These Adult-Sized Wombs are Taking Over the Meditation World



Try lying naked and face-up in a pitch-black tank of water at a temperature that matches your own skin — about 94 degrees Fahrenheit — with a higher concentrate of Epsom salt than the Dead Sea (up to 1,000 pounds). You see nothing. You hear nothing. You might feel nothing.

Welcome to sensory deprivation — and if you're looking for a way to meditate completely, both physically and mentally, this is it.

This hydrotherapy process is also known as restricted environmental stimulation technique (REST), flotation therapy and isolation tank therapy. The practice has been around since the 1950s, but is now making a resurgence in modern meditation, partially due to testimonies from celebrities such as Fear Factor host Joe Rogan and former UFC fighter Pat Healy.

Already popular on the West Coast of the United States — no surprise there — businesses dedicated to the water pods are now making their ways to the eastern coasts of the U.S. and Canada.

With its long list of health benefits, East Coasters might say it's about time. Float therapy has been linked to increased creative performance and decreased depression and anxiety. And the heavy salt concentration aidsmuscle pain by reducing blood lactate levels.

For newbies, however, claustrophobia is a common fear, while some people are even susceptible to out-of-body experiences. In a 2008 Swedish study, researchers interviewed people post-float session, and some reported hearing voices, seeing light phenomena or feeling as if they were soaring. According to Discover Magazine, when the brain is cut off from external stimuli, it begins to create its own.

Research still hasn't given an official reason as to why the body goes into an intense state of relaxation while in these tanks, but the cause is often believed to be the neurological state of imitating sleep, according to The Washington Post.

Still, people are reaping the benefits. Former environmental engineer Lindsay MacPhee is in the works of opening up one of eastern Canada's first flotation therapy spa at the end of March, called the Floatation Centre. MacPhee first tried float therapy while living in British Columbia as a birthday gift from a friend.

After the stress pile-up of a divorce, the passing of multiple family members and friends, and having a job offer fall through, MacPhee moved back home to Nova Scotia. But when looking for a tank yielded zero results, she decided to turn away from engineering and instead help introduce her community to floating.

But float tanks cost upwards of $10,000, and they require regular maintenance of hydrogen peroxide cleaning and constant refilling.

Using Indiegogo to both create buzz around her project and for financial support, MacPhee raked in over $1,000 CAD in just two hours. After just five days she raised more than 80% of her $5,000 goal.

"My main challenge has actually been education," MacPhee tells Mashable. "Because they don't exist out here, not a lot of people know about it."

She's also enlisted "Float Ambassadors," or those in the community who do "positive" work such as yoga, to help spread the word.

Christina Pistone, a former flight attendant and nutritionist from Los Angeles, first tried flotation therapy after being constantly jetlagged from flying for up to 20 days each month. Now she's the cofounder of the hydrotherapy spaVibrant Sea, which opened in New York last November

"Before, it was like a weird, mysterious thing that a lot of people didn't know about," Pistone tells Mashable. "On the mental [and] emotional level, we’re so overstimulated in our everyday lives, especially in New York City. 

Getting into that place where you can sit with your own thoughts and be quiet — it's the perfect meditation place."

Clients typically spend an hour in the tank, but some stay there overnight for a full eight hours. They can come in anywhere from once per week to once per month, according to Pistone, depending on their needs.

She calls the float community supportive in spreading the word, saying she doesn't care if a float tank center opens up down the street, because "we need more of them in the world."

So, look out — one of these adult-sized womb chambers might just be coming to a spa near you.


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