I must have lost consciousness because I awoke feeling as if I was lying on solid ground when in fact I was floating naked in a large pod of salt water about 12 inches deep. I could not see or feel any side of the pod. It was pitch black with no sound. I felt more as if I was looking up into space than in an enclosed pod. I had no idea how long I’d been in there or how long I had to go to complete my hour-long session at Soulex Float Spa, the only float center in DC.
Floating can be a powerful stress-relief and wellness tool. It’s a simple way to achieve relaxation, meditation and well-being. The water in the pod is heated to body temperature and is saturated with 1000 pounds of pharmaceutical grade Epsom salt which enables your body to float effortlessly.
“I loved it. I was shocked because I didn’t expect the experience to be so easy,” said Pat Morgan, a Smithsonian Museum docent and Hill resident who came floating with me. “Nothing was required of me. I thought it was really relaxing. There was no pressure anywhere on my body. It was close to weightlessness.
”I never thought about the time which surprised me. The lights and music are the perfect way to get you in and out of that relaxed state. I was very impressed. The place is so clean. It’s spectacular. I plan to do it again.”
Pedramin Vaziri opened Soulex Float Spa a little more than a year ago in downtown DC. She was seeking a way to replicate her experience in a float tank in Virginia Beach. Pedramin was in need of the benefits of floating and wanted to share them with the community. She was a stay-at-home mom whose second child had lots of infections. “The traditional antibiotic treatments weren’t working so I sought other avenues for healing.” She became a holistic nutritionist and began practicing yoga and meditation. “Meditation was difficult for me. My husband saw me struggling and found out about floating – a time-efficient way to meditation.” He took her to the closest float spa several hours away in Virginia Beach, VA. My first experience was profound. It changed my life.”
Pedramin’s designed her pristine, attractive facility with pods that were born out of her longing for a hygienic floating experience. ‘We are the only facility in the area where, after each session, the water in the pod is completely emptied out. The pod is then cleansed by hand. As the next session begins, the salt water in the tank goes back through the filtration system and fills up the pod with fresh, clean and sanitized water.’
The benefits of floating are science-based. “In 1954 John C. Lilly, a neuro-scientist at National Institutes of Health wanted to see the connection between the mind and the body” said Pedramin. “He found that even in the sleep state, people are affected by external stimuli. He built the first float tank in order to discover what would happen when you take away all external stimulation from your senses.”
Dr. Lilly discovered that one hour of floating equals six hours of sleep and up to four hours of meditation. Studies have found that floating significantly decreases stress and can reduce symptoms of depression. It can reduce pain, improve focus, enhance optimism, improve quality of sleep and increase mindfulness.
Who Should Float?
“Floating is good for everyone,” said Pedramin. “Research indicates that at least 60 percent of disease and illness comes from stress–no one is immune. Everyone can use an efficient way to de-stress. We have children float (with parents in the room), pregnant women, people with arthritis and other chronic pain, people who want to boost their immune system and people who are trying to lose weight.” It can help athletes recover more quickly after competition and can be used to improve performance. “Some of the Washington Wizards float regularly,” she said. It can also help people heal from injury. “We team up with physical therapists in the area.”
Some of the benefits for me were immediate and obvious. Others occurred days later and were more subtle. Immediately I felt more fluid in my movements and more relaxed, yet I had more energy. I didn’t feel tired. However, it wasn’t until a few days later I realized the quality of my sleep improved. I wasn’t getting more sleep, but deeper sleep. I also was clearer in my thinking and generally more optimistic.
Pedramin suggests floating once a week to receive optimum benefits. “The benefits linger for a few days.”
After my float, I relaxed with a cup of Pedramin’s homemade tea and enjoyed her husband’s art work that is displayed throughout the spa. I reluctantly re-integrated myself back into the daily grind of my life. But for one hour, I got to escape the stresses of living in Washington, DC in a healthy, beneficial way. It’s an experience I look forward to repeating very soon.
Pattie Cinelli is a health/fitness professional who offers information about subjects on the leading ledge of health and fitness thought. She has been writing her column for more than 25 years and welcomes column suggestions and fitness questions. Pattie also provides lectures, private sessions and group classes. You can contact Pattie at: [email protected].