Credit: Central Coast Floats | Courtesy

Floating in a water-filled tank with 1,100 pounds of dissolved Epsom salt, heated to match a human’s natural body temperature is one way people are blowing off steam.

Kelsey and Matt Elston are the brother-and-sister duo behind Central Coast Floats, a new floatation therapy center on Broad Street. Their mission, according to Kelsey, is to “heal and enrich the community” with a pinch of salt and a splash of water.

“It’s like floating in the Dead Sea, but on crack,” Kelsey said.

Kelsey said floaters describe the experience like immersing their body in “pudding,” or “a personal water bed.” 

Neuroscientist and psychoanalyst John C. Lilly introduced sensory-deprivation tanks into psychology in the 1950s, according to Floatworks. Kelsey said that until recently, floating has been considered an “underground” phenomenon.

Three years ago, Matt Elston began floatation therapy in Seattle. When he moved to San Luis Obispo, he decided to open one of his own. Matt and Kelsey opened their tanks’ eight months ago.

“It’s the most relaxing environment you could possibly put yourself in,” Kelsey said.

Central Coast Floats has four private rooms, each with a float tank and a shower. An hour-long floating session costs $79.

The tanks maximize relaxation and rest in order to “reset the body and the mind,” according to the center’s website. In 1983, J.W. Turner Jr. and TH Fine concluded that Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy (REST) decreases activity in stress-centers of the brain.

According to College of Liberal Arts political science professor and Wellness Center meditation leader Matthew Moore, floating is one of many ways students can practice mindfulness,

“Students can calm their minds, focus their attention and fully be [present],” Moore said.

Moore leads a nonreligious 30-minute mindfulness meditation group every Monday at Campus Health and Wellbeing. He hopes to help students find peace, he said.

“Mindfulness is non-judgemental awareness of your present experience,” Moore said. “I think of it as being a way to learn to accept those things, both inner and outer, that you cannot change.”

Kelsey said she hopes students explore the benefits of floatation therapy as a tool for grounded education.

“Creating a personal practice and space in students’ lives so they can have some clarity, and bring live-in-the-moment energy into their lives, will help with performance in school, memory-retention and to just breathe,” Kelsey said.

Kelsey said floating is empowering because its energy flows from the floater.

“There are a lot of modalities in holistic wellness, where you’re receiving help from someone,” she said. “But in this case, you’re doing all the work yourself.”

In addition to cleansing the mind, float therapy is said to alleviate physical pain.

Osteoarthritis patients improved after over six weeks of flotation spa therapy, according to a 1999 study conducted by private practitioners and published by Harcourt Publishers.

“It has been recognized that spa therapy may have the potential to encourage self-efficacy and self-advocacy and that the environmental and cultural experience can be enriching in itself,” according to the study.

Floating weightless decompresses the spine and pressure from muscles and joints, according to Central Coast Floats’ website, and the anti-inflammatory epsom salts manage chronic and acute pain.

“The looks on their faces are like melted butter,” Kelsey said.

Central Coast Floats’s float tanks are open from 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, and 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

People looking to relax can achieve a similar feeling of relaxation by sitting in a dimly lit room, closing their eyes and listening to white noise, according to Moore.

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