Float center offers saltwater sensory deprivation tanks

EUGENE, Ore. - Ankush Vimawala earned a graduate degree in computer science from Oregon State and worked in Eugene as a software engineer before tiring of his 9-5 job.

He opened Float Om, the city's only float center.

"In our everyday life, we are bombarded by so much input. Input of touch, input of sight, input of sound," Vimawala said. "We don't have a way to cut off from external stimuli and focus on the inside, so this provides a way to connect with yourself without the external distractions."

Inside the light- and sound-proof box, patrons float in 10 inches of water, buoyed by 1,000 pounds of dissolved salt.

"The person goes in, and the water actually holds the person up, so you just float into nothingness," Vimawala said.

"On the physical level, it's Epson salt, magnesium sulfate, so the skin absorbs magnesium. That heals many ailments," he said. "The floating experience provides gravity-free environment for the spine, and it allows the spine to expand and relax and let go."

He said each float is different for each person - every time.

"I believe it is a very profound method of healing," Vimawala said. "It came up in the 70s, and it was very popular. I feel like there is a resurgence of that happening right now."

The concept behind floating is sensory deprivation. The goal is to put you in the "theta" mind state, which is what you experience in between being awake and asleep.

"It kind of kicks in, gives an opportunity for the body to kick in its own self-regulating and self-healing mechanisms by shutting down the mind and the monkey mind and the stress and the worries and all the things that form as a distraction. The energy can go back into healing and being full in one's self."

The experience can also spark creativity, depending on the individual.

Vimawala said he has several veterans coping with PTSD who float.