Chances are you’ve heard about it, or know someone that has tried it. What’s the deal with floating, anyway?
Float tanks, sensory-deprivation tanks, isolation tanks — or whatever you wish to call them — have been a fixture of new-age alternative medicine for decades. More recently, however, the use of float tanks has become more and more mainstream, and commercial floatation centres have been sprouting up in major cities across North America and around the world.
But what is floating, exactly? Essentially, those seeking out a floating experience typically spend 90 minutes or longer in a specialty floatation pod filled with saltwater (imagine a shallow pool of buoyant, epsom salt-diluted water in a container about the size of a small car). For participants, all there really is to do is climb into the tank, and close the door. And then, well, just float.
The result is a sensory-reduced experience where the body is essentially weightless, and the user is left without any external stimulation — sight, smell or sound. For most, this is a completely unique sensation, in stark contrast to our overstimulated minds and overly programmed schedules.
Advocates point to float therapy’s — also known as Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy (REST) — ability to relieve stress, insomnia, and to manage chronic pain. Others seek out floating simply to unwind, or relax and seek solace from incessantly busy lifestyles. Still others are seeking an intentional, meditative experience, or to explore different states of consciousness.
I know what you’re thinking. It still seems weird to me. Won’t I feel claustrophobic? Are the tanks clean? Isn’t 90 minutes a long time?
For Leah Dawn and Brad Dauk, owners of Float.Calm in Winnipeg, such questions are all part of the fun — they understand that this is a totally new concept for most people.
“We welcome those questions.”
Leah and Brad became passionate about floating right from their very first experience, and were immediately convinced that this was something they should bring to their own city.
Given that their clients seeks out floating for such diverse reasons, how does a float centre speak to first-time floaters?
At Float.Calm, “the best things are on the other side of your comfort zone. You just have to get there. Each float is an opportunity that improves with practice.”
“We’ve seen people have very transformative experiences.”
As part of a collaboration with The Lifestyle Pass, I was able to take in my first-ever floating experience at Float.Calm.
My First Float
I was eager, curious and confident. I efficiently undressed, showered, climbed in the tank, and closed the door behind me. I was 100% game — never did I expect that I would encounter any sort of unease inside the tank.
Until I did.
But it’s not as bad as it seems. Brad and Leah stress that you are 100% in control of your environment at all times. And it’s true. The room is totally private, and you can get in and out of the tank as you like. I opened the door a crack to let in some ambient light — bingo. After a few moments, I was able to settle in.
Like most modern humans, my mind was racing, running past my to-do list. With time, however, my mind eventually slowed, and I began to really enjoy floating in my own little space in the world.
It wasn’t until my float was over did I then realize how relaxed I actually was. How fresh. How alert.
This makes sense, as I learned later, 90 minutes in a float tank can leave participants feeling as though they got as a much as four to six hours of good quality, REM sleep.
And it wasn’t until the days following that I really recognized that there was really probably something there for me. This, too, is common among first-time floaters.
“There’s some integration time that has to happen,” explain Brad and Leah.
My Second Float
I returned to Float.Calm for a chat with Brad and Leah, enjoying the warm sun in the spa-like atmosphere of their waiting room and hang out space.
Oddly enough, apart from the interview, I didn’t have any plans that day. I had had not the best week. I was exhausted. After our conversation I knew I needed to get back in the tank. I craved it. So I booked myself in and my experience was completely different from the first. Richer. More relaxing, more restorative. I now knew that there was definitely something there for me.
As someone who takes care to integrate mindful practices into my everyday life, I’m still a human living a very modern life — I spend a major part of most days firmly planted in front of one screen or another. Quite simply — and I think this is true for many of us — I can use all the help that I can get.
I know that I’m looking forward to more unravelling and exploring, and to adding floating into my self-care practice.
And I know there’s still much more to be found.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary float experience in exchange for writing this piece. That said, all views expressed are my own and am happy to partner with local businesses promoting mindfulness and wellness.