“You have to try it. It’s amazing and indescribable,” said Renée after I asked her how her float experience went. I already knew before I asked her that I wanted to try it and she had me even more excited. I just need to find some time. That is the tricky part for all of us, right? “It was so cool, and it didn’t feel like 60 minutes at all,” she said. “You walk out feeling like you slept for a week.”
Well, that seems like a time saver if I can get a week of rest in 60 minutes then I’m not wasting time on myself. Not that any Mom has ever felt guilty about wasting time on herself. Right? This is a mom time saver! I had already done some research looking into the benefits as the float centers seem to be popping up everywhere, but I didn’t actually know anyone who tried one. Who are all these floaters?
Floating has been around for years but under different names like sensory deprivation, and restricted environmental stimulation therapy. Between the uninviting names and the original claustrophobic pods, I can see why they haven’t taken off right away despite many reported benefits like stress reduction, pain relief, muscle recovery, relaxation and improved sleep. I read something that said they were popular in the 70’s but so was tether ball and that didn’t make the world better.
Floating is More Available and Accessible
New kinds of float centers are working to make floating more accessible as an additional option for the wellness care regimen. They offer comfort and relaxation in a space that is like a spa but different. I hopped on my computer because Float Light Float Center in Appleton, WI has online booking. I was surprised to find that many of their sessions were booked. People really like to float. I still was able to find a time that worked easily for me and found some helpful tips to get me ready for my first float.
The site filled in some of those questions. Like what do you bring to a float? Pretty much just yourself. They provide a lot of items I wouldn’t have thought of like robe, slippers, fresh linens, body wash, shampoo, conditioner, neck pillow, ear plugs, Q-tips, A&D ointment pack, eye wash bottle, make-up remover, and deodorant spray. I didn’t know some of that stuff would come in handy and I didn’t know you shouldn’t shave right before. Those micro-cuts from shaving can sting in my Epsom salt bath at home and I don’t put over 1200 pounds of salt in my tub like they do to make the floating happen. Yeah, MORE than 1200 pounds. No joke- you are going to float whether you want to or not.
I wasn’t worried about whether I would float or not, but I did get a little nervous as my appointment time got closer. Up until the afternoon of my float, I was really excited about giving this floating thing a try. I hadn’t even really thought about what I might not like about my appointment but as it got closer I wondered what I had gotten myself into even though I knew I could leave at any time. I’m not alone and neither are you if you are kind of nervous about floating.
First Time Floaters Can be Nervous
First time floating can make anyone feel a little anxious, especially those who can benefit from it the most. One study looked at a group of 65 people who had been diagnosed with anxiety and depression and 15 of those people canceled their appointment and never went. An additional 15 people canceled, often at the last minute, to reschedule later. With almost half the people canceling or no showing the first go, the researchers thought it demonstrated the appointment can cause some cold feet. (1)
They also found from this group that those with the most anxiety or depression get the most calming benefit from floating bringing them to almost normal anxiety levels. When compared to past float studies of mostly healthy participants, they found the benefits for depression and anxiety were about double. Getting past that anxiety about the first-time float could be highly beneficial for those who might experience it even more greatly. Its benefits don’t come with the adverse side effects of drugs, and it’s easy to use. You just have to know how to lay down.
Don’t worry if you aren’t anxious or depressed. There are a wide variety of benefits for everyone and everyone can benefit from a little relaxation. I pushed the anxious thoughts out of my head and was excited for my appointment. I love floating in the ocean and wondered if this would be just as relaxing. Being from Wisconsin I don’t get to float in the ocean too often.
Welcome to Floating
I was greeted with a high level of hospitality at Float Light Float Center and any residual anxiousness floated away. After I filled out some paperwork I was given a very thorough tour and explanation of the floating experience. I have heard some float locations provide a video for new floaters to help answer all their questions. Don’t worry you won’t be thrown in a pool of water to sink or float. You won’t sink!
They encouraged me to wear ear plugs to keep the water out of my ears and there was a vinegar/water solution to use in the shower after to get any crystals out of my ears. What crystals and do I need that if I use ear plugs? I’d understand all that later. There was also an eye wash bottle to wash out my eyes if I got salt water in them. That makes sense, I don’t want my float ruined by salt water in my eyes. She suggested different ways of holding your arms either at your side, across your chest or above your head.
