But a trendy type of new-age therapy is taking the calming wonders of floating away your cares to new extremes – by suspending its devotees in total darkness in a sealed pod of water.
It’s called floatation therapy and, according to a holistic school of thinking, it can do everything from help balance hormones and reduce stress, to aid recovery and alleviate insomnia.
What exactly is floatation therapy?
Essentially, it’s a way of achieving deep relaxation, by spending an hour or more lying quietly in total silence and darkness. It enables you to submerse yourself into a lightless, soundproof tank (called an Isopod), lying flat on your back with your eyes closed.
The saline water inside is warmed to 35.5C, the same temperature as the air and your skin, so that you can’t quite tell where the air stops and the water begins.
The floating element is made easy with a secret trick: the water is filled with enough Epsom salts to keep the body gently suspended on its surface.
The idea is that while you bob in total darkness and silence, your brain is stripped of all sensory distractions. Many compare it to the experience of ‘floating in outer space’ – which can initially feel like an uncomfortable experience if you’re the type of person that’s used to checking their phone every 10 minutes, or juggling a busy schedule.
While the vast majority of us are probably still in the dark about this alternative therapy, it’s actually been around for decades and first cropped up in the Fifties (John Lennon even credited floatation therapy for helping him to kick his heroin habit in 1979).
In recent years though, it’s had a Millennial-friendly rebrand, moving away from being known as ‘sensory deprivation’ or ‘isolation’ therapy, to the rather less grisly-sounding ‘floatation therapy’.
What are the benefits?
There’s still limited scientific research into the healing powers of floatation therapy, but converts say it’s a cure-all method for a whole platter of health and wellbeing maladies.
“Floating creates a unique space for our brain and our body to switch off,” says Chris Plowman, founder and director of Floatworks. According to Plowman, his clients have reported everything from an increased sense of calm and clarity to improved sleep, reduced anxiety and stress, plus faster recovery from sporting injury.
On a physical level, floating is said to be able to help reduce muscle tension, pain, inflammation and blood pressure, thanks to an extra boost of all-important magnesium in the water.
The benefits can be spiritual too. All that disconnected floating works wonders if you’re looking to get your creative juices flowing (I’m told the tank is particularly good for writer’s block and other artistry mojo issues).
Plowman says the womb-like experience can even trigger hallucinations and out-of-body experiences for some people.