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‘Floating’ eases the mind, body

FRANKLIN, Ind. (WISH) — A budding therapy has made its way to central Indiana. It’s called ‘floating therapy’ and it consists of a person floating in a small, salty pool for 60 to 90 minutes at a time. Research shows the sessions reduce mental and physical stress and chronic pain, among other benefits.

“I don’t think there is anyone that wouldn’t find some benefit from floating,” says Kelly Leal, owner of Theta Floats in Franklin. Leal’s is the second float spa in the state and the 267th in the country.

Leal was an accountant by trade, but left her career to open Theta Floats after her own positive personal experience with floating.

“I suffered from insomnia and after I floated the first time, I had my first full night’s sleep in months,” says Leal. “That effect stayed with me for about three days.”

Floating is done in a small, 5’x8’ room filled with 10 inches of water. Within the water is 900 pounds of dissolved Epsom salt – which creates the buoyancy necessary for floating. The pool is soundproof and kept completely dark. The water maintains a temperature of 94 degrees, the same temperature as human skin.

“You don’t quite notice what part of your body is in the water and what part of your body is exposed to the air and you’re suspended due to the buoyancy because of the salt,” explains Kent Lewis, 31, a floating enthusiast.

Lewis is a lift operator and trainer at a cold storage facility in Franklin who suffers from an anxiety disorder, chronic fatigue syndrome and a herniated disc in his spine.

“I tried it and I felt great afterwards and I wanted to try it for longer and longer periods of time,” says Lewis. “I continue to get results each time I’m surprised about how good I feel afterward.”

The isolation tank, as it was known in research, was created in 1954 by John C. Lilly as a neuroscience experiment testing sensory deprivation. Patients floated in a lightless, soundproof tank in an effort to eliminate all external stimuli. The patients’ relaxed state resulted in healing for many conditions including stress, anxiety, pain, swelling and insomnia.

Since the initial study, floating’s effects have been tested numerous times. In a 2011 study, fibromyalgia patients reported a 30 percent reduction in stress levels after each floating session and said the effects of relief lasted an average of two and a half days.

In another study, sleep was improved, patients felt more optimistic and the content of the vitalizing hormone prolactin increased after 12 sessions. Patients also reported a decline in anxiety, stress, depression and perception of pain.

Other research has found floating brings relief from a wide variety of symptoms including back, neck and joint pain, arthritis, muscle tension and bursitis.

The first float therapy spa to open in Indiana was Better Being Float Center in 2014, located on the west side of Indianapolis. Leal’s Theta Floats in Franklin opened in July 2015. A third float spa is coming to Irvington on the east side of Indianapolis, according to its website. The business is called A Place to Float, but gives no details on an official opening date.

“Any disease or condition that we inflict on ourselves through stress, floating helps,” says Leal. “This give you a break, I mean, who doesn’t want to unplug for 90 minutes?”