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Making The Most of 60 Minutes Of Float Therapy

Alright Friend, imagine this, it’s ten o’clock on a random Tuesday. Both of my kiddos are at camp and on a whim I’ve made myself an appointment for a float therapy session at the Bala Float Spa in Landisville. I first read about Float Therapy, or Sensory Deprivation Tanks in this NYT article a few years ago. My interest was piqued but I couldn’t get 100% comfortable with the pod structure. Somehow I envisioned getting naked and floating in a claustrophobic pitch black coffin and well, none of that is for me. Fast forward to now, and an ad I saw for Bala, their sensory deprivation tanks are open, not closed, and in private, open rooms equipped with a private shower and changing area attached. This felt like my chance to circle back to whatever it was in that article that had me curious about float therapy. (if you know me, you know I make it a habit to follow my own curiosity and sense of wonder whenever possible)

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I’m not sure what I expected, I admit I was lured in by the excuse to shut out the rest of the world for a whole hour, and also by the nerdy, futuristic, correlations I make to float therapy and space camp, but my actual float experience, was much less nerdy (well, except in my head where I remain, always an imaginative and “adorkable” nerd irregardless of the setting) and way more zen. When I first walked through the doors, I was greeted warmly and walked back to my private area. Inside my room there were three sections, all of which would be closed off from the rest of the spa once I locked the door. The first section was the changing area with a bench for my belongings, a mirror, ointment to put on any open cuts (salt burns y’all) and earplugs to keep my ear canals dry and happy.

After my host showed me around and explained everything, she excused herself and the space was my own. I undressed, and showered off, and then opened the door to the float spa. Once inside, I was able to choose the lighting I wanted, music or silence, floating pillow or no floating pillow. And then…it was just me and the make-believe sea…and NOTHING else.

At first..I admit, it was the slightest bit awkward. I couldn’t seem to relax my neck right and I was all tensed up and bobbing slowly from side to side like a ping pong ball in slow motion. I kept thinking about how I was SUPPOSED to respond to this experience in order to get the most out of it. I did this thing I do where I chastise myself for doing it wrong, even though I don’t know if there’s really a right way to do this thing to begin with. I kept thinking about how zen I was supposed to be, how relaxed, how present and mindful and malleable, and all of that just made me tense up more. I didn’t know how to hold my arms, I didn’t know how to really rest into the buoyancy. I was doing it wrong and the bath wasn’t the only thing that was salty about it. Then, a couple minutes in. I quieted my inner critic, stopped worrying about what i was supposed to do, think, and feel, and instead, became present inside of what I actually felt inclined to do think or feel. So if you’re searching for a blog post about what to do to get the most out of your first float experience, bookmark this for later, because all I have to offer you is the list of what I did during MY first float experience…which I hope gives you incentive to try it out if your curious, and permission to do it YOUR own way too!

Ten Ideas on what to do until you settle in to the experience:

  1. pretend that you are a mermaid

  2. Imagine you are floating in space

  3. Slow your breathing to same rate as your heartbeat or the light changes, or a sound in the room

  4. Run your hands over your now silky smooth parts under water, and thank them for the ways they move you through your world. Your legs for carrying you to far off places and then home again, your arms for carrying your children, your groceries, your briefcase, your harsh criticism. Thank your hips for all of the times they’ve moved you across dancefloors, your shoulders for the times they slumped just enough for a friend to notice you needed some encouragement…

  5. Recite Lady of the Lake in your head and feel the satisfaction of Kindred Spirit, Anne Shirley.

  6. Bend all of the parts of you that bend, and be mindful of the sensation of stretching out long and lean once again.

  7. Pray

  8. Try your arms in every position you can think of until you find the most thrilling one, for me, it was over my head, palms up and elbows slightly bent.

  9. Make water angels

  10. Become a zen jellyfish, (this was my favorite), float gently to the end of the pool, down by your feet and then accordian up super slowly, then push off so gently with your toes  y thrusts upward ever so slowly, then when you reach the top of the tank, gently push-off and Slowly swoosh your arms from your sides to up over your head while simultaneously bringing your knees up and out to the side so your body

After cycling through all of these things in the first 15-20 minutes, I was able to really settle in to the experience and find the zen I was looking for. The water temperature is meant to be the same as your body temperature, and I found that this gave me a feeling of everything and nothingness at the same time. I’m sure reading that doesn’t make sense, but Friend, I lost track of where my body stopped and the water began, I lost track of the time ticking outside of my oasis, I lost track of what I was supposed to be thinking, feeling or doing. I lost track of my to do list and brilliant ideas (although I had a couple float in there with me) and I lost track of things that weigh me down. I was weightless, suspended and floating and eventually, I found tranquility and rest in that space.

I’m told many people fall asleep, and I can totally see why. I’ve had people ask me if I was afraid of drowning, or had to work to stay afloat, but you’re floating in only ten inches of water, so it’s nearly impossible to drown. The buoyancy is aided by the vast amount of epsom salt which has been credited with the added benefit of detoxifying and adding magnesium to the body, aiding in pain relief, anxiety, depression and more. There’s plenty of science to back up the claims of float therapy, and this nerdy girl loves reading it, but as a blogger and not a scientist, I can only really tell you my own meandering the world experience. For me, this float was an hour well spent that I will definitely be doing again. I felt a sense of peace and calm that stayed with me through the next couple of days. The places where I had been a little sore, weren’t sore anymore (not chronic pain, just weirdly sleeping position pain), and best of all, I got to spend some time in a tub with no one pounding on the other side of the door, I got to be my own naked, vulnerable, awkward self..and then…to just….be.

If you are local, and you’d like to try Bala Float Center, I HIGHLY recommend you create your own kind of magical float experience! If you mention this blog post specifically when you book, our friends at Bala are offering all Wild & Precious floaters a 60 minute float at the half price rate of $39.50. Let me know what you think!

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