“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”-- -Anne
Bestselling author Lamott’s words of wisdom may not have been intended for floatation therapy,
but they certainly apply to this rapidly growing trend in the field of natural health and wellness.
Curtis and Jamie Shakotko, married owners of Fleauxt, certainly think so, not only because of
their own experiences, but because they hear it every day from clients who are amazed at the
healing effect the therapy has on their lives.
Jamie, publisher of Natural Awakenings of Greater Baton Rouge, had been suffering with back
pain for several years and was frustrated in her search for lasting drug-free relief. Once she
learned about floatation therapy, she scheduled sessions for herself and Curtis last spring as part
of their wedding anniversary weekend in a neighboring city. It turned out to be a great gift in
more ways than one. “My back didn’t hurt for two months after the session,” says Jamie.
Curtis agreed, saying, “Though I wasn’t seeking relief for physical pain, I was amazed by the
level of stress reduction after just one session.” Both were so impressed with the experience that
they decided to bring the therapy to Baton Rouge, opening Fleauxt in late 2015. Manager John
Foval joined the team about four months later, making the transition from client to manager with
ease and enthusiasm.
Because of its ability to enhance both physical and mental function, float therapy is gaining
popularity in professional sports, with both 2015 Super Bowl teams using it as part of their
regular training. Television personality Joe Rogan, known for hosting Fear Factor and as a
commentator for the Ultimate Fighting Championship, is among the most vocal proponents of
floatation therapy, producing several podcasts and YouTube videos in support of it, which Curtis
admits was a motivating factor in his decision to try it initially.
An engineer by trade, Curtis was skeptical about what he initially considered to be the latest fad
in the new-age arena but his personal experience made him a believer. “It really is a form of
therapy that can take you anywhere if you allow it to,” claims Curtis, who hears the same
sentiment from his customers regularly. “One lady broke down in tears and wanted a hug
following her session. That was really interesting, and it made me aware of the profound impact
we are able to have on people’s lives,” he explains.
Not only do customers share their experiences verbally following their float sessions, but they
are encouraged to note their observations in the community journal kept at the center’s Chill Out
area. “Some of the entries are heartbreaking, like the one from the man who shared that he’d lost
the love of his life that day when his divorce was finalized,” says Jamie. “Yet, all are inspiring in
that they allow us to see how this therapy provides comfort and relief for those desperately
seeking a way to escape the stresses of everyday life for just a little while.”
Fleauxt’s customers are evenly split between those seeking relief from physical pain and those
seeking stress relief. Nearly half the business’s clients float on a regular basis at intervals best
suited to their needs. The therapy has even been effective for post-traumatic stress disorder
(PTSD). Foval says one regular customer suffers from scoliosis and maintains that the therapy
significantly reduces her pain for more than a week following each session, a result she hasn’t
found anywhere else.
First developed by neuropsychiatrist John C. Lily in 1954, the therapy was originally known as
sensory deprivation and later as Restricted Environmental Stimuli Technique (REST). Float
therapy has been the subject of a great deal of research, so much so that one satisfied customer
gifted Curtis with a 500-page book published in 1980 by Peter Suedfeld titled, Restricted
Environmental Stimulation: Research and Clinical Applications.
Last year, neuropsychologist Justin Feinstein opened the only float lab in the country, the Float
Clinic and Research Center at the Laureate Institute for Brain Research, in Tulsa, Oklahoma,
where he uses electroencephalogram to measure brain activity during floatation therapy. In
preliminary research, Feinstein, who does PTSD research at the University of Toledo College of
Medicine, noted that floating produces the same relaxation results as the effective yet highly
addictive drug Ativan without any of the negative side effects.
Modern-day floatation therapy uses massive amounts of Epsom salt (around 1,000 pounds per
tub) to enable buoyancy in only 10 inches of water in a totally dark and soundless environment.
The buoyancy provides a feeling of weightlessness in water warmed to body temperature,
helping to blur the boundary between the water and the body. Removing external stimuli allows
the brain to easily enter the relaxed theta state, something that is usually only experienced by
advanced meditators. “Unlike meditation, there is no effort or daily practice involved,” says
Foval, himself a daily meditator. “The brain easily makes the shift when it’s simply allowed to
Fleauxt has two spacious, private float rooms, each equipped with its own float tub, shower and
dressing area. Floaters shower prior to entering the tub and again following their session. Those
who may not feel comfortable in complete darkness and silence have the option of low lighting
and relaxing music as part of their session. Foval notes that the tubs have high ceilings and glass
doors, which customers can choose to leave open if they have chlaustrophobia. The salt is
antibacterial and, following each session, the tub water is circulated and filtered through a three-
part filtration and sterilization system using ultraviolet light and ozone, the most effective
disinfecting system available.
First-time floaters are instructed on all aspects of the process and Foval says they can further
accommodate those floating for relief for physical pain with props, like a small pillow placed
under the knees for help with lower back pain, or positioning suggestions tailored to each
individual’s situation. For those seeking relaxation and stress relief, Foval prefers to keep his
guidance to a minimum to prevent clients from having any preconceived notions about the
experience. “It really is a highly personal experience each time,” he notes.
“Our hope is for Fleauxt to be an oasis for our clients,” says Curtis. “Whether seeking relief from
physical pain or emotional stress, floating offers an opportunity to escape the constant
bombardment of daily life. It’s a great opportunity for personal self-reflection.” He adds,
“Floatation therapy can be so impactful. In a place where it’s just you and your thoughts, major
change can occur.”