By Emily Glory Peters
You enter a private room with a stone floor and open shower. Just beyond is a small door in the center of a wall—like from a Lewis Carroll story—concealing a shallow pool enriched with Epsom salts and minerals designed to help you float. You step into the water, the music fades, the lights go out. Now what?
Floatation therapy—also known as a sensory deprivation tank—has been around since the 1950s. In recent years it’s found accelerated popularity in Pasadena, where Just Float remains the largest flotation therapy center in the world. Here “floaters” flock for the modality’s reported ability to boost creativity, reduce anxiety and more by blocking out external stimuli.
“Floating has been studied using some of the latest technology, like fMRI, wireless EEG sensors and extensive blood work to understand its benefits,” explains Michael Ruskow, co-founder and owner of Just Float. Sensory deprivation is key, says Ruskow, as when the brain doesn’t have to process incoming stressors like light, sound or even temperature changes, it can fully relax.
“The technology of the tank allows for a meditative state that would normally take ten years to cultivate with daily practice,” says Ruskow. “Most everyone leaves their float experience with a sense of physical peace and mental rejuvenation.”
For fledgling floaters, Just Float recommends you arrive 15 to 20 minutes early to watch an orientation video and get a short tour of the facility. For my inaugural float, I learned some helpful tips to get the most out of my hour-long float: breathing exercises, where to place my arms, using the earplugs and the float halo (strongly recommended). Results vary, of course—but a tip to getting the most out of it all is to customize your experience.
“The largest misconception is the idea that the float tanks are small and the guest has no control,” says Ruskow. “At Just Float, we designed our tanks to allow all body types to float with maximum comfort. Our cabins are 8-feet long, 5-feet wide and 7-feet tall and guests have the option to leave the door open, exit the cabin at any time and control the lights and choice of music throughout their float experience.” There’s even an ADA compliant float tank so no one feels excluded from the experience—a major improvement from the tanks of the 1980s.
After your float, you have the option to enjoy one of Just Float’s grooming rooms where you can get ready for (or wind down from) your day. The center also encourages clients to stop by a calming lounge for a cup of tea and to leave an encouraging thought in shared journal. Cumulatively, these experiences were pleasant: definitely relaxing, but not necessarily transformative. So how did I feel once I stepped outdoors?
Euphoric. Like finishing first in a footrace. That post-float feeling alone was enough to persuade me that there may be something to this modality, after all.
“Everybody knows to put your own oxygen mask on first in the event of an emergency, yet most of us don’t choose to take the time from our crazy lives to cultivate a sense of inner peace and stillness,” says Ruskow. “Floating is a safe, drug-free, self-directed form of relaxation and therapy that has very little risk—it requires no experience other than spending an hour floating in silence. It really is the easiest thing you can do. I truly believe it to be a gift to humanity.”
Just Float is located at 76 N. Hudson Avenue in Pasadena. For more information on flotation therapy or to schedule a float, contact the Just Float team at justfloat.com | (626) 639-3972 and follow along on Facebook and Instagram @justfloatinc.