You know how relaxing it is when you finally make the time to take a long soak in the bath? Imagine stepping into a tub the size of a walk-in closet, adding 1,000 or more pounds of Epsom salt, turning off the lights and soundproofing the room, and matching the water temperature exactly to the temperature of your skin. Now, you’re floating, literally. And this womb-like experience just might be the “new” way to meditate.
Floating has been around for 40 years or so and piqued interest in the ‘80s and ‘90s, but it’s having a renaissance right now due to vastly improved float cabins as well as the popularity of mindfulness and meditation, says Jim Hefner, owner of Just Float in Pasadena, California, aka the world’s largest float therapy spa, which opened in September.
Hefner, who has practiced yoga for 15 years, says he discovered floating two and a half years ago. “The day of my first float birthed this place—I felt so profoundly amazing, I needed to share it. I’ve been an adventure athlete my entire life, so I’m very comfortable and familiar with what we call the flow state. My very first time floating, it was amazing how similar it felt.” Moreover, Hefner says floating taught him how to meditate. “I recognized the sign posts to help myself get there—now I’m familiar with what that feels like.”
David Leventhal, co-owner of Lift/Next Level Floats, another float spa that opened last year in New York City, says experienced meditators trying to achieve a “theta” state, or the lower frequency brain waves associated with deep relaxation, visualization, and creativity, may get there very quickly during a float, and newbies may also be able to get there with little effort. “Some of our clients experience a pre-sleep, dream-like state where they couldn’t tell if they were asleep or awake. That sounds like theta.”
Just Float is currently participating in a study (dubbed The Blue Mind Project) in which neuroscientists will do brain scans to compare first-time floaters with experienced floaters using an electroencephalograph (EEG), a machine used to measure brain wave activity.