Updated: Dec 14, 2019
This week, I met up with Maria Ocanto, owner of Surrender to the Float in Guilford, Connecticut. Surrender to the Float is a wellness center that offers massage, reiki, and most intriguingly to me, float tanks that allow clients a unique, sensory-reduction healing experience.
What is a float tank? A float tank is an enclosed, sound-proof chamber that contains water and epsom salt, giving users the ability to float effortlessly on their backs. The idea behind a float tank is to reduce the five human senses as much as possible for healing and meditative purposes. John C. Lilly, an American philosopher and scientist, developed the first tank back in the 1950’s, calling it an isolation tank. He wanted to devise a way to reduce the senses in order to answer the question, “Does the brain still function without the senses?” (spoiler: it does), and in doing so, he discovered a new tool for healing—one that has been gaining popularity and interest since the 1980’s.
When I first heard the term “float tank”, I pictured a terrifying, tomb-like chamber filled with water and sealed over with a claustrophobia-inducing lid. There are many different types of float tanks, some of which I’m sure come closer to the strange idea in my mind, but the ones Maria provides at Surrender to the Float are anything but terrifying. Instead of tanks, they are more like sealed-off rooms with floor-to-ceiling walls and doors on the side for users to step in. Each tank is filled with 200 gallons of water and 1,000 pounds of epsom salt, which equates to 10-11 inches of liquid, leaving plenty of open space above the surface of the water (phew!). The temperature of the water, as well as the temperature of the air, is controlled to match the temperature of the user’s skin to reduce the sensation of touch. From there though, Maria caters to her clients. She offers them the option of leaving the lights on or off, depending on the clients’ needs and comfort level. She customizes each person’s float experience, providing music and meditation if they so choose, welcoming them to bring their own music and meditation, or allowing them the rare opportunity for total silence. Her goal in providing the float tanks is to offer a safe place for people to relax and shut off the chaos of the day. She prefers the term “sensory reduction” as opposed to “sensory deprivation”.
How do float tanks work? How do they help a person heal? The epsom salt, also known as magnesium sulfate, helps a person physically heal by soothing aches, speeding up muscle recover, and working as a detox for the body. The sensory reduction component of the float tanks, however, takes the healing experience to a whole new level, reducing anxiety, improving mental focus, boosting confidence, and improving sleep. Maria says people often leave the tanks glowing, feeling relaxed and uplifted by the endorphin release—an effect that often stays with people for several days after. Float tanks are wonderful for people who have trouble meditating because they take away the pressure of first relaxing the body, skipping over the physical self and tapping directly into the mind. They are also great for people who suffer from anxiety/depression, work out a lot, are preparing for a surgery, or just want to deepen their connection with themselves.
When I asked Maria how floating consistently has changed her life, she said she has become more accepting, more patient, more centered, and closer to feeling one with herself. Float tanks open up space for a person to connect on a mental, emotional, and spiritual level without all the distractions and stress of everyday life. They are a recovery tool for the body, mind, and a soul—a mini mental vacation from the physical world.
What can you expect the first time you float? Maria says it takes about twenty minutes for a person to settle into the experience and let go, which is why she starts her sessions at 60 minutes. Once a person becomes fully comfortable, the boundaries of the body start to disappear and the mind takes over. Many people experience “the spins” the first time, similar to the spinning experience an astronaut feels in outer space, but Maria assured me this only happens the first time. While she found the spinning fascinating and enjoyable, some people find it uncomfortable, which is why she encourages her users to speak up if they need adjustments and always provide feedback. Again, her goal is to cater to her clients. Much like a massage, everybody’s experiences and needs vary. Some people reminisce and work out problems while in the tank, while others experience visual and auditory hallucinations. The main idea always behind the tank is to let go and free the mind. It is a place to let the soul speak, allow the mind creative freedom, and relax away the tension of the day.
When is the best time of day to float? Maria books appointments every two hours, starting from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. While she personally prefers floating in the evening to process her day and put herself in a state of relaxation before going home, many people opt to float in the morning and afternoon to center themselves and clear their minds. Every person is different. Some feel energized and full of creative focus after floating, while others feel relaxed and zen-like afterwards. Some use floating as an occasional healing tool, while others, like Maria, use the float tanks on a weekly basis to maintain physical health and mental clarity.
How are the tanks cleaned? Since Maria encourages her clients to float entirely unclothed, this was definitely a question on my mind. Maria assured me that both of her tanks are cleaned on a regular basis with a UV sanitation system as well as a little hydrogen peroxide. Each tank room also has a shower for clients to use both before and after floating, and the epsom salt is constantly being replenished in each tank. Safety and sanitation are high on Maria’s list, which is why she leaves so much time in between bookings to clean and prepare for each guest.
When I asked Maria who she would recommend a float tank experience to, she said everyone. We live in a fast-paced, stressful, technology-laden world. Everyone deserves a break from the chaos. Everyone deserves the unique opportunity to block out the noise, if only for an hour or so, and float freely in space. Everyone deserves the chance to let go and connect to their inner power.
Call today and schedule a float experience! Right now, Maria is offering 20% off all gift cards for the holiday season. I know what I’ll be wishing for this year...
Surrender to the Float
236 Church Street
Guilford, CT 06437