- Associated Press - Saturday, May 21, 2016

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) - Two new businesses in Missoula will be offering sensory deprivation float tank therapy this summer, a service that is gaining in popularity across the country. Customers lay down in high-tech isolation tanks where they float on heated salt water in complete darkness and silence, which simulates an anti-gravity chamber free of mental stimulus.

For owners Matt Gangloff and his fiancee Savanna Scotson, Enlyten Lab on the Hip Strip at 521 S. Higgins, set to open later this summer, will be about helping people find peace. They say the distraction-free environment allows for relaxation and provides numerous health benefits.

Gangloff served two tours of combat duty in Iraq with the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, and was also sent to help cleanup efforts in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. And like many combat veterans, the 30-year-old UM graduate has been diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome. He finally found a solution when he began travelling to a Whitefish business that offers float tank therapy.

“The reason I started floating was I’m a two-tour combat veteran and so when I came to college, I came to college as a 24-year-old with three years of combat under my belt,” he said. “I made it through college but what I didn’t realize was the impact that had on me and the stress and the issues that I was carrying around. And in searching for kind of relief from that, I tried everything there is. Medication, therapy, all the things they say you should do to overcome coming back from combat. And nothing worked.”

Changing his diet and living a healthier life helped, but it wasn’t totally doing it for him.

“But what was really the breakthrough for me was getting in a float-tank and finally getting the concept that there’s no outside thing you can do,” he told the Missoulian (https://bit.ly/1WZ4Qv6). “It’s really about digging into the mind and letting the body heal itself. And floating did that for me.”

Gangloff said float tank therapy is not a new concept, but it’s gaining traction recently. Besides Whitefish, there is a business that offers it in Bozeman. Another float tank therapy business in Missoula, called Floatopia, will be opening at 327 Southwest Higgins around July.

Owner Stephen Likewise said they will probably have three or four different tanks to begin with.

“We’ll have one that’s sort of a traditional-style tank, and one or two are going to be big float rooms with big high ceilings, sort of like an enclosed cabin area with a float pool,” Likewise said. “There is one that is going to be an open pool with no walls or ceilings so there won’t be any issues with claustrophobia.”

Likewise said he tried floating a few times and really enjoyed it.

“There’s just a lot of different types of people with different problems and it can really help,” he said. “And I think Missoula is a great place for a business like this.”

Gangloff said most large cities in the U.S. have these types of spas.

“Float is the cool word for it, it’s kind of the trendy industry term that’s got a lot of sparkle, but floating is a term for real therapy that’s been around since the 1950s,” Gangloff said. “It’s sensory deprivation or isolation tank therapy. But a modern tank is just a little bit different in that inside there is water that has Epson salt dissolved in it. So the solution is so salty that when you get into the tank you actually float on top of the water.”

The water and the air is regulated to be the exact same temperature as your skin, 93.6 degrees, and there is no light inside.

“With the water being heated the way it is, you just have no inputs to the brain,” he explained. “And what happens at that point is the mind kind of goes crazy for a second. It says, ‘no more inputs? What do I do with myself? What do I do with my time?’ Because we’re constantly processing inputs. Right now as you’re standing here we’re processing hundreds of thousands of inputs. Your brain can handle that, no problem. The key is getting your brain to operate in an environment where there’s no inputs.”

Gangloff said the brain gets in a state where it says ‘Ok, there is nothing to do, what do I want to do?’ and the answer is often is ‘I need to rest or I need to heal or I need to work something out that’s been under the surface but I couldn’t because I was busy doing my day job which is processing all these inputs.’

“And so what people get out of floating is a really powerful treatment for tons of mental issues, physical issues and even some issues of a higher order,” he said. “And so it’s kind of like deep realizations or religious experiences or mystical-type experiences.”

Gangloff said they’ll build two isolation rooms at first with tanks inside, but he hopes to eventually have five. For people that are claustrophobic, there will be a larger space available. The doors shut on top with just one pound of pressure, so customers can exit on their own at any time. There is also a call button inside to call Gangloff if they are feeling nervous. The cost has yet to be determined, but Gangloff said they hope to charge less than the industry average for a one-hour float of $61 per hour. There will be subscriptions and discounts for veterans and corporate wellness retreats. Each room will have a shower as well, and they will put up sunlamps in another part of the space for the wintertime.


Information from: Missoulian, https://www.missoulian.com

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