On the trip of a lifetime three years ago, Tom and I joined several friends on a 10-day, unforgettable visit to the Holy Land.
Our tour of Israel was a thrill! Among the highlights, a time of prayer at the Wailing Wall, a challenging hike up to the desert fortress, Masada and, like the early followers of Jesus, an emotional baptism in the Jordan River.
From the river, we traveled to the sea—the Dead Sea—for a nice swim. Actually you can’t really swim in the hyper-salinated sea. The water is so super salty, all you can do is float. So you just lie back and enjoy bobbing around…relaxing in a warm, soothing, natural mineral bath. The sensation was so lovely, I didn’t want to leave.
Guess what? The other day, I got to re-live that marvelous experience, not in Israel, but in San Marcos. In a cozy, little nook behind Grand Avenue I found A Quiet Place Flotation Spa and went in for a time of relaxation and peace in its state-of-the-art floatation spa.
Spa owner Richard Fraccalvieri greeted me with a warm cup of Tranquility Tea, seated me in the comfy waiting area and prepared me for what to expect. Floatation therapy, he said, is a “luxurious escape from the constant stress of life’s daily pressures and a natural way to heal the body and mind.” He said the concept is, indeed, similar to the mineral salt bath I experienced at the Dead Sea.
Nearly 1,000 pounds of Epsom salt is dissolved into the spa tub of skin temperature water to create this effect. After showering off lotions and hair products, I stepped into the large, egg-shaped pod and lowered myself into the warm bath.
My mind drifted back to my Dead Sea experience… as I floated effortlessly on my back. While you may want the pod opened slightly, I chose to close it completely, so my “float” would be lightproof and soundproof. The gentle roll of the water freed me of gravity, noise and other distractions.
For some, the experience is like deep meditation as body and mind achieve calmness… entering into a theta brain wave state and a profound state of relaxation. I found myself praying and thinking about things peaceful and lovely.
Although relatively new to the health spa industry, floatation therapy emerged in the 1950s through sensory deprivation research by John Lilly. It was mostly confined to academic work until the 1980s when other industries began exploring its benefits.
The treatment seeks to eliminate as much outside stimulus as possible by reducing light and sound and eliminating temperature differentials between the skin and surrounding air, while also creating a zero-gravity environment for the body. All those elements combined, enthusiasts say, help usher the body and mind into a deep state of relaxation.
Others say the benefits of floating also extend beyond the treatment room. A widely cited study at The Ohio State University, for instance, found that floating resulted in improved creativity in jazz musicians, accuracy in rifle shooting, focus before academic examinations, and stress relief, among other benefits.
In addition to universities and health spas, the floating chambers are now found in training rooms of professional sports teams, fitness centers and hospitals.
While some doctors and athletes use floatation therapy for neurological, circulatory, respiratory and digestive issues, others claim a decrease in chronic pain, depression and anxiety. But all who use the therapy regularly agree it feels great.
If, like me, you enjoy being surrounded by water… you will love the hour-long float. But even if you’re not a water person, give it a try. You don’t even have to get your face wet…and you can’t sink even if you try. There are at least half a dozen spas offering the treatment in San Diego County.
Grandma always said a warm Epsom salt bath would do me good. Right again, Gram.
— by Carol LeBeau
Carol is a former 10News anchor, Staying Healthy reporter and current Health Champion for Palomar Health, avid runner, bicyclist and ranked, rough water swimmer.