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FIRST TIME FLOATING: A PERSONAL JOURNEY THROUGH 1000 POUNDS OF EPSOM SALT

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SARAH TOLLE

MAY 15, 2016

FIRST TIME FLOATING: A PERSONAL JOURNEY THROUGH 1000 POUNDS OF EPSOM SALT

My first floating session was very different from what I had imagined it would be. Before going, I’d imagined that floating would be somewhat reminiscent of scenes from the movie WALL-E, with people drifting about aimlessly and smoothly on foam mats in a large, steamy pool. I’d recently moved to Vancouver from Wisconsin, where any news about floating probably won’t arrive until the year 2050. Judging by the signs and advertisements I’d seen around Vancouver, I imagined that floating would involved a big pool, low lighting and maybe a peaceful waterfall in the background. I also envisioned myself getting quite restless, attempting to float on a mat in too-cold water and getting all itchy from the chlorine.

Boy, was I wrong.

The best way I can describe my first float session at Float Sense is this: it was like a visit to a spa crossed with a tanning salon crossed with a trip to outer space. The spa-like atmosphere – robes, slippers, complimentary tea, new age music, handmade art decorating the walls, a few plants in hanging terrariums – provided a sense of luxury that I hadn’t expected walking in off bustling Hastings Street. The receptionist greeted me warmly, and as I had a seat and a sip of water on the lobby’s couch, I struck up a conversation with another first-time floater. She was having a relaxing cup of tea and just sitting there, smiling. I asked her if she’d had a good experience; she told me that she was so relaxed that she fell asleep about halfway through. Although I couldn’t imagine ever being relaxed enough to fall asleep in water – I’m more of a diving-board-type water lover – I mentally prepared myself for some major relaxation, and I started to rifle through the various float and meditation books on the coffee table.

When my float room was ready, I was led through the hall past various float rooms, all of which were lit by dark blue lighting and housed a smooth white capsule that looked like the roundest, sleekest tanning bed I’ve ever seen. And just like at a tanning salon, I was given my own private calmly-lit room (with private shower!) for the duration of my session. The receptionist explained how to use the various accoutrements placed beside the large, white DreamPod – towels, float noodle for neck support, ear plugs for blocking salt from entering your ears, spray bottle for any salt on the eyes or face, vaseline for any cuts, pre-float rinse, post-float rinse. Then, we took a look inside the DreamPod by lifting its spacepod-esque lid, revealing a pool of 10 inches of water holding 1000 pounds of dissolved epsom salt. Not until I got in did I realize how salty 1000 pounds of epsom salt is.

After the pre-float rinse and last-minute trip to the bathroom, I turned off the main lights in the room and stood in near darkness, preparing for my journey into outer space. I lifted the lid of the futuristic DreamPod and felt a whoosh of steam trailing out in the blue light. I quickly got in and closed the lid behind me. It was really quiet. Quiet and echo-y. I wondered if they’d based the design for the DreamPod off of something they’d seen in the Matrix. I lay back in the warm water, and right away I could feel the dense liquid pushing me up to the top. As I floated effortlessly for the first time, I began to giggle, and soon it was a full-out laugh as I felt like I’d suddenly become a 5-year-old kid again. If for nothing else, I would recommend floating just for the initial sensation of weightlessness and elation that comes from those first moments in the float tank.

The next 80 minutes are a blur. I turned off the color-changing mood light and threw myself into total darkness. I thought about stuff. I stretched out my neck. I made snow angles on the surface of the water. I meditated. I relived memories. I wondered if this is what it feels like to be a tree or a jellyfish or some other life form that thrives without eyesight and the ability to move around a lot. I was careful to keep salt out of my eyes (judging by the way the salt was stinging a minor scrape on my finger, I was not about to get it in my eyes). Something that surprised me about laying there in the warm, salty water was that I was able to feel pain. I don’t mean this in a bad way – the experience wasn’t painful – but for the first time, with all of my body relaxed, I could pinpoint the exact places where something felt strained, tight, or painful. With my legs and torso relaxed, I could feel the stress and strain present in my hip flexors, and I was able to focus on loosening them up and relaxing them.

After a long time of deep breathing in the salty, humid air, quiet music came on in the background, and I knew that it was my signal to end the session. I got out, feeling warm and relaxed, and after using up the pod-side supply of Q-tips (Hallelujah!), I had a rejuvenating shower to rinse off the almost slimy salt. I had assumed that the float experience would leave me itchy and dry, but it left my skin feeling soft and smooth, with no irritation to speak of (and that’s saying a lot for this very eczema-prone lady). I found an assortment of products – hair dryer, styling products, feminine hygiene products, etc – in the bathroom, and soon felt refreshed and ready to go on with my day. I exchanged a friendly “thank you” with the receptionist and had a quick conversation with two more first-time floaters waiting on the lobby couch on my way out (popular place!).

Walking again down the hot, busy Hastings St., things felt a little different – I felt like I’d just come from a totally different world. I’d found a small haven of peace and quiet that allowed me, for 90 minutes, to simply be. Although floating wasn’t what I had imagined, I found it to be much less “high pressure” than I had assumed – you can do it any way you like, and you can get whatever you want out of it. Whether it’s to relax, think, stretch, meditate, heal, or simply have fun, I found floating to be great way to do it.

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