my maiden voyage at the Float House...

A handful of people have asked me about my experience with floating at the Float House, so I thought I’d do a post about it and share my experience. I've been twice now, my third session is booked, and can say with complete confidence that I'm 150% addicted and secretly-not-so-secretly wish I could go every day.

Let me start by saying, I am extremely claustrophobic.  Even being in a packed elevator gets my heart rate going.  So, the thought of willingly being sealed inside a sensory-deprivation chamber slightly larger than a coffin in a foot of water?  Ya, my heart raced at the thought of it and made me cringe and shudder a bit and utter the words “Yup, that’s an edge.” And, I’ve learned that meeting ourselves on our edge can be extremely transforming.  So, I booked a float for my birthday, this past December 24.  As I watched the date in my calendar approach (appropriately highlighted in red), I found myself, rather than getting anxious or nervous, getting really excited and curious.  In yoga that morning, the perfectly timed offering from the teacher was to invite ourselves to ‘receive without agenda’.  My interpretation of the offering was to receive experiences, words, actions, without any tapes playing in the background.  You know the ones...the storytellers; the self-judgment; or perhaps the judgment of others.

So I get to the Float House later that morning, and we go through the orientation.  I’d be lying if I didn’t say my heart was starting to race a little bit now, but I was actually most nervous about having to wear ear plugs – I’ve never worn them!  Ever!  Instantly, a flashback to my childhood, and my Dad's voice: "Never put anything in your ear other than your elbow!"  Would I put them in right? Would they stay in?  What if they popped out?  What if I got Epsom salts in my ear canal?  What if what if what if. 

Stop. Receive. 

I quickly showered off, jammed the ear plugs in, and climbed right into that tank and shut the door.  I lay back.  And ya, wow, panic set in.  I called on my breath.  I called on the offering from yoga.  And nothing was bringing my heart rate down.  So, I clambered to the front of the tank (ever so UN-gracefully, I might add) and opened the door and instantly felt relieved.  I wedged the piece of styrofoam that you see in the picture in the door to let some light in (which I later learned is actually meant to be a neck pillow, potay-to potah-to), and lay back again.  And, I noticed I didn’t criticize or judge myself for ‘not being able to do it’.  I accepted that I was nervous and afraid, and that was perfectly okay.   I didn’t fight myself.  I didn’t push myself.  I just let myself be.  I’m not exactly sure how long it was before I felt safe enough to shut the door again completely, but it wasn’t too long.  I spent the remainder of the time in total and complete blissed out, relaxed, fear-free, quiet darkness.  It was the most incredible physical experience I’ve had.  

While it's not zero gravity, floating has been compared to floating in space.  Since I’ve never floated in space, I can’t say for sure.  But what I can say is that because the water is body temperature, you lose all awareness of the fact that you are even floating in water.  The magnesium in the 800lbs of Epsom salts acts like a tranquilizer on the body.  Within 10 minutes it seriously felt like a major effort to move any part of my body.

During my first float, I experienced the body's automatic response when in water to 'stay afloat'.  I found myself 'trying' to float.  As I relaxed more and more, I let go of the effort.  That was pretty cool.  On my second float, I experienced being totally aware of my own heartbeat, so much that the water was actually vibrating/pulsing with each beat.  When else in life do we ever get to experience this?  Pretty rad.

Why do it?  This was a question I answered every single I told someone I was planning to do it.  "You're doing what?! Why? Can't you just have a bath?"  Do it because it is the ultimate way to relax your sympathetic nervous system (your 'fight or flight' response) and activates your parasympathetic nervous system (your resting state).  According to the Float House's "Why Float" page, there are many benefits for the mind and body, including pain management, increased immune function, meditative benefits, and stress relief.  Sessions are booked for 90 minutes, and you know to get out when soft music comes on in the tank.  You are also free to get out at any time.

Being someone who struggles to stay in the bath longer than 15 minutes, I know that 60-90 minutes sounds like an eternity.  It's a totally different experience when we have absolutely nothing to distract ourselves with and have nowhere else to be other than in that tank.  Is it tough to quiet your mind?  Yes.  Do you get antsy at some points?  Yes.  Does this mean you're "not doing it right"?  No.  It means you're human.  

If you're thinking of going, and you're nervous or scared, it's okay.  Think about meeting yourself on that edge, and giving yourself the opportunity to let go and experience being okay with it all.  You will not regret it.  I mean, if Homer and Lisa can do it...

Have more questions?  The lovely Shivani Wells is an ambassador for the Float House, and I know she'd be happy to talk to you about it.

go ahead, float your boat,