Four years ago RBJ and I travelled to Jordan and ended our trip with three days in the Dead Sea (see post: Floating in the Dead Sea). It was there that I first experienced the incredible surreal-ness of floating. However I wasn’t aware until recently that the experience of floatation, along with all of the physical and mental benefits that go with it, is available right here on my door step in London.
Floatworks in Vauxhall is one of a growing number of floatation spas in the UK. It is owned by two ex-city workers who themselves enjoyed the benefits of floatation so much that when the opportunity arose last year they decided to open their own salon. I was invited by the team at Floatworks to try a 1 hour float session last week. Totally unsure what to expect I curiously accepted and went along last week to check it out.
I arrived to a warm welcome and the calming smells of aromatherapy oils. I was given a run through of what to expect from the session from the manager and then was shown to a private room which contained a shower and a floatation pod. I don’t know what I expected from the pod but basically it is a large white rounded tank with psychedelic lighting inside and a lid that pulls down over it. It was full of warm whirring water that is heated to body temperature and contains vast quantities of epsom salts to make you float (525kg per pod to be exact!) As instructed, I got undressed, showered, put Vaseline over a few blisters I had on my feet (to stop them stinging in the water) and put in earplugs which were provided by Floatworks. I then climbed into the tank to start my session.
I have to be honest that as I climbed into the tank I did feel a bit daft – the very concept of lying in warm water for an hour floating as being any form of therapy felt a bit bizarre. I didn’t immediately feel the buoyancy either, however I quick realised that I couldn’t push my bum down to sit on the bottom of the tank so the salts were definitely taking effect! I lay back, with my hands up by my head and once I got used to the feeling of laying there, I pulled the lid down and dimmed the light.
At first I found myself lying in the pod feeling really restless. My mind was struggling to switch off and I began to slightly dread how slow the next hour would go. I also initially felt a little bit dizzy and disorientated and had to play around with the lights and the way I lay for a few minutes. However I soon felt my limbs and neck relax as I started to trust that the salts would support them and I got used to the feeling of floating.
I then decided to try some of the mindfulness techniques I had been told by the manager – the main one being to slow my breathing and to really focus on my breath. I don’t know what or when it happened but clearly a switch flicked in my head when I started doing this and my mind was able to tune out. All I remember was that suddenly before I knew it, the calming music came back on meaning I only had ten minutes of my session remaining. At first I questioned whether I had actually fallen asleep but I am pretty sure that I didn’t! Either way, clearly the pod did have a very calming effect on my mind and body.
After I finished my session I showered, got dressed and was invited to use the “Hollywood room” to dry my hair and then to enjoy a herbal tea in the relaxation room.
A few people have since asked me how I felt being enclosed in the darkness of the pod. This was something I was a bit hesitant about as sometimes I do get claustrophobic in small spaces. When I first saw the pod from the outside, I was pretty sure I would need to keep the lid open. However when lying in it it felt very spacious and airy so I had absolutely no problem pulling the lid closed. Although I will admit that I did test it a few times before I got in to make sure when you closed it it did just push open again and didn’t catch!
So am I a converted floater? Well I can honestly say that I came into the session feeling a bit frazzled from a busy weekend and I left feeling totally zoned and relaxed. As well as the mental benefits I also felt physically that my shoulders, which are normally quite tense from too many hours at a desk, were less hunched – like I had just had a good massage or yoga class. Therefore I can definitely see the appeal if you are struggling to relax/ have a very stressful day to day life or if physically you are carrying a lot of tension/ doing a lot of exercise and want to help your body to recover.
However for me personally at this moment in my life, I don’t have a problem switching off or feel particularly tense. I think I get enough zen from doing yoga or having a long bath and would perhaps prefer to spend my money on a massage rather than a float to physically ease any aches and pains. However it’s definitely useful to know about for the future (perhaps to ease my muscles next year when Marathon training ramps up!) and I definitely have some friends who I think might really benefit from it.
The good news is that if you would like to try a float for yourself, the lovely people at Floatworks have offered SSS readers 15% off using the promo code SPRINGSAUNASWIM (not this is not valid on intro offer, sales, or memberships). I would love to know how any readers get on if they do go along to try it for themselves.
CLEANLINESS: 5/5 The salon and pods themselves felt spotless
COST: 4/5 A single float is £50 which is pretty pricey however there are lots of intro offers and promotions available on their website.
IN THREE WORDS: TRANQUIL, CALM, MINDFUL