Many years ago, I sat in a local VFW at a roller derby fundraiser and had a fascinating conversation with a teammate about the float business she wanted to start in Philadelphia. I asked a million questions and expressed many doubts. My main concern was that I would probably be too claustrophobic and my ADD would interfere with my ability to relax and truly enjoy the benefits of sensory deprivation. I wasn’t completely dismissive because I was curious about the restorative benefits that were explained, especially how floating can enhance muscle recovery. Since I play a contact sport 2-3 times a week and experience muscle aches and joint pains on a regular basis, I was willing to try to risk feeling anxious and distracted if it would help heal my body. But once Keri started Halcyon floats I had a bunch of excuses for not scheduling an appointment, mostly not being able to find the time. I had always intended on eventually scheduling a float, but never got around to it. Several of my teammates
gone and really enjoyed it, reported that it helped them feel better, and had wonderful things to say about the experience, but it still sat on the list of things I’d eventually get around to doing.
As fate would have it, years later, a car accident that resulted in a concussion would finally bring me in for my first float. I posted on Facebook to friends and family that I would be off the radar for a while, due to being ordered off screens by my doctor. My inbox chimed and it was a message from Keri saying “Come float. It will help.” She went on to explain how floating has helped other athletes get back on the field after experiencing post concussive symptoms months after injury. I was out of work for 2 weeks and off skates for an indefinite amount of time. I couldn’t do anything but sit around the house and stare at the ceiling, so I had plenty of time to float and nothing to lose so I finally scheduled my first float around 5-7 days after my accident. At that time I was still experiencing constant mild headaches throughout the entire day, extreme fatigue, nausea, and intermittent dizziness. I was so nauseous that I had no appetite and had to set reminders to eat meals. I’m a woman who usually has a very healthy appetite with lots of carb and cheese and sweets cravings on the regular. I lost about 10 unintentional pounds over the first couple of days because I just didn’t want to eat or didn’t remember too.
My first float was at Halcyon’s Roxborough site. The person working that day was very informative and walked me through the process telling me everything I needed to know including helpful little tips like “Put your earplugs in when you take your shower before getting in the shower", to keep my ears dry, and other things like “remember to dry off your face and chest", so I'm not itching and dragging salt water into my eyes." At the time, the Roxborough site had giant pods large enough to float two people; The tanks were huge on the inside, I could pretty much stand up and the ceiling of the tank was above my head. My worries about feeling claustrophobic quickly evaporated. I took the light with me in the tank and turned it off when I was settled. (I recently floated at Roxborough and they changed the pods to extra large rooms with optional lights and music!)
Time is hard to track in the tank, but I think it took about 20 minutes or so for me to clear my thoughts and relax. The one thing that was constant was the sound of my own breath in my ears, but other than that, it was completely dark, with no sound. The feeling was pretty incredible; it was like floating on a liquid cloud. That whole thing about the water being body temperature so you can’t tell where you end and the water begins is totally legit and really cool. I don’t know if it was because of my brain injury or because I had no expectations, but I had some amazing visualizations that were so incredibly vivid. I’ve mediated before and saw patterns before but nothing like what I experienced while floating in the tank. Most of the visualizations were of underwater scenes, all point of view style. There were times where my view was looking up from under the water to the edge of a river or lake watching animals like a deer drinking from above, with its tongue breaking the surface, lapping up the water sending ripples across my field of vision. There were some images that were completely upside down and looked like still pictures. Then there was the experience where I was some sort of small animal or creature where I saw a dry and dusty dirt path in front of me, my vision was bouncing rhythmically up and down as if I was running and grass and trees next to me was enormous. It was pretty incredible. Near the end of the session, I began to hear gurgling noises coming from my stomach and by the time I was in the shower I was ravenously hungry for the first time in days. The cloudy mental state I had experienced since my accident had lifted and my thoughts were clear and sharp, my headache was gone, I felt amazing. The next morning for the first time since my concussion, I woke up and did not have a headache or nausea upon waking. I wish I could say that was it for my concussive symptoms, but I undid a lot of the healing that happened during the float by having to complete forms for work for about 2 hours on my laptop, at which point my symptoms were back in full force.
I floated for the second time about 5 days later, so about 10 days after my accident. This time I went to the Northern Liberties site and floated in the new fancy tubs, soft star lights on the ceiling and optional ambient music. It was beautiful and relaxing but I didn’t have the same visual experiences, I’m not sure if that was because my brain was healing or if it was because I was distracted. I took my daily asthma medicine about an hour before the float and I forgot that it gives me an irregular and pounding heartbeat. Normally, this side effect is barely noticeable, but in the tub with no sound or light (I chose to turn the music and lights off) I couldn’t filter the sound out of my own heartbeat. I ended up turning the music back on because I couldn’t filter out the distraction and it was still a relaxing and restorative experience. Once again, I experienced mental clarity and intense feelings of hunger after floating. My nausea symptoms and headache had diminished on its own at this point but I definitely felt better post float. My 3rd float was also at the Northern Liberties site and I remembered not to take my medication beforehand, I still did not have the vivid visualizations, some passing images and patterns, but I was extremely relaxed and fell in and out of sleep. My fingers and toes would twitch at times, the way it does when you are on the verge of entering sleep. And again, post float I felt clear and relaxed. It’s kind of like that Zen brain that you get post yoga, but more intense.
Now this was not a controlled scientific study, so I cannot definitively say that floating cured my concussive symptoms. My concussion healed within a normal timeframe. I also had physical therapy to help my symptoms. But what I can attest to is how I felt immediately after floating, which was very noticeable and very beneficial. I’ve started to float on an average of every 3 weeks or so. I absolutely love it. My body actually begins to crave it the way I crave food, I find myself just wanting and needing to float. I’ve returned to skating and regular exercise so my muscles are almost constantly achy and sore and I can definitely attest to the restorative effects.
If you are contemplating floating for any reason, stop thinking about it and go. I’m kicking myself for not starting this years ago. If you’ve had a concussion, definitely go, I believe
that it helped me, especially with getting my appetite back. If you're athletic or have any aches and pains in your joints, go, the antigravity effects helps alleviate pressure in these areas. If you’re not into the whole sensory deprivation thing, go. Their tanks have optional lights and soft music. Go float. It helps. - Anita Bodybag
****Anita plays for the She Devils of Penn Jersey Roller Derby league here in Philly. They often play on a banked track.If you are interested seeing them play, you're in luck! They have a game tomorrow! Check them out, you won't regret it!