Just add salt
Ventura County’s only float tank opens this weekend
By Michael Sullivan 06/04/2015
Recipe for relaxation, therapy and possible transcendence.
One large tank fit for occupancy by one human
150 gallons of water
110 pounds of Epsom salt
Stir and bring to a simmer at 94.7 degrees fahrenheit
Add one human for one and a half hours
Rinse, wash human, repeat as needed
Scott Andrade of Ventura had been working in corporate America for decades when his moment of introspection came. Perhaps it was the fact that instead of being referred to by his name, his identity had dwindled down to just his employee ID number; or maybe he saw the hammer falling on his colleagues with mass layoffs in various departments, and his was next; or simply, his 50th birthday was on the horizon, and if he didn’t embrace change now, when else would he have the opportunity? All of these circumstances — it’s hard to pinpoint just one — led Andrade to floating.
“It was scarier not to leave,” he said about his old job. “There was no guarantee I would be safe; I was on a sinking ship. I really wasn’t looking for a job [when I found floating]. I needed to do something; I was looking for something.”
It wasn’t until a year ago that Andrade found floating and its therapeutic benefits. While living off his severance package and attending massage therapy school, he found out about floating and, well, dove in. He started going to the Float Clinic in Torrance, which happened to be on the way to his niece’s house. But he wasn’t always going to be able to make such a drive for his desired therapy sessions, and found that there was a void of float centers in Ventura County. With his soft grand opening on Saturday, June 6, he is modest about his new venture, saying that he isn’t about self-promotion but rather about ways to heal, relax, feel better, etc.
While floating dates back thousands of years to when the ancient Egyptians would wash themselves in the Dead Sea (which has more than seven times the salt content of the ocean), the concept of float centers didn’t appear in the U.S. until 1954 to test the effects of sensory deprivation and zero gravity on people. Though floating hasn’t caught on as quickly as perhaps our affinity for the Kardashians or Cheetos, the mental and physical health benefits can’t be denied. Whether it’s softer skin or detoxification of pollutants, things Epsom salts are known for, or being alone without much more than soft nature sounds, or music (optional) and your mind, taking the time really to be still and take in the simplest things has some solid benefits. But to each his or her own.
It is standard float tank protocol not to drain and refill the tank with each use. Industry wide the water is changed yearly; although at Ventura Float Center the water is changed every 4 months (depending upon how many people have floated). There are approximately 150 gallons of water that remain in the tank . The tank uses a filter and pump that are standard for swimming pools, yet with no chlorine or chemicals. The 110 pounds of Epsom salt creates a naturally salty environment that will not allow bacteria and/or germs to exist. This has always been accepted as the best natural way, along with the pump and commercial filter, to assure a sanitary and clean environment. The float room is sanitized and cleaned after each individual use. The pump is run between every session - least four times a day - on a timer system.
Andrade spoke of some of his clients’ experiences, one of whom said he “became” an astronaut who floated past a black hole, while others talk about listening to their own heartbeats. Still others just experienced “being.” There are a lot of things that can happen in one and half hours. This is what I found:
Time is fleeting except when you’re floating.
Caught in the rat race, caught in the parent trap, caught in the World Wide Web — whatever the case may be, life seems to move too fast for reflection. Time, however, is slow, meaningful, sometimes confusing when floating in the tank. The only distraction during the hour long session is your conscience. And, well, certain parts of the body that may be sensitive to salt, such as the eyes and shaved legs. This I know.
Arms and legs are awkward at best when they serve no purpose.
Flotation therapy simulates zero gravity. Because of this weightless experience, because there is simply nothing to do — including NOT trying to keep afloat, which is odd in water — arms and legs seem rather pointless and even feel as though they are in the way of total relaxation. But I digress. It’s probably just me who thinks arms and legs can be weird.
Letting go is hard.
As I began my floating experience, the front of my body out of the water, holding my face very still so as to try to avoid getting water in my eyes, I had this feeling that I was spinning quickly to the right and needed to brace myself for impact. Then confusion set in that I was somehow doing this floating thing wrong — it was supposed to be relaxing! But after touching the walls with my hands and feet, I realized that I wasn’t moving. I was just right there and I needed to let go. I wasn’t going to hit the wall. I didn’t have to be scared. Funny how life can feel as if it’s spinning even when you’re not going anywhere.
Humans will try just about anything for a little peace and relaxation.
When it comes to calming the mind and body, what haven’t humans tried? From meditation to pills, massages, to just plain ol’ quiet, our efforts are rather glorious in this endeavor. And while I can’t say that floating is totally peaceful or relaxing, as it is completely dependent on where the mind is, it is a unique pathway to calmness.
Floating is the closest, most practical way to go back to the womb.
Free of obligations, identity, pressure to be anything, while no one remembers that time (if you say you do, you are making it up), there is something about floating in body-temperature water with nothing but black walls to look at. If there is a possibility that we can be conditioned to anything, our formation in utero would be our very first conditioning experience. To be weightless, fearless, worriless, yet in existence — it seems to be an ideal situation. And you may actually be able to relive that notion in the tank.
Claustrophobia is one of the most irrational fears a person can have.
Looking at the tank, the first thought that comes to mind is, “will I die in there?” Won’t I suffocate? What if the door doesn’t open and I am stuck and no one comes to help? All of those uneasy thoughts are stupid. Once I embraced the facts that the door would open and that the owner was just outside the room, I realized that claustrophobia is based on nothing logical most of the time. Acrophobia, however, is legit. Seriously.
Humans are on all sorts of different plains in life and practically no one will ever share the same experience.
As time seems to stand still in the tank, the mind goes down all sorts of paths. One particular realization I had, that I believe more people need to have, is that what works for me may not work for others and vice versa. Many people can bond over several things while despising certain things that the others like. And floating is included. But I would recommend not knocking it until you try it.