Surreal Float - Relaxing the Mind.. Healing the Body

By Jean Van Kleek

Over the past few years, flotation centres have become abundant in major centres around the world.  This “new” holistic treatment now referred to as “REST” (restricted environment stimulation technique) has actually been around since the mid-fifties when it was called “sensory deprivation therapy”. While the word “deprivation” doesn’t sound particularly enticing, the goal of floating is to minimize stimuli to the body in order for it to relax and potentially heal. This is achieved by immersing your body in a flotation tank filled with epsom salts and removing light and sound from the room. The temperature of the water, and the temperature of the room are the same while the epsom salts create a highly buoyant float that, working together, create an environment that some say reminds them of what it would be like to float in space.

Without outside stimuli, the body and mind aren’t bombarded with information to process. In a time where we are constantly overloaded with information to our senses, many feel burned out, short-circuited and drained. Stress is a killer and has been proven to be a major cause of dis-ease. We live in a very stressful world, and without realizing it, we are constantly in “fight or flight” mode with our cortisol levels suffering and our nervous systems in chaos because of it.  It’s no wonder this modality has made a resurgence as people search for a way to simplify, uncomplicate and find ways ward off the anxiety felt in modern life.

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Taber entrepreneur/businessman, Dennis Klok and his wife Noreen, were travelling in B.C. where they came across a floating centre. While the B.C. centre sparked their interest, it wasn’t until a visit to Calgary that they decided to try it out for themselves. They were very impressed with the experience and how it made them feel. They began researching and started thinking about sharing what they had learned about the benefits of floating with Southern Alberta by opening up a centre in their hometown of  Taber. When the old police station came available to bid on, they threw their hat into the ring. Dennis and Noreen decided that if they won the bid, that would be the answer they needed on whether or not to go ahead with this new venture.

They got the bid and proceeded with the challenging task of converting the old station, cells and all, into a beautiful spa setting. Dennis laughed as he said the cells lent themselves well to flotation rooms as they were already plumbed from having a toilet and sink in there for the prisoners. As he showed me around the various areas of the spa, he shared the history of each room, some of which he was familiar with as a teenager growing up in Taber. He showed the guard room, the holding room, and the long hall that used to walk  prisoners from the jail to the courthouse.  Looking at the building now, you would never know it was once a jail.

Dennis has done most of the renovation himself, including designing and custom building the flotation pools. They wanted to make guests as comfortable as possible during their floating experience and chose to have open, large pools, as opposed to the “pod” version that is smaller and has a lid that closes over you. Dennis and Noreen have made every effort to create an environment that is inviting, relaxing, and user-friendly for their guests. From the welcoming reception area, to the well-appointed float rooms and large washrooms that host a bidet and plenty of room to groom oneself post-float, the centre flows seamlessly from room to room in a well-thought out plan that maximizes the experience. Noreen has taken courses to offer other wellness modalities onsite as well, and they have lots of room to expand on a multitude of complementary services in the future. Although they have only been in operation for a few months, they have already noticed the “ripple effect” of their customers sharing positive experiences with others. Dennis and Noreen are very excited about their new venture and the opportunity to introduce a centre that contributes to the health and happiness of those who come to experience a “Surreal Float”.

My First Float:
The Writer’s Perspective

Prior to visiting Surreal Float, I had heard very little about this “new” holistic approach to optimum health and wellness. After I toured the facility, and  the process was explained to me by Dennis and Noreen, I decided to “take the plunge” as it were.  There is soft lighting in the room, and music quietly playing in the background. There is a robe and slippers waiting, as well as earplugs to protect your ears while floating. The first step is to take a shower, perfectly located alongside the pool for ease of entry.

Ideally, you should be naked, but if you are uncomfortable with that, you can wear a bathing suit.  Once I was in the pool, the lights went out and the music turned off. There was silence; and darkness. I have to admit, I went through a minute or two of anxiety through this process. I like to be in control, and suddenly there I was, naked, in the dark, with no sense of where I was. I had a little talk to myself  to remind me that if I was really uncomfortable, all I had to do was wave my arm and the lights and music will come on again.  I realized then, that I still had control and everything was going to be ok.

Once I did this and relaxed, a real sense of calm came over me and I began to experience what is very difficult to put into words, because it is rare we get to experience this type of sensation. It was like I was nowhere, but everywhere.  I imagined it was much akin to being in the womb, or floating in space. You hear nothing, you see nothing; you just “are”.  There was no sense of surroundings, there was me… and only me, in a void that amplified my “presence” with myself.

Without any stimulation, my mind relaxed in a way it has never done before. And once my mind relaxed, my body followed.  I could actually feel the muscles loosening up in places that normally seemed permanently tight. My heartbeat slowed, my mind calmed, my breathing became relaxed and, for a moment in time, I didn’t have to do anything, or be anybody. It was very freeing.

