Stephen Curry Does Sensory Deprivation: What Is It And How Does It Work?

Watch how Steph Curry uses the floatation therapy to cope with the pressures of being one of the greatest athletes in the world.

Most athletes will do just about anything to step up their game and get better, bigger, faster, and stronger. But the latest performance and recovery trend that’s sweeping the sports world doesn’t require you to do anything at all.

Floating takes place in a light-proof, soundproof tank, also known as a “float tank” or a “sensory deprivation chamber”. While it used to be a practice reserved for the New Age hippie crowd (John Lennon used float therapy to kick his heroin habit in 1979), it’s rapidly gaining popularity in the fitness world, with some of the world’s strongest athletes swearing that regular float sessions are key to everything from decreased muscle soreness and anxiety to a noticeable performance boost during workouts. Steph Curry, for instance, recently floated in a commercial for Kaiser Permanente, and the New England Patriots have used float tanks as part of their pre-Super Bowl conditioning (Tom Brady is a particularly big fan).

But what, exactly, is floating? How does it work? And, perhaps most importantly, is it worth all the hype?

The rundown on floating

Floating requires a tank to be filled with 6 to 12 inches of water infused with hundreds of pounds of Epsom salts. The high salt content makes the water more dense, which creates the buoyancy necessary to stay afloat (this salt-to-water ratio is the same mechanism that allows you to float in the Dead Sea).

“The water is set to your skin temperature, at about 93.5 degrees,” says Leilani Wagner of Capitol Floats, Sacramento’s first float shop and a popular floating destination for local athletes. Once you get into the float tank, all you have to do is lie back, relax, and let the feeling of weightlessness take over.

Floating devotees swear that the lack of outside stimuli creates a profound state of physical and mental relaxation. Wagner says that those who try floating emerge from the tank well-rested and rejuvenated.

“You can’t smell anything, you can’t taste anything, you can’t feel anything,” says Wagner. “It’s almost like your mind is floating in space.”

Why athletes swear by floating

Floating has been linked to a wide range of health benefits. Brain-imaging studies, for instance, have indicated that floating can help regulate over-activity in the amygdala, which induces feelings of fear and anxiety. Such finds have led some therapists to speculate whether floating can be an effective treatment for people with anxiety.

But the practice is particularly popular among athletes. That’s because floating can have a tremendous impact on recovery and performance, says Brandon Marcello, PhD, a former director of sports performance at Stanford University and high-performance consultant who has worked with professional sports teams like the Atlanta Braves and the San Jose Sharks.

As Marcello explains, floating helps to calm down the sympathetic nervous system, which otherwise releases the stress-inducing hormone cortisol into the body and regulates “fight-or-flight” mode. High levels of cortisol can help inhibit recovery, says Marcello. “Floating can create a cascade of physiological events which can help increase parasympathetic activity and down-regulate the nervous system,” he says.

Marcello says floating can also create a kind of positive feedback loop: when athletes recover faster, they can perform better, too.

“[Floating] takes the pressure off muscles and joints,” says Marcello. “We have gravity pulling on us 24 hours a day. If we can unload the body, unload the muscles, unload the joints, and get into this sensory deprived state… we can see some benefits.”

Who’s floating?

Of course, none of this is to say that floating is a quick fix for recovery. It’s also worth noting that most of the studies pointing to floating’s health benefits have been relatively small, so there isn’t a huge body of research to support its positive effects. But it’s quickly gaining mainstream visibility, thanks to celebrities like Joe Rogan endorsing the therapy. “We call him the godfather of floating,” says Wagner.

Rogan has become something of a floating evangelist, particularly in the MMA community. Anthony Cosenzo, a physical therapy assistant who competes in jiu-jitsu tournaments, was inspired to try floating after listening to Rogan’s podcast. He’s happy he did. “My recovery is a lot more rapid — that’s one of the main reasons I use it. It really helps my muscles recover from the wear-and-tear [of jiu-jitsu],” he says.

There’s no right or wrong way to do it, but Marcello says if you can do it after a workout, you’re likely to see more benefits. “The sooner you can get in, the better from a post-exercise standpoint,” he says.

With floating becoming more mainstream (and more studies emerging that show the benefits of regular float sessions), more athletes are taking advantage of float tanks as a way to boost their performance, speed up their recovery, disconnect from stress, and relax. Just try not to open your mouth in the water.

By Deanna Debara

 

Floating for Performance Recovery Gravity Floatation Centre

Congratulations, you’ve signed up to the 8-week challenge/boot camp! We’re super excited to support you on your journey.

