Montanans drift off with new float therapy - KTVQ.com | Q2 | Continuous News Coverage | Billings, MT

Montanans drift off with new float therapy

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The treatment at Enlyten Lab in Missoula goes by a few names including restricted environmental stimulation technique therapy. (MTN News photo) The treatment at Enlyten Lab in Missoula goes by a few names including restricted environmental stimulation technique therapy. (MTN News photo)

People are paying more than $50 to spend an hour or more floating in 12 inches of warm saltwater, naked, in the dark -- and it’s only fitting that you can find the therapy on Missoula’s Hip Strip.

The treatment at Enlyten Lab in Missoula goes by a few names: restricted environmental stimulation technique therapy (REST), sensory deprivation, and floating.

Enlyten customer Richelle Devoe likens the experience to floating through space.

“It's just such a unique and weird experience to not have gravity and being able to float and just really feel like you are in space is a really cool and unique experience. It's really novel,” Devoe said.

If you’re feeling stressed, or maybe just trying to soothe some sore muscles, you may be interested in the treatment gaining popularity across the nation, including in the Treasure State.

It’s a pretty simple idea.

Step into a private, humid and heated room. Then lie back in 12 inches of water heated to your skin temperature, packed with between 1,000 and 1,200 pounds of Epsom Salt. The water is so dense, you float effortlessly, just like being in the Dead Sea.

There are a few variations when it comes to the float tanks. Enlyten has two different types, each with its own private and secure room. The first tank is shaped like a pod, with a lid that can close over the top, completely sealing you off from the world. The other tank is a little bit larger, with higher ceilings.

The goal is to completely close yourself into these tanks, turn the lights and music completely off, and just relax. It’s a lot harder than it sounds for most people though.

 “I remember the first time I did it I think I just giggled for the first 15 minutes. I tried to sink and I think what's cool about it is that even if you're kind of afraid of water or not a good swimmer, like me, you can't actually sink. I just remember laying there and trying to sink and I just couldn't,” Devoe said.

She’s come a long way from giggling in the tub. Devoe has been floating for a few years now, which started out as a way to relieve physical pain.  

“When I first started doing it, my goal was to deal with some joint and muscle pain that I was having. So I've had surgery on my shoulder and I like to work out and I like to play in Montana's beautiful mountains and I wanted to experience, kind of the short-term effects of, like getting a massage, of relaxation.” Devoe said.

“But what I found is that when I float, my performance the next day is a lot better. I recover faster, if I have a really hard training session, I'm able to get back in the gym a lot more quickly and my body just feels better," Devoe continued.

The therapy is designed to treat your body, mind and soul.

Enlyten owner Matt Gangloff said you can use it to treat chronic pain, speed up injury healing, especially for your bones and joints. He added that the floating supports spinal decompression and alignment.

The dense water completely supports your spine and core, providing relief from back and neck pain for many people.

Gangloff knows firsthand the impact floating can have on your mind and soul. He’s a veteran who spent years fine tuning his diet, workout regimen, and sleep schedule, but nothing gave him the relief he needed from what was going on in his mind. Then he found floating.

“At that point in my life, I don't think I had ever spent one minute, not to mention an hour, alone with my thoughts and just seeing what came up. And the first time I floated, what I heard, it really scared me, what was going on upstairs,” Gangloff said.

“Through floating, what I learned, I think, was that there are these scripts that run in our minds all the time. They govern how you think, how you feel, about every little thing," he continued.

"And all the scripts that I had developed and I had running on a daily basis, I had developed those at the most traumatic time in my life and they weren't useful to me anymore," Gangloff said. "And through the practice of floating, what I've really found is, I can identify those scripts that aren't as useful and I can start to peel back those layers.”

Gangloff said that whether you’re an endurance athlete, a veteran suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or someone who works in a very stressful job, you can find healing through this practice.

He told MTN News that for veterans this treatment can be especially powerful, which is why he’s fundraising for a veteran’s scholarship. He hopes in the near future Enlyten Lab will be able to provide a veteran or veteran’s spouse with 22 free floats.

“We chose the number 22 because that's how many veterans across the U-S are committing suicide every single day. And so if we can do anything to stem that tide, that's what we are planning to do," Gangloff said.

"There is great science coming out now in the hope of, for veterans with PTSD and traumatic brain energy through floating, which is a totally natural thing. And that's the angle that I came at this from and so that's really where my heart is,” Gangloff explained.

The science he’s referring to is still pretty new, although this therapy dates back to the 1950’s when medical practitioner and neuropsychiatrist John C. Lilly developed the first isolation tank. The therapy has experienced an ebb and flow in popularity, most recently emerging as the “new yoga” in the early 2000s.

Many studies are still new or emerging, but there have been peer-reviewed articles that reveal a potential connection between floating and various mental and physical health benefits.

Once you master the practice, Gangloff says it has a lasting impact in all areas of your life.

“I can begin to completely rewire the way that those scripts affect my life. Not through the fact that I'm not going to have those feelings or thoughts come up ever again because that's just not realistic. That will happen," Gangloff said.

"It's all about how you deal with it when it happens and the float tank environment is so great because it teaches you these lessons in a really comfortable and safe space that you can then apply outside of life," he added.

So, whether you believe the hype, or not, Gangloff said you should come down to Enlyten to try it out for yourself.

“My favorite interaction is when someone says I would do it but I'm kind of scared. And what I like to say to those people is when is the last time that you did something worth doing that didn't make you a little bit scared. It's no different,” Gangloff said.

For Devoe, it’s a quiet escape from the daily grind, something she’s grateful for.

“What's cool about this experience is that it is truly time to be alone with yourself and ask yourself some of the bigger questions that you might have or really treat yourself to being relaxed and focused on yourself."

Enlyten Lab is located at 521 South Higgins Avenue in Missoula. There are other float centers across the region, including Whitefish, Spokane, and Portland, Oregon. 

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