I was assured of utmost privacy of the room and that for the duration of my time this was my space so if I didn’t want to close the door of the float pod then I didn’t have to. That should alleviate any claustrophobic fears. There was also an intercom button I could push if I needed any help. The tour was very thorough, and I was ready for my first float.
It’s Just You and Your Float
I was alone and ready for an hour to myself. I got in slowly and laid back. Yup, sure enough you just float. There were twinkly purple lights that I left on for the first 10 minutes or so as I got myself accustomed to the space. Once I started my float, I was very careful not to need that eye wash bottle and debated places to put my arms. It wasn’t as easy to decide where to put my arms. Everything was comfy because they keep the air and water the same temp as your skin, but it was just very new. I bounced around a little as I figured out how much pressure to push myself away from the wall. Don’t push too much. You just end up on the other side of the pod.
After I settled in, I decided to try it without the lights. I can always turn them back on, right? It’s pitch-black and like the other reviews on their website said, “It’s hard to tell where your body ends, and the water begins.” That’s why the air and water temperature make such a difference! I felt like I was just a giant blob of energy in a pod. The ear plugs add to the sensory deprivation. I’m not really sure if this giant blob of energy could find the lights to turn them back on but its OK as I’m kind of in a dream-like state and very relaxed.
I still had trouble finding my favorite place for my arms, but I must have left them above my head for a while because when I went to move them they felt funny. Like they were coated in something tight and crunchy. Oh! The salt water dried and crystallized on my arms. Hey, it’s on my belly too! So weird but fun. I can see why that would be bad in my ears and they suggest you rinse out your ears afterwards.
Floating Goes By Fast
The dream-like state was very nice, but I didn’t have any hallucinations like some of the reviews had. But there was a thin veil between perception and reality in the dream-like state. And I guess it depends on your definition of hallucinations. I’ve read that those phantom buzzes of your cell phone are a type of hallucination. If that counts, then maybe I was hallucinating. I did feel like my body was just cruising across the pod multiple times and thought I was going to hit the wall. I would wait for it and wait for it then reach out and the wall was far away. Sensory deprivation is pretty cool and a little strange. The rest of the hour goes by very fast and before I know it a calming voice comes through the speakers to welcome me back from my journey. I felt relaxed, calm but also energized. So, I showered off well and made sure no crunchy crystals lingered in my ears or any crevices.
I went out to the float lounge feeling really good. The owner came by remarking of the float glow of everyone in the float lounge and offered some water or tea. I said no at first but then decided to stay for the Fava Tea Company’s Cloud 9 Tea. It tasted amazing if anyone is looking for a Christmas present. A yummy, non-caffeinated herbal tea. I sat there for over an hour just relaxing and reading the float journal about everyone’s float experiences.
It’s amazing how many different benefits there are and how it can be so beneficial in different ways for different people. There were people who came to seek relief for injury or emotional pain and there were those with chronic conditions like fibromyalgia that were finding temporary relief. I’m glad there is an option that might be great for The Wellness Way patients who are seeking relief while they are determining what is triggering their pain.
Floating Can Be a Great Addition to Your Wellness Regimen
Floating can be a great addition to anyone’s wellness regimen and the benefits sometimes last for days or weeks. The rest of the night I was very relaxed. Colors were brighter, and food tasted even better. Wait, is that a hallucination? I’m only counting it as a hallucination if I’m in the 5th dimension talking to Gandhi. Either way, I slept like a baby. The benefits the next day were great too. I was up early for yoga well rested and energized. I did more and went further than usual in my yoga practice. All the magnesium that your skin soaks up can have huge variety of benefits and resulted in one of my best poops ever!
My floating experience was great. It is hard to describe. I tried. It’s also different and will be beneficial in different ways for different people. You kind of have to try it yourself. Float Light Float Center is in Appleton, WI, but if you aren’t nearby, float locations are popping up all over so you can find one near you. Try it to see if it’s something to add to your wellness routine. No two experiences are alike, but many come back to float away again. Remember all those anxious people who rescheduled from that study? They and all the other participants said they would float again. Don’t be nervous. Try it. I’ll float again.
Written by Dawn Miller