What does relaxation mean to you? How do you, personally relax? What does it mean to relax? If you asked me these questions a few months ago, I would have said getting a message or reflexology helps me to relax. I “chill out” by drinking my favorite beverage and reading or listening to music. I’m extremely lucky to have a magnificent view of the water from my house, so I guess sometimes I just stare out the window and relax.
A while back I had heard of an isolation pod or chamber. They are also called float tanks or a sensory depravation chamber. A few years ago, I got my husband and myself a Groupon for one in Seattle, but it ran out before we got to use it. So I forgot about it. This last winter I saw an ad for one while skiing in Whistler. Fat chance there will be one in Olympia, I thought. My Google turned up Oly Float.
The next day I was booked for an Intro Float session – 60 minute float. Oly Float’s web site is extremely informative, so I had the general gist of things before going in for my appointment. A staff member walked me through the process and mentioned a few tips to keep in mind. I had reserved the metal room (there is also the wood room). The rooms lock from the inside, so it’s yours, uninterrupted for the allotted time. A shower before and after your float are mandatory and believe me, you want to shower! In the metal room there is the most high tech shower you’ve ever seen – with colored lights, a touch pad, waterspouts in different locations, and square knobs that control water temperature and direction. You can even take a steam shower, which I highly recommend. The shower before is to remove any oil, lotion, make-up from your skin & hair.
Swim suites are optional, but once you figure out it’s only you in the room and only you in the tank, a suite is really unnecessary. After my shower, I grabbed some earplugs and climbed into the tank. It’s a little weird at first; I’m not going to lie. I took the short float noodle that was wedged behind one of the hand railings and slowly laid back. Instantly my body rose up and I was floating. I put the float noodle under my head (for additional head support) and put the earplugs in. I could still hear the soft music playing. The music is faded out to signal your hour float time is beginning. Once your hour is done, the music is gently brought back on. Or if you fall asleep, they will eventually drain the tank. As I looked up, I could see a faint constellation pattern on the roof of the tank, (which also fades out once your float time starts). The different rooms have different choices for lighting, and music to be on in the tank if you wish. For the complete experience, I chose no music or lights. Also, the water and air in the tank are kept at the same temperature as your skin, so you don’t get cold.
The tank is 8’ X 5’ and touted on their web site as one of the largest custom-built tanks in the world. You are floating in only 10 inches of water, but it contains 800 lbs. of Epsom salts. That all may or may not sound impressive, however, the only way to truly grasp the gravity (or lack there of) is to experience it for yourself.
There is a reason it’s called an isolation tank – as I wanted the complete experience – there was no sound, no light, no distractions, no nothing. In fact, I didn’t know the constellations in my room faded out once the float time started and so after 15 minutes or so I opened my eyes to complete and utter darkness. It was so dark, I couldn’t tell the difference between my eyes open and closed. I actually freaked out a tad and splashed some water onto my face – you don’t want this stuff in your eyes, and on your mouth isn’t advisable either. For a few seconds my mind was screaming and a hint of panic washed over me. I closed my eyes, took a few deep breaths and focused on the amazing feeling of floating.
After calming myself, I realized – never before had I felt so peaceful, tranquil and relaxed – body and mind. For the first while, every few minutes or so, I’d remind myself to relax the muscles in my body and to clear my mind. After a while, I realized there was nothing left to relax. I had completely relinquished myself to the water. My mind would wander and every so often I’d have some odd image of floating in florescent goo like out of a science fiction movie. But the image quickly faded. And then I had a revelation, I’m back in the womb – but less cramped and with more room. I felt completely safe. It’s probably the single most unique feeling I have ever experienced (no, I’ve never taken drugs).
It really took no time at all for my body to understand what it was experiencing and to embrace it. It doesn’t even compare to swimming – which I train every week in the pool, for my joints. It’s not the same at all. In the float tank you are supine, completely supported, and completely suspended.
What was really amazing (especially if you know me) after my session I was at the front desk speaking with the staff about the different options of becoming a member as well as a few gift cards I wanted to purchase. I was so relaxed that I was having trouble focusing on what I was doing – which rarely happens. Also, after I was home, I was telling my husband about it, he asked what I wanted for dinner. With a shoulder shrug and half open eyes I said, “I don’t know. I’m so relaxed right now I don’t care about dinner.”
I was so amazed with my experience and my level of mind and body relaxation; I have since become a member of Oly Float. I have a two float per month membership, which also includes a 30-minute session in their Infrared Sauna per month – $90 per month. Unused floats roll over to the next month, you can gift your floats and you can also purchase floats for less than the normal cost. Having since learned that floating is the only real place (besides sleeping) where I can truly turn my head off – It’s a small price to pay for the ultimate in personal maintenance, rejuvenation and relaxation.