instructions.
Hubbard states there are other great benefits to getting kids and those with special needs into the pool. Touch is one of them. Parents hold normally squirmy toddlers skin to skin for long periods of time and autistic kids allow others to touch them, which might not ordinarily happen. He says that often the greatest barrier to getting kids into the water is the parents.
"Studies show that 50-60% of adults are uncomfortable with water over their head," Hubbard shared. "Other countries such as Japan, Australia, and Norway require that by the third grade a child can pass a 400 meter swim test. We often spend more time educating the parents than the kids."
Learning how to swim is not only important to prevent fatal drowning, which is the second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related death for children ages 1-14, it is essential to open the door to the therapeutic and mind-body enhancing benefits that water engagement offers. Like many other socio-economic situations, knowing how to swim is not equal across different cultures and ethnicities. 64 percent of African-American and 45 percent of Hispanic children cannot swim, compared to just 40 percent of Caucasian children.
We discussed a variety of potential ways this disparity might be tackled at the BlueMind Summit including: Expanding education of the benefits of swimming and water engagement via healthcare providers such as by Lamaze Class Instructors, Pediatric Providers, and School Nurses. Perhaps once made more aware, health insurance companies will cover swim lessons and build more pools in public areas including low-income areas. Imagine the preventive health benefits.
Do you swim or engage in water yourself? How has it affected your health and well-being? Please feel free to add your experiences in the comments below. We will continue to discuss other ways water heals us in upcoming blogs so be sure to subscribe if you are interested. I hope you will find it the information as intriguing as I have!
 B.M. Dossey, Holistic Nursing: A Handbook for Practice, 5th Ed., ed. B. M. Dossey and L. Keegan (Sudbury, MA: Jones and Barlett, 2009, 721.
If you would like to watch the BlueMind Summit: Water Is Medicine, Pools Session, in its entirety please click here. The audio from Tel Aviv is difficult to hear, unfortunately.