New therapy helps North Texans float away stress

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by JANET ST. JAMES

WFAA

Posted on November 21, 2011 at 11:40 PM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 22 at 10:49 AM

DALLAS - When life gets crazy, Evan Simmons heads not for a sanitarium, but a floatarium.

"Just go in there, gently lie back," Simmons said, "Focus in on the tip of my nose and if a little thought comes up, I bring it back and that's all I do when I get in there. And it's as simple as that."

Each bathtub-like tank at the "float spa" contains just 10-inches of water, but 1,200 pounds of Epsom salt. The high salt density makes it impossible for even a man like Simmons to sink.

"You're almost weightless," he said.

Invented in the mid 1950's by neuro-scientist John Lilly, floatation tanks were designed for sensory deprivation to trigger deep relaxation.

NASA uses them to simulate the weightlessness and isolation of space.

Millions travel to the Dead Sea in the Middle East to drift in the highly salinated waters. It's called Thalassotherapy, or saltwater therapy.

Those who believe in buoyancy said even the man-made float tanks produce a wide variety of reported, though unproven, health benefits.

"We have people who come in here to reduce anxiety, to help sleeping disorders," said Bernadette Fiaschetti, owner of Adrift float spa in Dallas. "Pain management. People that have severe pain come in here regularly. Sometimes twice a week. And people who want a deep state of relaxation, just looking for clarity and creative thinking."

33-year-old Josie Yearwood has spine and neck problems.

"So, I'm in pain quite a bit," Yearwood said. "So being able to float allows me to take all the weight off my joints in a way that I can't really do anywhere else. Because the water just holds you up so you're able to release every muscle. You don't have to hold anything in place. You can just really rest."

Yearwood floats weekly. She said for a day or more afterward, she experiences no pain and needs no pain medication.

Floatariums have been widely used in Europe for years. Some of the biggest celebrities including John Lennon, Michael Jackson and the Dallas Cowboys believe in floating.

The health trend is now drifting into North Texas, with unaffiliated floatariums in Dallas, Colleyville and Frisco.

Some say a single hour floating has the restorative effects of four hours of deep sleep.

When it comes to de-stressing, Evan Simmons will take a floatarium over a sanitarium, any day.

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com

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