“The tank is filled with water. The water is heated to the same temperature as your body, and there’s 800 pounds of salt in the water, so you just float there and relax, and because the water is the same temperature as your body, you don’t really feel it after a while.”
That’s comedian and podcast host Joe Rogan describing the experience of a sensory deprivation tank, or a float tank—a re-emerging trend in relaxation therapy that’s sweeping the nation.
Instead of getting a massage or finding more traditional ways to rest and recharge, customers are paying for the chance to float—or essentially become weightless in a tub of water, and as Rogan says, “disappear,” into a state of deep relaxation and tension release.
A Traxler family member demonstrates a float.
Some do it for an escape from today’s overly stimulating world, others do it to seek creativity or recover from athletic training; it can even be used as an alternative to the psychedelic effects of drugs, Rogan suggests.
And while it may be unbeknownst to many northeast Indiana residents, there’s already a business offering customers the chance to float in Fort Wayne—and they're anticipating lots of new customers after the COVID-19 shutdown subsides.
Rivers Relaxation at 1505-B West Dupont Rd. is home to a smorgasbord of holistic health services, including an oxygen bar, massage chairs, and of course, northeast Indiana's only float-based relaxation tanks.
Rivers Relaxation offers an oxygen bar in its lobby.
While the center has been open for a few years now, the father-and-son-duo Craig and Jason Traxler took over the business in January 2019.
Craig was formerly on the infection prevention team at Parkview Health before he retired. Now, he says Rivers Relaxation meets and exceeds health safety standards, and it's ready to help residents recover from the COVID-19 crisis, hoping to reopen to the public on April 7.
Craig says Rivers Relaxation often serves athletes and people in high-stress jobs who need the chance to relax. It offers discounts to professions, such as first responders, police teams, and firefighters. It also has contracts with sports teams like the Komets.
“A lot of professional teams have these float tanks in their locker rooms,” Craig explains.
Son and father duo, Jason and Craig Traxler took over Rivers Relaxation in January 2019.
Now Rivers Relaxation is making the therapy available to the general public in northeast Indiana as one of the few float tanks state-wide.
Since taking over the company, the Traxlers have revamped the space and added walk-in hours to its scheduled appointments. In the past year, they’ve seen a 30 percent increase in new customers willing to give the float a try.
So how does it work? Craig and Jason can explain.
How it works
Rivers Relaxation features two flotation tanks, each containing 1,000 gallons of heated water saturated with a half-ton of Epsom salt, allowing the body to float effortlessly as if you were lying on the Dead Sea.
Users simply step into a private room where they strip down to a swimsuit, shower to clean themselves, plug their ears with sealing wax, and step into an enclosed, dark tub with glowing neon lights and speakers for instructions.
Rivers Relaxation has two private float suites with showers for clients to use.
While those who are claustrophobic or afraid of drowning might cringe at the idea of "a water-filled coffin," Craig and Jason assure customers that falling asleep in the tank is OK, and they won’t drown.
“People fall asleep all the time in the tanks,” Jason says. “I have actually heard people snoring.”
He explains that the water’s buoyancy will naturally hold people up so there should be no fear of drowning. Instead, you're likely to emerge from the 60-120 minute experience feeling more restful than if you got eight hours of deep sleep, its website boasts.
But while returning floaters may rage about the effects, new clients are urged to be patient with the process.
During the first few minutes—and sometimes the first few float sessions—they might need to spend time getting used to the experience, allowing their bodies to relax and their minds to open up.
Jason says the staff at Rivers Relaxation will do everything thing they can to aid clients in the process.
“We provide an orientation to all new customers on what to expect and some tips that help people relax,” he explains.
Although users feel some of the benefits on their first float, it generally takes two or three floats to feel the full effects.
Seeing the benefits
While it might sound like pseudo-science to some, research has found that floating does offer the benefits of gravity reduction, which may provide pain relief and aid athletic training by speeding up the recovery from muscle strain or injury.
The water’s buoyancy allows the body to elongate, loosen, and relax, Rivers Relaxation’s website says.
Craig, who typically suffers from arthritis, says he can go pain-free for several days after a float without medication, for instance.
Jason says another regular customer at Rivers Relaxation is a veteran who sought out flotation as an alternative to conventional painkillers, since he had seen many of his friends become addicted to them.
Floating is becoming a popular way to relax and relieve sore muscles.
Along with reducing physical pain and tension, the float tank also offers the mental benefits of sensory deprivation or what Craig refers to as REST (Restricted Environmental Stimulation Technique).
“It removes most of the external sensory stimulation that has bombarded the mind and body from the instant a person is born,” he explains.
Research has found that sensory deprivation enhances mental activity including originality, intuition, and creativity.
“When we float, we’re removing many of the tasks processed by the left-brain,” Rivers Relaxation’s website says. “The lack of sensory stimulation gives our right-brain a chance to thrive. This simple phenomenon is why so many floaters report increased creativity during a float session. Research has shown that there is more unity between the right and left sides of the brain during and after a float.”
Many who float report “an increase in productivity, performance, efficiency, and generalized feelings of competence, confidence, and wholeness,” the website says.
If nothing else, floating provides an environment that’s highly conducive to meditation, Craig adds.
“Floating is a great way to meditate without outside influences getting in the way,” he says.
Along with floating, Rivers Relaxation also offers two Positive Posture massage chairs, which are programmable to each customer’s height and offer massages literally from head to foot.
Craig Traxler reclines in the Positive Posture massage chair.
Another unconventional service they offer is an oxygen bar, which transforms breathing air into 95 percent oxygen, and infuses it with essential oils, which may offer additional physical and mental health benefits.
The bottom line: If you’re looking for an out-of-the-ordinary, holistic health experience in Fort Wayne, Rivers Relaxation is the place to be.
“The overall goal is to provide a safe place to get some benefits that you can’t get anywhere else,” Jason says.
Rivers Relaxation is located at 1505-B West Dupont Road in Fort Wayne and is temporarily closed for the COVID-19 crisis until April 7.
Float appointments can be 60, 90, or 120 minutes long. To schedule your appointment, visit their website at www.riversrelaxation.com or call (260) 209-3937.