Relaxation has a new home at Redstone Arsenal.

Swim, soak or massage away the stress at the Redstone Aquatics Center, building 3705 on Aerobee Road, where now in addition to swimming, patrons can book a massage or a session in the facility’s sensory deprivation float tank.

“We want to offer the community another form of stress relief,” said Lori Ciranni, director of Sports, Fitness and Aquatics for Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation. “Swimming is also stress relief and exercise, so it was a natural fit to offer massage therapy and a sensory deprivation tank.”

Set back from the pool and racquetball court for maximum silence and privacy, sensory deprivation tank users float in the one-person pod in one foot of water and 900 pounds of Epsom salt, making them 10 times more buoyant than they would be in the Dead Sea. The benefits are three-fold: relief from neck, back and shoulder pain, the soaking benefits of Epsom salt, and the mental relief that accompanies the sensory deprivation experience.

“In life it’s very noisy between constantly being on the computer, watching TV, listening to music, even when people are in their car they have the radio on, there’s no time for just silence,” said Jon Pierce with the Aquatics Center. “There’s no time to just breathe and relax. What happens is the first 10 minutes of floating, it’s just you, so for a lot of people it can be uncomfortable initially, just because when you get to the point where there’s no external sensory stimulation distracting you, things start coming up, so you start thinking about some of the things you may have pushed to the back of your mind.”

After those first 10 minutes, Pierce said, a true sense of relaxation kicks in. Athletes and CEOs have used the pods to work through problems or challenges. Individuals who may have experienced past trauma should talk with their health care provider to see if the tank is a right fit for them.

For the full sensory deprivation experience, the pod is intended to be dark, closed and the room in silence, however, if users want to tailor their time to reap the other benefits of the tank, there is a light in the pod they can turn on, and speakers if they want to use their phone to play music. The water is meant to be the same temperature as the user’s skin to help deprive the sense of touch, so keeping the pod door open would also change the experience.

“You will still get the benefits of the Epsom salt and just relaxing, but it won’t give you the full benefits,” Pierce said. “I suggest to anybody that their first time they try it in silence, and then gauge your experience for future visits.”

Patrons can choose a 30 minute session for $25 or 60 minutes for $45. The float tank is open by appointment only. It is the only float tank available in the Huntsville area.

To add to the relaxation experience, Karen Hardin, licensed massage therapist, is now booking appointments at the Aquatics Center. Cost for a Swedish, sports, rehabilitative or trigger point massage is 30 minutes for $35, 60 minutes for $65 or 90 minutes for $90. Hot stone massages are $75 for 60 minutes or $90 for 90 minutes. Chair massages are $1 per minute. All are by appointment only.

“My whole family is military, so I know the stress that it causes,” Hardin said. “I love making people feel good. A massage can provide relaxation, peace of mind and mental clarity.”

Aquatics Center services are open to anyone with access to the installation, including rec badge holders. Hours of operation for the Aquatics Center are Monday through Friday, 5 a.m. to 1 p.m., closed weekends and holidays. Water aerobics are Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8 to 8:45 a.m.; lanes are always available for lap swim. For more information or to schedule a massage or sensory deprivation tank appointment, call 313-1200 or 313-1201.

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