The Golden State Warriors' Steph Curry has been dubbed one of the NBA's best all-time shooters, setting records and winning back-to-back MVP titles. The kid who was rejected from numerous top-tier collegiate basketball programs is now a man destined for the Hall of Fame.
Two of Curry's most unique attributes are his focus on the court and his prioritization of well being off the court. Curry has become the poster child for sensory-deprivation float therapy, swearing by the practice as a means of increasing focus and stamina, as well as healing chronic muscle and joint pain.
Neuropsychologist John C. Lilly first began experimenting with the use of sensory-deprivation tanks as a therapy method in the 1950s. The tanks offered a powerful means by which to force the brain to take a break from its endless thoughts. The therapy involves a light less, soundproof tank filled with lukewarm water and a thousand pounds of epsom salt (magnesium sulphate).
Floatation therapy (which has a connotation that sounds 100x less threatening than isolation therapy), has been associated with a number of benefits related to the brain and body. The sensory deprivation slows brain waves until they reach the theta state (similar to the state attained during meditation). From healing chronic pain to alleviating anxiety and insomnia, float therapy has been pinned as this magical treatment. In addition, many have seen spikes in creativity and memory after sessions, likely due to giving the brain some well deserved rest in order to reboot and rejuvenate itself.
For entrepreneurs, float therapy seems like the ideal treatment method as it is hard to argue with the notion of providing one's brains with a well deserved hiatus. I personally have struggled with adhering to a meditation regime and, as a result, was intrigued by the idea of subjecting myself to an environment that presents me with no other option. As a distance runner, the potential joint and muscle benefits promised by float therapy seem too tempting to ignore.
As I walked into my first session at Reboot in San Francisco, I found myself in what seemed like any ordinary med spa. It was not until I realized that I would be spending the ensuing hour alone, lying l motionless in someone else's bath water that reality sunk in. As I was escorted to my personal room, I was instructed to don some swimmer's ear plugs, shower, and cover any wounds with Vaseline (I needed to mentally grapple with the fact that people with "wounds" occupied the tub before me).
The pod itself is almost 10 feet in length and it beams with multicolored lights, reminiscent of a late night Virgin America flight. The door shuts from the top down to leave the occupant in total isolation and darkness. My first question, "Does it lock?" I was assured that the tank does not lock and the occupant has the liberty to leave the tank slightly ajar in the event of claustrophobic feelings.
As I crawled into the tank and shut the door, my body instantaneously became weightless. It took a moment for my brain to realize that, unlike lying on my back in a traditional swimming pool, my face would remain above water with no effort. It was suggested that I count to 300, focusing on each breath with every count. My immediate thought was, I can't believe I am usurping an hour of my afternoon to partake in this bizarre pursuit. About halfway into the session, however, I found myself truly in a state of relaxation. Submerged in saltwater, with earplugs in my ears, each of my long breaths sounded like a wave crashing against the shoreline.
About 30 mins in I fell asleep, or at least what felt like sleep. My head cleared. My body was completely still. It almost felt as if I was levitating. Pure relaxation, until my muscles twitched and I opened my eyes. It was pitch black, eerily quiet and my only thought was "where the hell am I?" After thrashing around, I finally found the lightswitch and proceeded to crack open the tank's lid. I quickly but unnecessarily treated myself to a gulp of fresh air before once again allowing myself to succumb to the quiet tranquil environment I choose to surrender myself to.
At 60 mins, the lights came on and I emerged from my salt pod, like some cryptic science fiction character. Though I wanted to find myself feeling like a completely different person (as many participants claim), I didn't feel any immediate monumental change (they say this is normal). I did feel relaxed and refreshed, like after a phenomenal power-nap. In the coming days, I did notice slightly improved sleep and a clearer state of mind.
For those that want to jump on the bandwagon and try the float tank, I suggest going into the experience with low expectations. Focus on using the time in the float tank as an opportunity to give your brain and body the rest and recovery it deserves, so you can push yourself to new limits tomorrow. Next up, cryo freezing? What a time to be alive.