I’ve made no secret of the fact that I totally dig alternative therapies when it comes to wellness. I’ve talked before about the Soul Power sessions offered by Alesha at Vital Balance in The Tron – I swear by them.
Good ol’ Instagram has brought a new sort of therapy to my attention – Float Therapy. Turns out it’s not really that new, it’s just becoming more mainstream (the hipsters must be gutted). I did some research, and decided to include a session at The Floatation Sanctuary when planning my trip to Taranaki to see one of my besties and her babies.
Float Therapy involves lying in a tank that is designed to eliminate light and noise. You float in about 25cm of skin temperature water, thanks to physics and 500kg of pharmaceutical grade Epsom salts. The aim of the game is to ‘trick’ your conscious mind into thinking you are floating in mid-air.
I booked a 90 minute session (which includes 60 minutes of floating and 15 minutes of faffing either side of the float), and was pleasantly surprised at the $80 price tag (in my head I thought it was $200 a sesh – no idea where I got that fanciful figure from!). My biggest concern: spending 90 minutes alone with my thoughts.
The three hour drive to Bell Block was spent singing my lungs out to Elton and Alicia and Toni and TLC, so as not to dissect the last two and half years of my life, and was dreading 60 minutes with zero stimuli.
Joy is one of those people that I wish I was more like, she’s the epitomy of zen, treading softly on the earth and talking in a soft voice, in stark contrast to my loud, nasal responses to her gentle questions. Joy explained the ins and outs of floating in excellent detail, and said that once the music stopped (after the first 10 minutes), I would be able to hear my heart beat – that was normal, I was not having a heart attack.
My (awful) laugh was offensive in the dark, quiet room that is the float suite: ‘a heart attack? Since when does hearing your heartbeat signal a heart attack?’
After delivering her instructions, Joy padded softly out of the room and left me to it. You shower first, and shampoo your hair, and wash your bits properly with the removable shower head (Joy said “bottom” and I tried not to smirk, because I am not seven).
Then it’s float time, you get in, you shut the lid (or leave it open if you like), and choose the colour of your light (or turn it off). I opted for lid down and light off, and then it was just me, floating in the dark, with some soft music.
The floating bit is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, having never done the Dead Sea thing. Joy strongly suggests you cover any broken skin with petroleum jelly, and ensure you don’t get any water in your eyes. You also wear ear plugs to minimise the water in your ears – which will dry to a salty crisp. I was very thankful I haven’t shaved my legs for aaaaaages, because we know what a shemozzle that is when it comes to nicks and cuts.
Joy said that the best position to eliminate the over extension of the neck is to have your arms floating above your head. I must have been lucid for at least the first 10 minutes, because when the music went off and I heard my heartbeat I did not think I was having a heart attack.
I’m guessing I fell asleep, or meditated, or went into a trance like state, or all of the above. Because before I knew it I was awake – staring into the darkness, floating. I was trying to think about how long I had been out for, how long did I have to go, was I ready to get out, should I get out and check the time. Then I told myself to chill the fuck out and I just floated around. I did some moving and some stretching, and gently floated from side to side. Then the music came back on – signalling the end of my session.
I stood up (carefully) on the non-slip star, let the salty water run off my body like silk (just like Joy said it would), and then had another shower, complete with the entire range of Sukin skincare products. Joy said that my headache would be gone. It was day three of a migraine like headache (too much computer work), and I didn’t really believe her…but it was gone! I was impressed.
For obvious reasons I’ve been feeling a little anxious about life lately, a tad depressed and a seemingly impossible combination of foggy and frantic. After my float, I was calm. My head was clear and quiet, but I could also feel my creativity returning. I felt “good”, which doesn’t feel like the right adjective to use, but for someone who has felt quite a bit less than “good” for a while now, “good” is quite great.
I told Bestie that she needs to wean Bebe #2 ASAP and get herself into that tank. She said she’s been trying to convince her hubby to go, but when he got back from rugby (#thoughtyouretiredtwoyearsago) I announced that he would need a whole tub of jelly to cover up all of that broken skin.
In two words: do it. Give yourself the gift of silent floating, or, even better, give the gift to someone who needs it. I would like to make floating a regular part of my life. Once a week should just about do it, although one day I hope I can float often enough to be as zen as Joy.