Could a float tank solve your health woes?

Last week I came as close to feeling like a space-walking astronaut as is possible here on earth.

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When super-healthy Sporteluxe expert contributor Dr Kate Wood invited me to try the float tank at the state-of-the-art flagship Health Space clinic in Sydney’s Kings Cross she owns with her chiropractor husband Nick Wood, it was my chance to find out for myself what all of the hype was about.

Chances are you’ve heard of the float tank concept (if not, check out this story Dr Kate wrote for us a few months ago, with a lowdown on why they’re so incredibly good for your over-wrought body and soul), but it’s also just as likely you’ve not tried one for yourself.

In a nutshell, bobbing around for an hour in a giant egg-shaped salt-filled pool is ideal for stressed out folks, as well as beating jet lag, insomnia and muscle aches after exercise, or even if you just fancy locking yourself away from the world for a complete chill-out treat.

Trust me, what actually happened while I was there completely surprised me. Yes, I felt amazing when I left (like I’d just slept for eight hours at 5pm in the afternoon), clear-headed and relaxed – so clearly, all the hype isn’t for nothing. Read on if you want to know what it’s really like and whether it’s something you might be up for too!

4 things that surprised me about my first float tank experience:

1. You seriously can’t NOT float

Sure, I knew the theory – that the tank is filled with Epsom salts to about the same density as the Dead Sea and heated to a constant bath-like 37.5 degrees (body temperature), but the first time you experience that weightlessness for yourself, it’s a very strange and wonderful feeling. It literally feels like you’ve hovering in space – or lying in a soft, warm bed (and yes, I did fall asleep at one point). Facing upward, there’s no way you could sink while you’re floating. The neck pillow I was given was more to keep my ears out of the water than my head up.

float tank

2. It’s not remotely claustrophobic

… and I really did expect it to feel like being in a dark coffin given the stories I’d heard. In fact, it was like floating in a small oval swimming pool with a high domed roof. It was so big that when floating, I could stretch out my arms above my head and my finger tips and toes still didn’t touch the edges. (Disclaimer: I’m 5’4, so chances are anyone taller won’t have quite the same extra room, but you certainly won’t be crammed.) For anyone even remotely claustro, you can keep the door open. And it’s a pretty huge Lamborghini-style lift-up door with a big opening too.

3. You don’t have crazy womb-like regressions

Well, I didn’t, anyway. It’s not pitch black in there (you can see cracks of lights through the door edge) and for the first 10 minutes I had relaxation music playing. I did try to make it a womb-like experience by meditating for the first 10 minutes (dropping off to sleep derailed that intention a little). Honestly, after that my mind wandered to happy, creative thoughts, until after about 30 minutes, I started playing like a joyful kid in there, trying to balance floating on my stomach, head up, without touching the bottom – which I could. Extra proof you don’t always need to be quiet and meditative to recharge your soul (and that I have the attention span of a ten-year-old perhaps!?)

4. It does amazing things for your skin

You’d think that lying in a giant puddle of salt for an hour would suck the life out of your poor dermis, but quite the contrary. These magnesium salts actually treat your skin and improve circulation. Mine wasn’t dry at all afterward and felt more slippery in the water than crusty. Even my hair (which was almost completely submerged too) wasn’t affected, although my husband did laugh when I arrived home with crystals in my ears and earrings (I was pretty quick to shower off and race home after the session, so I didn’t wash the salt residue off properly, leaving it to crystallise as it dried. Thank heavens I wasn’t heading to a hot date afterward.)

MY VERDICT: Amazing! Can’t wait for my next one. As relaxing as a yoga class or massage, but with a cool detox-boosting twist.

TIP: If you have time, spend 60 minutes before your float in the clinic’s infrared sauna before your flat. It’s a dry sauna that does a number of things, including promote detox, fight off microbes, alkalise your body, boost immunity, improve circulation and relax tight muscles. It’s warm, but because it uses infra red light waves rather than steam, you can sit and read without your book’s pages going soggy. Doing it before your float amplifies the benefits of both treatments!

Rachel was a guest of Health Space in Kings Cross, Sydney, where a 1-hour float costs $40 with another treatment or $50 alone. The infra red sauna costs $30.

Image credits: iStock
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Rachel Sharp
As the only media identity in Australia to have edited both luxury fashion and fitness magazines, award-winning journalist Rachel Sharp has worked in Sydney, London and Dubai, holding the position of editor on titles including Harper’s BAZAAR and GRAZIA. In 2012, she successfully launched the Australian edition of Women’s Fitness magazine, which scooped Launch of the Year at the 2013 Publishers Australia Excellence Awards. Equal parts fashion-obsessed and fitness enthusiast, Rachel – who grew up in the idyllic beach town of Port Macquarie and is mum to two young children – holds a Bachelors degree in Medical Science and Masters in Writing for Media. Despite the fact she absolutely loves what she does for a living, Rachel would still rather be surfing or snowboarding than at her computer. Carpe diem!