By Mara Benner
What do D.C. United’s Wayne Rooney, Olympian Carl Lewis, singer-songwriter Peter Gabriel and actor Susan Sarandon all reportedly have in common? They float. They float for wellness and health benefits such as deep relaxation, stress relief, pain management and to enhance their focus and creativity.
They are not alone. The Floatation Tank Association says there are 365 float centers throughout the United States. An estimated 250 centers have opened in the past five years, indicating the growing popularity of floating. Seven of those float centers are located in our local region and offer this unique wellness option for mind, body and spirit rejuvenation.
Alexandria’s float center
In Alexandria, Synergy Float Center located on 1240 N. Pitt St. opened last November. Synergy offers its customers three types of float tanks, an enclosed pod, an open pool or a cabin-like enclosed pool.
One of the very first questions usually asked of Synergy’s owner, Chris Jones, is if the tanks are communal or private. The answer is all three options are private with a private shower and amenities. The only area that is communal is a separate tranquility room available after a session. This room is perfect for journaling, sipping a hot herbal tea or simply resting.
Jones is used to the next question that arises: What’s it like to float?
The first time Jones entered a tank, he acknowledges thinking, “This is weird.” He had served in the Army, Air Force and Navy for 26 years until retiring in March 2016. As he neared retirement, the military requested a full physical exam of him and diagnosed Jones as being 80 percent disabled. His diagnosis included post-traumatic stress disorder, sleep apnea and traumatic brain injury. His medical team’s treatment plan was prescription drugs and counseling. Neither of these prescribed solutions were high on Jones’ list.
Jones decided to seek alternative solutions to help him with his PTSD symptoms, including support to quiet his mind and provide the mind-body connection. He was not sure what to expect as he entered the tank. Jones was pleasantly surprised to find his mind drift off and upon exiting the tank he was very relaxed. He resonated with the experience and its impact on the whole of him – body, mind and spirit.
He decided to purchase an in-home float tank and began a regiment of floating daily. It didn’t take long until he saw the health benefits. Jones and his medical team were amazed when he was able to eliminate all of his prescription drugs.
New research supporting floating
New research released in February of this year titled “Examining the Short-Term Anxiolytic and Antidepressant Effect of Floatation-REST,” provides data that matches Jones’ experience. Researchers from the Laureate Institute for Brain Research, the University of Tulsa and the University of California found that an hour floatation experience “substantially reduced state anxiety and significantly reduced stress, muscle tension, pain and depression.” The research further found that those who floated “experienced serenity, relaxation and overall well-being.”
Jones’ personal success story with floating convinced him that other veterans could also receive the same benefits. He acknowledges that floating is not for everyone, but it does provide another option for those seeking alternative wellness services.
Because some people may not be able to afford the sessions, Synergy Float Center now offers a “Float it Forward” campaign that allows donations from the public to provide a complimentary float for veterans, military and first-responders in Alexandria. This is on a first-come, first-serve basis and available as long as donations are provided. In the future, Jones hopes to take this program national.
The Synergy Float Center answers these and other questions, and provides more information on the “Float it Forward” campaign, on its website: synergy-float-center.business.site.
Mara Benner is the founder of Four Directions Wellness, connecting body, mind, emotions and spirit. The organization is affiliated with the GW Center for Integrative Medicine. Mara is also a member of the Del Ray Business Association’s Well Ray community.