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I have practised meditating for many years, but still there are times I have trouble clearing my head of thoughts. I also often have trouble with those random annoying strings of thought that come while trying to go to sleep. In the floating pool, it took no effort to keep these thoughts at bay. Before I knew it, the hour was up and the lights slowly came on and the music up. I exited the pool and enjoyed the rain shower where I was supplied with wonderful shampoo, conditioner and bodywash. I was clean, refreshed, and more importantly; relaxed. In a word, it felt like my “angst” was gone. I didn’t realize that angst had become my friend as I carried it around like it belonged there. I felt free, lighter, centered, and very relaxed about everything.  My first float...but certainly not my last.

Top Sensory Deprivation Tank Benefits
1. More “Mindfulness” & Reduced Stress
The 2014 Journal of Complimentary & Behavioral Medicine study mentioned above, which tested the effects of sensory deprivation on markers of quality of life in 65 adult patients as part of a cooperative-health project, found a significant correlation between “altered states of consciousness during the relaxation in the flotation tank” and “mindfulness in daily life.”

Scientists randomized study participants to either a wait-list control group or a flotation tank treatment group. The sensory deprivation tank group participated in a seven-week flotation program, consisting of a total of 12 float sessions. After being tested for measures of psychological and physiological well-being — including variables like stress, energy, depression, anxiety, optimism, pain, sleep quality and mindfulness — results showed significant reductions in:
• Stress responses
• Depression symptoms
• Anxiety
• Pain
Scientists also observed improvements in general optimism, sleep quality and “mindful presence” (or awareness) during the study.

2. Reduced Anxiety & Depression
In 2016, researchers from the Department of Psychology at Karlstad University in Sweden tested the effects of sensory deprivation tank floating on symptoms of anxiety disorders, including general anxiety disorder (or GAD), which remains one of the most challenging mental health problems to treat. Study findings showed that GAD-symptomatology significantly changed for the better for the 12-session float group over a four-month period.

In fact, 37 percent of participants in the float-treatment group reached full remission from GAD symptoms at post-treatment, while the majority experienced at least some significant beneficial effects related to sleep difficulties, problems with emotional regulation and depression. All improved outcome variables at post-treatment, except for certain symptoms of depression, remained at the 6-month followup point after the study. No negative effects surfaced in the floaters.

3. Improved Energy & Work Productivity
 Stress-related illnesses now top the most common reasons for reduced productivity at work, employees using sick days, lost sleep and employee fatigue. Problems attributed to stress include mental fatigue (also called “brain fog“), lack of concentration, burnout syndrome, migraines or tension headaches and digestive or gastric complaints.

Facing these daunting stats, more employers are offering complimentary floating sessions, or similar approaches like breaks for meditation, in order to keep stress levels low. While stress-reduction is a common doctor’s recommendation for patients who are already dealing with these problems, it seems to be most helpful when stress is prevented or managed before it reaches damaging levels. Sensory deprivation floating is now considered a cost-effective, natural and helpful stress-preventative method for decreasing potential sick-leave absences and increasing general well-being in the workplace.

4. Less Pain
Several studies, as well as patient testimonials, suggest float tanks could serve as natural painkillers. The primary way that floating helps ease pain is through evoking a relaxation response, which eases tense muscles and helps improve rest and recovery. One study examining the effects of placebo treatments versus flotation tank therapy found that floating sessions reduced stress-related muscular pain in patients diagnosed with “burnout depression.”

The patients treated with this flotation-restricted environmental stimulation technique for 6 to 12 weeks exhibited less pain, lower blood pressure levels, less anxiety and depression, reduced feelings of stress and negative and increased happiness/optimism, energy and positive affectivity.

5. Help Overcoming Addictions
A study from the 90s aimed at identifying the effectiveness of sensory deprivation on reducing addiction found that “REST”  is a versatile, cost-effective treatment modality with demonstrated effectiveness in modifying some addictive behaviors, and has promising applications with others.”

Interestingly patients addicted to nicotine, alcohol or drugs generally saw improvements associated with refocusing the mind or rebalancing the various physical and mental effects of stress.

According to science, sensory deprivation helps patients overcome addictions by:
• Induction of a general relaxation response
• Serenity and relief by non-chemical means
• Internal refocusing to concentrate on personal problems
• Disruption of habits through removal of trigger cues and response possibilities
• Increased feelings of control over addictive behaviors
• Enhanced learning processes

Research findings related to treating addictive behaviors with REST now support its use for:
• Quitting smoking
• Overeating
• Alcohol consumption
• Drug misuse

Surreal Float
5220 50th Ave. Taber, AB

 If you have any questions or would like to book a float
please call: 403.223.4006 or email: dennis@surrealfloat.ca

Jean Van KleekComment