Floating: The Basics

The Wood Room @ Oly FloatFloating is part therapy, part meditation, part transcendence, and all relaxation. Classically known as sensory deprivation, and also as zero gravity therapy, floatation therapy is suitable for professionals, athletes, meditators, and everyone in between, including children and the elderly.  Through complete relief from sensory stresses and gravitational pressures, resulting in a deep relaxation of body, mind and central nervous system, floating has a myriad of scientifically-documented benefits, including:

  • Improved health and well-being
  • Deepened meditation
  • Heighten self-awareness
  • Relief of physical pain
  • Relief of mental stress & anxiety
  • Increased production of serotonin, dopamine and endorphins
  • Decreased production of cortisol, adrenaline and epinephrin
  • Improved sleep
  • Improved immune system
  • Greater athletic performance
  • Faster healing process
  • Hypnotherapy and self-hypnosis
  • Recovery from addictions
  • Increased creativity
  • Enhanced problem-solving capacity

What Is Floating?

Courtesy of our friends to the north at Float House in Canada

During a float, your body is suspended in 10 inches of water that is heated to the same temperature as your skin and contains 800 lbs of Epsom salts. The Epsom salts, by themselves, have a wide range of incredible health benefits, but aside from that the experience is a weightlessness that is often described as like being in space or achieving neutral buoyancy while scuba diving. Your body fully relaxes – and you really don’t realize how un-relaxed your body normally is until it fully unwinds in a float tank – and your mind is free to relax in nothingness, reflect on solutions to your concerns, or simply wander into other realms and states. The ultimate goal is for your brain to achieve a Theta state, which brings forward heightened receptivity, flashes of dreamlike imagery and inspiration.

The results are as unique as each person floating; some experience a simple deep relaxation of their body, some experience profound meditative insights, some see existing pain disappear altogether. This is largely due to what is going on neurologically when the brain is put into a Theta state and central nervous system is put into a “parasympathetic state”; this one-two punch of effects dramatically affects neurotransmitter production. In particular, floating increases production of:

  • Endorphins – the body’s natural pain killer and inflammation reducer
  • Serotonin – a primary contributor to feelings of well-being and happiness
  • Dopamine – associated with feelings of motivation and reward

Simultaneously, floating decreases production of stress markers:

  • Adrenaline – the “fight or flight” hormone
  • Cortisol – an established stress-marker in the body
  • Norepinephrin – another known marker of nervous system stress

While everyone will experience these brain benefits on some level, the experiential reality for most people – in the beginning, at least – is somewhere in the middle of the range of possible experiences. Nobody should expect an “Altered States” experience or immediate cessation of that back pain that’s been plaguing them for 20 years. But what we promise everyone is a unique and thoroughly pleasant experience that is unlike any you’ve tried before, with the potential for deeply profound experiences that come with float practice.

Frequently Asked Questions

If you’re new to floating, you have lots of questions, of course. Could I drown? Will I melt into goo, like in that movie? What do I wear? There’s so many we typically get, we created a whole section for them. If you still have questions about floating after reading through the FAQs, please feel free to let us know.

About Our Float Rooms

The Metal Room @ Oly FloatEach of our float rooms have their own unique style, but both offer the same basic experience, designed to block out all light, sound, tactile senses and outside distractions. They are designed to block the senses – hence the original moniker of “sensory deprivation” – in an effort to allow the central nervous system to fully take a break from processing new information and to totally relax; to focus the body and mind inward; and then ultimately allow it to expand outwards.

Our float rooms are themed according to Chinese Five Elements medicine: wood and metal. (In the future, we’ll be adding earth and water rooms too).

The Wood Room

The Wood Room @ Oly Float

Wood represents the leader within us, that can take charge and determine a plan of action. It seeks always to grow and expand, just as you will when floating in the Wood Room.

The Metal Room

The Metal Room @ Oly Float

Metal. Known as The Breath of Life, the source of respect of self and others. This room, like the element, represents a willingness to give and receive acknowledgment for the magnificent being that you are.


Each room is equipped with a private shower to enable you to clean yourself before and after your float, in order to remove all salt from your body.


The History of Floating

Dr. John C. Lilly
Float Tanks – or Isolation Tanks, as they were originally known – were invented in the 1950s by an American neurophysiologist Professor named Dr. John C. Lilly.  Dr. Lilly wanted to find out if the brain needed external stimuli to keep its conscious states going. One theory was the energy sources are biological and internal and do not depend on the outside environment.  Together with his associate, Dr. Jay Shirley, they worked on creating an environment where one was completely isolated from all external stimuli.  His first creation was a tank in which a person was suspended vertically, entirely underwater, head completely covered by an underwater breathing apparatus and mask. He continued experimenting and modifying the general design of the tank.   Lilly eventually found it more relaxing laying flat rather than suspended upright, if more salt was used for buoyancy. Other modifications were also made, such as water heaters with thermostats to keep the water at perfect temperature, air pumps to keep fresh air in the tank, and a water filter for the reuse of epsom salts. By the early 1970’s, Lilly had perfected the floatation tank in the way that is much used today.

The Science of Floating

floating-boost-brain-powerThe body of scientific evidence supporting the health and wellness benefits of floatation therapy is growing all the time.  One leading study by Karlsbad University in Sweden found that: “Floating was perceived as pleasant. An altered state of consciousness was induced, varying from a milder state including profound relaxation and altered time perception, to more powerful with perceptual changes and profound sensations such as out-of-body experiences and perinatal experiences. ”  Neuropsychologists have found floatation effective for treatment of anxiety disorders, while clinical psychologists have found the “effects of floating  to enhance creativity, physical performance, stress management, psycho and physiological effects, relief from chronic pain- fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, etc.”

See our Science & Media section for more examples of clinical studies that support the efficacy of floation therapy, as well links to media coverage about floating and videos describing experiences with float tanks.