About a year ago – maybe less – is the first time that I was introduced to floating. Or, float therapy – as some call it. It’s a specialty wellness experience offered at Cloud 9 in Jamaica Plain (about 10 min south of the downtown Boston). Floating (also known as sensory deprivation therapy) is where you immerse yourself into a 200-gallon pod that’s filled with about 800-1,000 pounds (!!) of salt, on average. The high salt content allows you to float – forces you really. The pod itself is soundproof and while some have soothing lights inside, it’s encouraged for you to turn the lights off and just…well, float. The point of floating is to relax and let your mind be still. It’s like a super intense form of meditation, and the health benefits are endless. But for someone like me that struggles to turn my brain off – it quite frankly sounded like a nightmare.
Since day one, the crew at Cloud 9 has been encouraging me to try floating. They said people love it, and I’ve seen (and heard) that they do, but honestly, I just didn’t really get it. It just didn’t appeal to me, personally. So, what? You just literally float for an hour? In silence!?? How it that fun and/or relaxing? Those were my initial thoughts. I wasn’t there for that. Instead, I wanted to sweat! It’s where I go weekly for my infrared sauna sessions. For those, I get to sit back, relax and listen to a good podcast while I sweat out the day’s toxins. Ahh, heaven.
But over the past couple of months, as I recently talked about in my last post, I’ve been exploring a lot more of myself and experiencing different types of self-care, so when Angie, the owner of Cloud 9, asked me yet again if I wanted to try floating – this time I said, you know what? Ok.
Honestly – I was a little nervous. I didn’t know what to expect. But Alex (Angie’s son – who also works at Cloud 9) assured me that I was going to be fine. Feeling a bit more confident, I booked my float.
TIME TO FLOAT
One thing that I was told not to do was to shave before a float. Whoops! Forgot. Ouch! What an uncomfortable mistake THAT was…but more about that later. Shortly before my appointment, I packed my bag – shampoo, conditioner (although they do provide some at the spa in case you need/forget), contact solution, lens case (they say you should remove your contacts – salt in the eyes is painful!), loofa and water. I’m ready!
The first thing Alex had me do when I arrived was to remove my shoes and replace them with these squishy sandals. Then, he had me sit down in front of a TV to watch a short 5-minute video on floating and what to expect. Whew. Good – because I was about to ask 1,894 questions! The video was cute and little corny, but it definitely put my mind at ease knowing what to expect once I was in the pod. I paid particular attention to the “what to do if you can’t seem to relax” part. (Pro tip: count!)
Once the video was over, Alex took me into my room. And there it was! The infamous pod. It’s actually really cool – it looked like some sort of futuristic time machine or something. He then showed me how it worked – how to close the lid when I was ready, what buttons to push while inside to turn off the light, etc.
Step #1 – shower. Make sure that you’re clean that there isn’t any residue of any makeup, oils, etc. I actually didn’t wear any makeup on purpose so that I wouldn’t have to worry too much about that.
After showering, I was ready to enter the pod. Because each room at Cloud 9 is private, you don’t have to wear a bathing suit or anything, you can just get right in. So, I literally stepped out of the shower and into the pod. The water was warm – but not too warm. In fact, it’s kept at body temperature (around 98ish degrees) – this is another way that it deprives your senses. I remember reading about how people sometimes can’t tell if they’re in the water or not after a while because the temp is the same, so I wasn’t sure how that all worked – but…here we go!
I carefully closed the lid to the pod and laid down on my back – I was floating! …and it was pitch black. And silent. I immediately freaked out. I carefully felt around for the sides of the pod. WTF – what am I DOING!? Shoot, I need a second. I sat up and reached for the lid. I cracked it open and light from the room came streaming in. Whew. OK. I’m alright. It’s going to be OK. I’m not really one to get claustrophobic – or at least I didn’t think so, but something about that first :30 seconds really freaked me out.
