MIND & BODY: Hot to Cold

Three health therapies to help you to feel your best

By Dave de Give


The floatation tank at Sage Float Spa in Capitola. Photo: Aaron Hershey


Massage, acupuncture, rolfing, reiki—Santa Cruzans are no strangers to holistic healing methods. And it’s in that spirit that we offer up the 411 on three lesser-known treatments—for those times when sleeping well, eating healthily and exercising just aren’t enough. So, whether you need to warm up, cool down or just maintain equilibrium, here are three ideas for treating both the mind and the body.


Whole Body Cryotherapy


Do you like to brave the cold swells sans wetsuit or walk through a fogbank clad only in shorts and a tee? Then Whole Body Cryotherapy might just be your proverbial cup of (iced) tea.

The treatment takes place in a super-cooled cryogenic chamber—a cold version of a sauna where clients sit or stand while liquid nitrogen or a cooling circuit produces temperatures ranging from –200 to –300 degrees Fahrenheit—and lasts for two to four minutes. In another variation, sometimes called Partial Body Cryotherapy, a single patient stands in a cylindrical chamber with an opening at the top for the head, while the legs and torso are exposed to the same cold treatment.

Purported health benefits include reduced inflammation, faster recovery from sports workouts, boosted energy levels, and a wealth of beauty and anti-aging benefits. Some practitioners also claim relief from a wide range of disease and medical conditions. But take note: in July, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reported that there is no evidence that it effectively treats disease or medical conditions and urged consumers considering Whole Body Cryotherapy for any purpose to consult their doctor first.


Cryotherapy is offered locally at Santa Cruz Cryotherapy in Capitola, Los Gatos Massage and Cryotherapy, and Glacé Cryotherapy in Carmel.

Sensory Deprivation Tanks


Santa Cruz Waves founder Tyler Fox chills out at Santa Cruz Cryotherapy.

Ever feel like you need to get way from it all? A sensory deprivation tank (also called an isolation tank, floating tank, float tank, or REST tank) might be the closest thing to literally getting away from it all short of propelling yourself into outer space.

Picture yourself in a lightless, soundproof tank designed to disengage all five senses. Imagine floating effortlessly in Epsom salt-infused water with just the right density to increase your buoyancy while keeping your mouth and nose out of the water. By stripping away all outside sensory input, the tanks create a comforting womb-like experience.

Originally developed in the 1950s at the National Institute of Mental Health by John C. Lily, who was interested in the effects of sensory deprivation on his patients, the tanks are now used by alternative health practitioners for meditation, relaxation, spiritual awakening and stress reduction.

Proponents state that the floating posture tends to maximize blood flow and reduce blood pressure by dilating the blood vessels, and that it causes the body to release natural endorphins that can reduce pain. Another purported benefit is a reduction in brain activity associated with postural muscles, which some feel gives increased access to parts of the brains involved with higher consciousness.

Find floatation tanks locally at Be & Be Well Floatation Center in Ben Lomond (beandbewell.com), Sage Float Spa in Capitola (sagefloatspa.com), and Equilibrium Floatation Center in Seabright (equilibriumfloat.com).


 Sweat Lodges


With winter upon us, it’s a natural time for people to seek out warmth. The habit of gathering around a fire has been around forever and the idea of bringing the fire inside and creating a sweat lodge is a long-held Native American tradition. In modern times, sweat lodges are conducted either by Native American groups and councils or by New Age health practitioners.


A sweat lodge, or more simply a sweat, is the name for the ancient purification ceremony first practiced by indigenous peoples throughout the Americas. Historically and locally, the Chumash Indians of the Central Coast built sweat lodges in coastal areas. A sweat lodge is also the name for the structure used to house the ceremony—typically a domed or oblong hut, in which heated (ideally volcanic) rocks are draped with water to produce steam.


While a sweat lodge bears some similarity to a sauna, including that they both make you sweat, the difference is that a sweat lodge is considered to be a sacred place to cleanse the body and the spirit, to seek penance and purification, and to achieve physical and spiritual healing. Many sweat lodges today are run by practitioners of New Age healing, which, depending on one’s point of view, can either be seen as a form of cultural appropriation or a way for non-natives to honor Native American traditions.

Find sweat lodge ceremonies locally at whitehawkindiancouncilforchildren.com

(Pajaro Valley), threetreesretreat.com (Watsonville), and weavingunity.com (San Lorenzo Valley).


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