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Health That Floats Your Boat

Alisha Smith experiences the brand new Cocoon Floatation experience, in a bid to acquire optimum health.

I climb onto a little wooden stool and step, like a naked astronaut, into the depths of the floatation tank. I slide the overhead hatch shut, lay back, turn off the light and breathe deeply, wondering what it is exactly that I’m supposed to… well, do.

The skin-receptor neutral temperature (34.5 degrees) combined with the 350kgs of Epsom salt that has been dissolved into it gives the shin-depth water a feeling of being both silky and strangely non-existent on my bare legs. I alternate periods of complete stillness with intervals of movement- side bends, water ‘angels’ and, my favourite, pushing myself off one end of the tank and trying to identify which wall I’ll gently collide with.

Some moments feel interminably long. I can literally see the word ‘BORED’ hovering in the blank space behind my eyelids in big, bold, hard-edged capitals. And yet others feel blissfully relaxing. I’m so comfortable that I audibly sigh, my feet splay sideways and I seem to disappear, lost in a relaxation so immense that I’m completely consumed by it. I lose all sense of time and can’t figure out whether it’s been a moment, a minute or half an hour since my unreasonably heavy eyelids last attempted to flutter open.

In other moments, I’m restless. I mentally write an article. I create a warm up idea for a class I’ll be teaching later that evening. I try to count the drops of condensation that slip from the roof and land on my torso. I give up when I’m sucked back into the depths of pure and total relaxation, teetering on the brink of a serious slumber.

I’m coaxed back to reality by the barely audible sounds of chill-out music being piped into my tank room- the signal that my 60 minutes is up. A shower, a cup of herbal tea and a quiet chat with Megan Sproats, the owner of Cocoon Floatation in Figtree, NSW, helps me to recalibrate and assess the results. I’m sleepy but alert. My muscles feel completely recovered from the hard, high-impact workout of the day before and I feel calm and unhurried- as though my brain has well and truly switched off from its perpetually connected day-to-day state. Megan tells me that, as crazy as it may seem, some floating fanatics have even replaced their beds with tanks, retreating nightly for 8hrs of restorative buoyancy.

As ‘new-agey’ as it sounds, floating is anything but salty hocus-pocus. The research behind sensory deprivation and restricted environmental stimulation therapy is compelling enough to have led many world class athletes to its confines. It seems that regular tank-time has been attributed to improvements in physical recovery and performance, psychological enhancement and skill acquisition in higher rates than achieved on the field.

Floating advocates from within the sports and fitness community are widespread and long-lasting. The Dallas Cowboys and world champion athlete, Carl Lewis, introduced float tanks to their training in the early 80s, and more recently, Carlton Football Club and CrossFit Games champion, Amanda Allen, have reportedly immersed themselves in plenty of brine-y down time.

With research documenting improved circulation, cellular regeneration and the removal of waste products (such as lactic acid) from the body, floating is a great way to supercharge your post-workout recovery while experiencing the ultimate in relaxation.

Photos: Paul Trujillo

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