Flotation is widely accepted as a panacea for a variety of ailments and conditions, and is backed up by over fifty years of scientific and anecdotal evidence. Float centers are the latest trend in health + wellness, promoting a host of benefits from improved creativity to pain management—and it was an experience I just had to try out!
My inaugural float pod experience is at Toronto’s brand new H20 Float Spa, located in the tony (and quite holistic might I add!) Danforth area. A float spa—with it’s promise of relaxation and renewal is a perfect addition to this neighbourhood which is deluged with yoga + pilates centers, organic juice bars and health food stores on every block.
I have the choice between a large open concept float—or a smaller pod float which can be fully enclosed or kept partially open.
I opt for the enclosed pod as I want to get the full seclusion experience—akin to being back in the womb or at the very least get into a meditative Theta state.
My float attendant assures me that my enclosure can easily be pushed open as it is built on hydraulics and demonstrates its ease + efficacy, just like a Price is Right hostess. She explains that the pod is filled with 1000 lbs of Epsom salts and remarkably only 10 inches of water, heated at body temperature. She points out an intercom in the pod should I need anything, a light switch which controls an underwater colour-therapy-cum-light-show should I desire one, a spray water bottle, dry cloth and a set of malleable wax ear plugs. Before leaving, she assures me that despite the locked door, that should she need to get in for what I’m assuming would be a rescue mission, that “she has a key if necessary.”
“I’ve got this,” I say confidently as I rush into the ensuite shower—a prerequisite for the float.
Post shower clean, I first close off the main light in the sound proof room, step into the pod with the colorful LED lights inside guiding me into what will be my new mini ecosystem for the next 90 minutes.
There’s a loading dock for a music players if you want, but I’m intentionally seeking a parallel universe kind of vibe, screening out all stimuli including the pod lights.
It’s now pitch black.
With the wax earplugs nestled in place, I ease myself into the water leaving the ‘hatch’ open. It’s a serene feeling, although I’m not a float neophyte per se—having previously enjoyed the experience at the Dead Sea, only five years prior. I am insta-buoyed and floating immediately, but like a human bumper car I am hitting the sides of this pod as I try to get steady and centered. My head bops into the sides of the pod as do my feet, and I realise the best I’m going to get is settled on an angle, so I try and succumb to the experience and let goooooo.
I am weightless there is no doubt about that, but my neck and head feel heavy for some reason despite the zero gravity aspect. The water is magically soft, the Epsom salts feel like a translucent silky gel on my body and hair—completely different from the texture of the Dead Sea. I float and sway around for a bit, but my mind is rather FI (fast inside)—so I decide that closing the hatch completely might help me zone out further.
I reach in blindness for the interior light button, hand reading braille between the light switch and the intercom button. I sit up, and get my first taste of salt water in my eyes and mouth which I wipe away with the handy cloth. I lay back again, switch off the light button via foot braille and try to succumb surmising that this, this is where the magic will happen!
My breath due to wearing the earplugs underwater sounds like an astronaut breathing deep in outer space and the amplified echo is anything but relaxing. My agitated response is a nervous fart which I can audibly hear bubble under water, and ew…I can now smell. I am now trapped in an enclosed fart pod—and tranquility eludes me more than ever.
Minutes pass and unable to still let go, I decide I want the hatch reopened to have that extra breath of fresh air. I sit up and for a split second panic sets in as I have no idea what direction I’m facing and cannot find the hatch. Reading the sides of the pod with my hands like a scrambling lunatic, I find the hatch and push it open with ease. More salt water in eyes and mouth. I spritz myself with the water bottle and wipe my face. My lips are now burning.
Hatch open, I decide to remove my ear plugs as my monster amplified breathing might be the culprit to completely letting go. I have been doing yoga and meditation for the last decade I think to myself, this should be second nature to me?!
I lay down again in complete darkness, my foot turns off the interior lights and I’m now enjoying better air quality and the tension in my head and back is gone.
The floating is now making me nauseous—motion sickness of the high seas nauseated.
I’m taking in larger fresh breaths to temper my nausea, but my ears are completely water-logged and I sit up in complete annoyance and utter frustration.
I go through the rigmarole of closed hatch/open hatch once more to no avail. Finally I settle on a combination of open hatch, ear plugs back in, and the usage of the light therapy. The rotating crystal blue refractory lights, blending into a deep emerald and warming crimson cradles me into a meditative lullaby. I enjoy this for a brief 15 minutes until the vomitous sea sickness feeling takes over. I’m hot and sweaty and quite frankly…utterly exhausted!
I can’t do this any longer.
I slowly get up and hop into the shower feeling a bit dejected. I can’t imagine how long I even lasted in there, and wonder how anyone does the 90 minute cycle?!
I was greeted by the owner of the spa with a bottle of cold water in the dimly lit lounge area. To my surprise, I had lasted an hour and was starting to feel the effects of the my body being weightless even for minimal amount of time that it was. My entire body feels relaxed and my muscles like pure jelly. I was told that my head and upper shoulders feeling heavy was a common occurrence that happens at the onset of a float and that there were inflated pillows available to alleviate that, but I missed the memo on that one. Ultimately the goal was to completely let go and had I truly achieved that my head and shoulders would have followed suit.
Upon leaving, I was literally unable to string an audible sentence together as further relaxation and a grounding heaviness had set in. The chronic muscle pain that I had in my back for weeks was completely gone and that night I fell into a heavenly sleep coma that rivalled those induced by strong pharmaceuticals—not that I would know anything about that. Wink, wink.
Being that I am a skin covered satellite dish that feels everything so intently, I wasn’t surprised that the trickle down sedating effect of the magnesium in the Epsom salts lasted the entire next day.
In closing, this was clearly not the zenned out exploit that I was seeking, but what’s interesting is that despite my Jerry Lewis antics and inability to stop injuring myself—the final outcome was at least effective!
I also realise that its probably a cumulative scenario whereas repeated visits would allow for a practice makes perfect result, or perhaps I’m just a massive spazz!?
Would I try it again?
Absolutely—if only to try out the vast open concept pod with a supportive neck pillow and perhaps some Dramamine for preventative measure! Oh, and I would keep my ear plugs in the entire time—I had water crinkling in my ears for at least 3 days afterwards.
Is this a STERLING testimonial or what!?
*Authors Addendum: Everyone that I previously polled on Facebook (I do official research ‘yo!) swore up and down how “peaceful” and “ENJOYABLE” their respective pod floats were!!
Just remember friendsicles…
Float Like No-Ones Watching!
The Pop Culture Rainman™