ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Floating naked in a soundproof, lightproof tank of mineral-rich water has become one of the latest trends in the quest to find ways to escape from the stresses and strains of 21st century life.
The experience is touted for improving sleep, relieving chronic pain, aiding relaxation and boosting athletic performance – basketball star Steph Curry is a big fan, according to Inc.com.
Nationally, the number of spas that offer what’s now being called “flotation therapy” has jumped from around 85 in 2011 to 410 at last count, according to the directory FloatationLocations.com.
Albuquerque has joined in the trend. The city now boasts four spas that offer flotation, two that opened within the last 13 months.
The idea is to shower, then climb into a tank filled to a depth of 10-to-12 inches of water saturated with about 1,000 pounds of Epsom salt, the popular name for magnesium sulfate. Tanks come in different sizes, spacy looking pods or roomier cabins. Once inside, you float effortlessly in the buoyant salt-laden water that’s kept at skin temperature, about 93.5 degrees Fahrenheit.
Soft ambient lighting and gentle music gradually fade, leaving you in total darkness. The silence is broken only by the rhythm of your own breath. You feel like you’re suspended in space.
“It’s just full-blown relaxation, an out-of-body-and-time experience. It was like a high I’ve never experienced before,” said Gabriel Garduño, an Albuquerque resident who first tried flotation at Enlightened Wellness.
Spa owner Ken Pintor said the magnesium in the water soaks into the skin, helping the muscles relax and get you into a deep meditative state. Pintor said the effects become more pronounced with repeated float experiences.
“It’s definitely some-thing that gets better with time,” Pintor said. “That true transformational progress begins to happen when somebody is practicing this on a regular basis and this becomes part of their lifestyle when they are floating and meditating.”
Pintor had practiced yoga and meditation for years when he saw a video touting the benefits of flotation made by comedian and martial arts commentator Joe Rogan.
He tried it and became hooked. He opened Enlightened Wellness 10 years ago and operated in the North Valley, then in Nob Hill. He moved recently to 1301 Lomas NW. Enlightened Wellness has two float tanks, an infrared sauna, massage tables and offers guided meditation sessions.
Sanjevani Integrative Medicine Health & Lifestyle Center at 9001 Holly NE added a float tank to its extensive menu of body work and natural healing treatments in 2013. Office coordinator Alex Sutton said they’ve seen a big increase in the popularity of floating in the past six to 12 months even with the arrival of new spas.
“It took a long time to catch on,” Sutton said. “But we’re seeing our highest numbers so far, even with competition.”
Local Realtor and fitness fan Dan Spanogle opened Lumen Mind Body Float at 2931 Monte Vista NE, near Nob Hill, in March 2017. The spa has two 6-feet by 8-feet by 7-feet tall float cabins instead of pods. Spanogle believes the cabins may ease concerns some first-time floaters have about claustrophobia.
Lumen also offers infrared sauna, massage therapy and an ARX adaptive resistance exercise machine.
“This is a dream of mine. I put together all the things I wanted to help people optimize their lives,” Spanogle said.
Former oncology nurse Maria Dernocoeurï»¿ and her physician assistant husband opened True Rest Float Spa at 6400 Holly NE last October. True Rest is a Coronado, Calif.-based franchise.
“This is a luxury spa,” Dernocoeur said.
The 3,200-square-foot location has six flotation rooms, each equipped with shower facilities and pod. Control buttons inside the pods allow users to customize the color of lights and the music they want to hear. There’s also an emergency button.
“Our pods are a very unique and customizable experience,” Dernocoeur said.
Isolation tanks were pioneered in the 1950s as part of research on the effects of sensory deprivation on the brain. They gained some popularity in the 1970s when floating was known as Restricted Environment Stimulation Therapy. Neuro-psychologist Justin Feinstein is conducting research at Laureate Institute for Brain Research’s Float Clinic and Research Center in Tulsa, Okla., to examine the effects of flotation in people who suffer from PTSD, panic disorder and severe panic attacks, as well as social and generalized anxiety.