Skip to main content

Floating Is Living In The Parasympathetic State

by Patrick McMurray

To be alive and truly thrive in today’s buzz of overstimulation, constant information feeds, general anxiety and tension, flotation therapy (floating) is an absolute necessity. Flotation centers cater to a wide variety of patrons: from professional athletes recovering from strenuous workouts, lawyers, CEOs and other workers in high-stress jobs looking for a chance to relax and reset, to people seeking relief from chronic pain and other debilitating conditions.

Float tank water typically is kept around 94.5 degrees, which is skin receptor neutral. Epsom salts create a silky smooth solution with more than enough buoyancy to keep patrons naturally suspended. Floating in a state-of-the-art, sound-insulated cabin allows users to be in complete silence and darkness if they choose. Optional meditative music and ambient lighting is controlled from within the tanks.

Without distraction from external stimuli, the brain releases dopamine and endorphins, its own “happy chemicals”, and cortisol levels (stress hormones) decrease. The natural response of the body is to regenerate and heal.

Floating has the unique ability to completely reset both body and mind by escaping the grind of constant overthinking and the abrupt reactions we often default to when stress levels get too high. In the relaxed condition of a float, the mind switches from overload to vibrancy and restores our sense of compassion that can often wear thin. All the pressures melt away when we honor ourselves and our need for quiet, peace and solitude.

Parents can use floating to reduce the tension that often comes along with rigorous family schedules. When a mom or dad experiences a 60- or 90-minute float, they return home rejuvenated and ready for anything the household might be dishing up. Pregnant women often find the float tank to be an incredible respite, a sacred temple that retrains the mind, body and soul. To be weightless for 90 minutes while floating effortlessly in a private luxury suite, allows the spine to decompress, alleviating back pain and pelvic discomfort and refreshing and re-energizing the body. Many women find that floating helps them to experience a deeper bond with their child, and even report hearing the baby’s heartbeat while in the float tank. With a fresh boost in the body’s magnesium levels and an enhanced bond with baby, moms feel rejuvenated to the point that they are excited and refreshed, and the after effects can last for days.

Floating is also a great way for couples to renew/refresh their relationship. A quiet evening out for dinner or a walk in nature are infinitely enhanced by a float. Floating transports the body into the peaceful world of the parasympathetic nervous system, the opposite of “fight-or-flight”. All the body’s senses are enhanced and consciousness returns to its power center in the heart, where all things flow.

Dr. Justin Feinstein, Ph.D., a neuropsychologist of the Laureate Institute for Brain Research, in Tulsa, has conducted important research ( on anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder in relation to floatation therapy. After initiating a study of 50 clinically depressed patients, he found, “We were 50 for 50 in terms of anxiety reduction. In the world of clinical research when it comes to psychiatric and psychological conditions, I have not seen something that works that reliably... and the more severe your anxiety the greater the decrease.”

Feinstein is continuing his research into several hypotheses about the way floating may weaken the bond between cardiorespiratory sensations and anxiety over time, eventually retraining the cardiorespiratory response of anxiety to that of a response of peace, relaxation and tranquility (

Devoid of external stimulation, floating allows one to achieve an internal sensory enhancement—a major meditative “hack” where you may discover some beautiful gifts hidden deep within.

Patrick McMurray is the co-owner of Flōtstōne, a luxury floatation therapy center with three state-of-the-art floatation therapy suites, a three-person, full-spectrum infrared sauna, a healing room with a certified bio-field energy healing practitioner and a post-float tea and relaxation lounge. It is located at 53 E. Scranton Ave. in Lake Bluff. For more information, call 847-482-1700.


Tips to Make the Most of a Float

Before a float …

l Eat a light snack, not a large meal

l Be sufficiently hydrated

l Brush teeth (taste sense)

l Do not shave beforehand or the same day

After a float …

l Go for a walk in nature (breathe)

l Enjoy a nice evening together

l Create, write, draw, paint

l Sleep the best night’s sleep in years