After I knew that I could easily get out if I needed to, I carefully closed the lid once more and laid back down in the salt-soaked water. The sensation was weird. The water didn’t feel like typical water. It sort of felt a bit heavier – sort of jelly-like. It didn’t take long for me to totally understand how people can forget that they’re in water. I was testing myself a bit at first. Slowly moving my legs and arms to feel the difference between being in the water and out. Also, because I had just shaved – my legs burneddd! It didn’t take long for my skin to acclimate to the salt, but ouch! It was a slow burn there at the start.
I played around for what felt like 10-15 minutes – at least. I tried every move in the book to get comfortable – mummy-style, arms out to the sides – like I was flying, close to my body – like I was dead – you name it, I tried it. I ended up linking my fingers together and putting my hands behind my head. For some reason, my head felt really heavy. It just seemed heavier than usual, so this position was comfortable for me. They say you shouldn’t move very much while in the pod – this is so you don’t splash and get salt in your eyes, mouth, etc – but also because you’re supposed to be relaxed!
Me? I was bored. So freakin’ bored. I remembered what the video said – try to count to 300. Ok. Here we go…1…2…3…wait, what the heck! I couldn’t hear anything besides my own heart beat which, wasn’t syncing with my counting so it was really messing me up. When you only have one or two things to concentrate on you start obsessing a little. Or, at least I did. So, I started counting again – this time to the beat of my heart. 1…thump. 2…thump…3…thump. Made it to about 120 and I was bored again.
I thought about my job – what I had to do this week, things I wanted to finish by the end of the day. I even started writing a press release in my head! I quickly switched gears – relax, Courtney… I started thinking about my boyfriend. Wonder what he’s doing right now. Probably getting ready for work – wonder if it’ll be busy. Seriously!? RELAX. Shoot. Ok…think of something relaxing…ahhh vacation. It’s happening. Two weeks from now I’ll be in Miami…wonder if we’ll get good weather. Hope the resort is nice. Can’t wait to wake up to the sunrise over the water. O.M.G. – why can I not stop thinking!?! Ok – time to count again. FOCUS, COURTNEY.
1…thump…2…thump…I yawned. Seriously I could go for a nap right now….3…thump….(a few minutes later)…215…thump.
And then – BAM. The soft light comes on inside my pod indicating that my float time is up and I jump a little – I’m startled. Wait. What the!! Did I just fall asleep!?! Holy crap! What just happened? Where am I? I had fallen asleep inside of my pod. Something that I was pretty confident wouldn’t happen. Because, well…it just doesn’t usually. I’m not a napper. I always wish that I was. In fact, I’m jealous of those that are. I always envy those people on planes that just pass out immediately. Like, how?!
Anyway! It was time to get out, so I slowly started moving – stretching really. Felt like I needed to move a little before just hopping out of the pod. They encouraged this in the video too – assume it’s a common thing for you to get a little stiff, especially if you’re in total relaxation mode, which apparently, I had been in! So, I stretched a bit before standing up to open the pod lid.
Wow! It’s bright. I felt like a baby bird emerging from its shell for the first time. Hi, world! Time to shower off all this salt. Turned the water on HOT and got in. I took my time showering. I was really relaxed and didn’t feel like moving too fast. Plus, I felt like I owed it to myself to savor the experience from start to finish. It felt good.
While I was heading home, I started to reflect on my experience. It was…weird. I can’t really put my finger on how to describe it other than – unique. Definitely one-of-a-kind. Would I do it again? Yes. Will I do it again – yeah, probably. Will I switch from sweating in my sauna to floating in a pod? Mmm, no. As much as I enjoyed turning off my senses for an hour and letting whatever happen…happen, I’d much rather sweat, while enjoying a true crime podcast –allowing my mind to wander, as it pleases. Or not!
So, all in all, I’d say – if you have any interest in floating, go ahead and give it a try! Even if you don’t think it’ll be for you. It may surprise. It certainly did me!
I was gifted a float experience courtesy of Cloud 9 in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.