If you, like so many others, binge watched Stranger Things, you'll remember Eleven channeling her telepathic powers through the use of a sensory deprivation tank. The practice of "floating" in one of these lightless, soundproof tanks was actually used frequently by scientists studying the effects of sensory deprivation, starting in the 1950s. Well, now, thanks to the numerous physical and mental health benefits, isolation tanks are coming back into vogue in a major way and floatation centers are popping up all over, including right here in Park City.
SYNC Float (1200 W Lori Lane) is a local floatation center owned and operated by Michelle Larson and Justin Hunter. There they operate three private tank rooms where locals and visitors can try out floating for themselves. Each tank uses over 900 pounds of magnesium salt for just 10 inches of water. It's that 41 percent salt ratio which allows you to float effortlessly on the water. For comparison, the Dead Sea is roughly 33 percent while the Great Salt Lake at its highest is at 27 percent. The water is kept around 93.5 degrees, to match the temperature of your skin (though SYNC Float can make slight adjustments up or down for customers. It's not designed to be a hot tub because the point of floating is to lose the differentiation between where your body, the water, and the air begin and end.
Both Larson and Hunter tried floating for the first time in the fall of 2015 in Ogden. At the time, they were working together as the leading the Whole Body department at Park City's Whole Foods. Their love of floating was instantaneous and, since they shared a passion for careers focused on helping people take control of their own health, becoming business partners was a natural step. Driving home from her initial float, Larson literally sent Hunter a one line email declaring, "We're building a float center in Park City. I'm dead f*%king serious."
Getting the float center up an running took almost exactly two years since that email was sent. "We didn't really keep the idea to ourselves, and sharing it with the guy who has cut my hair for ten years is how we found our investors," says Larson. "They've been instrumental in bringing our vision to life both financially and as mentors. Somehow we struck the perfect balance between hands-on guidance and the freedom to enact our own vision. We feel very lucky for the support we've been given, and we think the intentionality with which the space was built has a positive effect on the service we're able to provide." They specifically chose a location a little bit out of town so their clients wouldn't immediately step into an over-stimulating environment--once you've floated for yourself, you'll definitely appreciate this gradual re-entry into the world!
If curiosity isn't enough to get you into floating, the physical and mental benefits--ranging from soothing sore joints and reducing pain to stress reduction, heightened focus, enhanced creativity, and beyond--may convince you to try it.
Between work, family, and all the electronic devices vying for your attention, arguably anyone living in modern society can benefit from floating. "I'm pretty healthy physically, so for me floating is a mental thing," Larson says. "I grew up swimming and the water has always felt like home to me, so being able to lie back and be held by water, free from expectations (from myself or others) for an hour just puts me in a good place. I recommend floating to others because I think it tells you a lot about yourself, about your thought patterns and what you do to escape them, things like tasks or distracting yourself on your phone, but also about your physical self. It's interesting to hear people talk about areas of their body that hold tension they didn't even notice until they floated."
For Hunter, the mental benefits were the first thing he noticed. But as he's floated more, the physical benefits have become more prevalent. "I started floating during a time when I had a lot of stress in my life and some very difficult decisions to make. I remember leaving the float center after that first time more relaxed and with more clarity of thought than I’d experienced in weeks, if not months," says Hunter. "As I continued to float, I started to feel profound physical benefits. I have chronic headaches that disappear while floating. I have scoliosis from an old sports injury, and floating has greatly improved my alignment. By the end of a 60-minute float, the muscles and tendons around my joints are so loose that I’m able to give myself chiropractic adjustments. Not the abrupt kind with loud cracks either, but gentle, comfortable adjustments that feel natural and unforced. I can also work through injuries more quickly, which is great because I don’t like to slow down."
Of course, floating is a very individual experience, and there's no exact regimen for every person. There is, however, a common thread: the benefits compound with a regular practice as floaters reach deeper levels of relaxation and meditation with each session. Both Hunter and Larson now float every week. "I've played around with different frequencies and found that one to two times per week has the most profound effect for me," says Hunter. "I feel much happier and more patient when I’m able to get into the tank that often. We have members that float multiple times per week, ones that float once a month, and everything in between."
SYNC Float is part of a forthcoming documentary on floating. The film follows several people from across the country during their first two to four months of floating, including Utah-based professional ski mountaineer and social/environmental activist, Caroline Gleich, who spends her float time at SYNC Float.
What to Expect for First Time Floaters
Going for a float, is a lot like visiting a spa. You'll immediately ditch everything from the outside world when you enter, sliding into a fresh pair of slippers and picking out a post-float tea before heading into your private float room. There you'll have your own shower, for pre- and post-float cleansing as well as premium shampoo, conditioner, and body wash.
Floats typically last for 60 minutes (though you can book up to 90 minute sessions). You can float in complete darkness and silence or choose to leave lights and/or music on. So what do you do with all that time alone with your head, you may ask? If you've tried a little bit of mediation on your own or during a yoga practice, getting into a float shouldn't be too difficult. It's the same concept. Focus on your breath and let go of everything else. The feat can seem almost impossible under normal circumstances, but inside a tank where you're just floating, chances are you'll slip right into it. "My advice to first-time floaters is to be patient with yourself and trust the process," says Hunter. "It can be hard to do nothing, but I promise that you’ll get better at it. It sometimes takes more than one or two floats to learn to shut off. Once people do, though, it really seems to click for them."
If you're ready to try floating for yourself, you can check out SYNC Float to take advantage of their first-timer float deals. Float Park City (1351 Kearns Blvd) also offers floating sessions.