Do you experience any of the following?

  • Low energy

  • Fatigue

  • Difficulty getting out of bed

  • Soreness

  • Lack of motivation

  • Difficulty sustaining your interest

  • Time poor

Are you worried about:

  • Not meeting goals

  • Failure

  • Wasting money

Proper recovery can help!  With your training schedule and eating plan sorted it’s time to think about recuperation and regeneration.

Without recovery, the full potential of your training and diet will be impacted no matter if you’re a fitness enthusiast or a professional athlete. Recovery is a well understood part of fitness, it’s required for healing injuries, preventing them and of course reducing the muscle and joint soreness that follows a strenuous training session.

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One float is an experience the sustained benefits are in the ongoing practice

Floatation Therapy as Recovery

Floatation Therapy is a great and effortless way to practice recovery throughout your training or boot camp journey. The Australian Institute of Sports has had their own float centre since 1983 and use floatation therapy extensively in their training and recovery of athletes.

Well documented benefits of floating include:

  • Improved sleep quality – improving the ease with which you fall asleep and the quality of sleep you achieve

  • Increased blood flow – improvement in circulation accelerates healing and recovery from workouts

  • Pain relief – helps to quickly discharging lactic acid build up relieving fatigue and pain

  • Reduced swelling - epsom salt helps reduce swelling in muscles and de-detoxifies the system

  • Relaxed muscles – zero gravity helps the body heal faster by removing pressure from joints

  • Lowered blood pressure – the calming effect of floating lowers blood pressure and cortisol levels releasing endorphins

Top level athletes need any competitive edge they can get. Many use visualisation as a way to train their mind for an upcoming competition or to work through techniques they may be learning. The float tank is an optimal place to do this as it removes all external distractions. It provides an environment where true mental clarity can occur and athletes can focus their full attention on their performance goals.

Studies have shown floating helps reduce levels of lactic acid, pain and exercise induced cortisol; in turn stimulating the body’s self-healing ability.

Floating once provides an experience, the full benefits of floating are gleaned from a sustained float practice that’s incorporated into your well-being plan.

Over time floating helps to:

  • lower chronic pain and lasting muscular tension

  • release vast quantities of endorphins, the body’s natural painkiller 

  • increase your focus improve your physical performance

  • strengthen your mind-muscle connection

 In short, it optimises your recovery!

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One hour of sleep in the tank is aligned to 4 hours of normal sleep

Sleep quality

Floating further assists in the recovery process by helping you to fall asleep quickly and deeply. We all understand the importance of a good night’s sleep and how it impacts performance.

Floating assists individuals with:

  • insomnia

  • immune function

  • body recuperation long after your float experience

  • feeling a sense calmness, serenity and mental focus

One hour of sleep in the tank is aligned to 4 hours of normal sleep.

Stress, mindset and mental focus

In our fast paced, busy and noisy world, even gyms fail to provide sanctum. They are usually busy, hustling places with outcomes and goals to achieve. This can lead to stress in itself.

In addition to loosening your muscles and connective tissue, floating is an excellent solution for helping your mind cope with stress symptoms such as:

  • low energy levels

  • high blood pressure

  • negative mindset

Regular floating sessions help create a more mindful, positive attitude in everyday life. You will be able to feel the difference after a single session while other symptoms such as chronic fatigue and anxiety can be addressed more gradually over cumulative floats.

A single float session can have an immediate impact and the effects can be felt by individuals for up to 10 days. Dr Justin Feinstein, a Clinical Neuro psychologist, speaks on how floating lowers cortisol and calms the adrenal system in his study on the anxiety relieving and antidepressant effects of floatation.

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Floating decreases cortisol and increases serotonin

Floating in a zero-gravity environment, immersed in epsom salts is a safe way, for those who are training, to recover from their tough workouts and will have them fighting fit for their next round, pain free. Combined with an eating and exercise plan, recovery in the form of floating will help to ensure that your muscular, nervous and adrenal systems perform optimally.

How Floating Works

Enveloped in darkness you will float nude in a pod that is serene and soundproof. Seeing, hearing and feeling nothing, including the water you’re immersed in. The 600kgs of Epsom Salts dissolved in 30cms of water inside the pod makes you effortlessly buoyant, thus creating a zero-gravity environment that allows you to melt into the water while being completely supported by it. By freeing our brain and musculoskeletal system from gravity, floating liberates large areas of the brain, allowing it to deal with matters of the mind and enhancing awareness of internal states.

Don’t make the typical mistake of talking about recovery without planning for it.

Book in your float today!

Find out more on how floating works here.