May 28, 2015

Float Culture

Earlier this week I was invited to experience a Float session at Float Culture in Grafton.  I was absolutely intrigued by these fluid filled tanks that looked like a modern and much bigger version of Mork's egg.  The whole concept was unlike anything I'd ever heard of before and I was really keen to give it a go.  I shared a couple of snaps of my visit on Instagram and a lot of you had questions about my experience so here is a review of my visit to Float Culture.

First up - What is it?  Floating involves lying suspended in 30cm of super concentrated Epsom salt water inside a Float Tank.  The high density saline fluid (which the assistant told me contains twice the amount of salt as the Dead Sea) takes your weight when you lay down and you simply and effortlessly "float" within the surface of the water.  I assumed it was going to have a jelly like feel to it but it felt as smooth and fluid as normal water.

Floating is beneficial for a whole range of physical aliments including arthritis, headaches, back & neck pain and sore muscles, as well as mental well being including stress.  I was suitably stressed upon my arrival at Float Culture after getting wet walking to school, battling the horrific Auckland traffic, nearly getting hit by a van not checking their blind spot and my GPS taking me the longest way possible to Water Street so I was more than ready to switch off and de-stress.

There are a few procedures which the assistant will run through with you on your first visit.  I've added a few tips from my own experience that you might find helpful.  On arrival at Float Culture you are required to remove all make up, shower and wash (but not condition) your hair.

TIP NUMBER 1 - If you have an appointment in the morning don't bother too much with your make up or hair as it will all be getting washed before you enter the Float TankFloat Culture provide you with some very effective make up wipes to assist with this.

If you have any small cuts you are given a small sachet of Vaseline to cover them so they don't sting in the Epsom salt water.

TIP NUMBER 2 - This could be me personally but I wouldn't recommend shaving the day of your Float.  I know my legs sting if I go in the ocean the same day I shave my legs.  Given that the Float Tank fluid has a significantly greater salt content that the ocean it can only mean an exponential increase in the stinging of freshly shaved legs.  But like I say, that might just be me.

Finally, you need to pop in some ear plugs so the salt water doesn't crystalize in your ears and you're ready to Float.  (See tip number 4!)

The assistant had already talked me through a how-to guide on Floating and how the Float Tank worked.  I wasn't sure how I would feel closing the lid down.  She had mentioned that some people who feel claustrophobic leave the lid open so I felt comfortable knowing that was an option if I couldn't handle the lid being closed (although an open lid does not provide you with the full Floating experience).

There are two buttons inside the Float Tank - a light on the left and an emergency button on the right.  There is also a small spray bottle of water should you get the Epsom salt solution in your eyes - seriously they have thought of everything!

The Epsom salt water is around a foot deep and the moment you sit down your legs begin to rise to the surface.  I pressed the emergency button once as instructed which is the signal to the assistant to start my session.  All of the lights are turned off in the room except for the one inside the Float Tank and gentle music is piped in to the tank.  I was feeling pretty comfortable so I reached up and closed the lid (you can fully sit up in the Float Tank with the lid closed) and lay back.  Your bottom instantly raises to the surface and you're suddenly but gently Floating.  I can only imagine it's what an astronaut must feel like - such a weightless, free movement.

I lay there for a while with my eyes closed listening to the soft music.  So far so good.  After 10 minutes the music fades away and I wondering what I should do now.  Turn the light off?  Why not?  It's all in the name of research.  Light off, lay back down and... no, no, no - I don't like it!  I got a bit too confident too soon!  But where is the damn button to turn the light back on???  I open the lid of the pod which is also no help as the room is pitch black too.  At least with the lid open my panic subsides and I calmly feel around for the button.  Lights back on.  Crisis over.

TIP NUMBER 3 - Finding the light button - put your hand up in the air and feel for the left lid strut.  Follow it down to the water line and feel forward about 10cm and there is the light button!

I decided I'd be quite happy to lay there with the light on inside the tank for the rest of my session (lid closed again) and I lay back and got comfortable.  There is no right way to lay in the Float Tank.  The assistant told me that a lot of people like to lay with their arms by their sides.  I preferred my arms above head.  It seemed to take the pressure off my neck.  Totally relaxing your body is actually really hard.  It made me understand what all of the Yoga teachers have been talking about over the years about having an awareness of different parts of your body.  It's incredible how tense you can be holding yourself and not even know it.

After another 10 minutes I was beginning to relax and the light on inside the Float Tank was actually starting to annoy me so (after I had sussed out a plan of how to find the light switch again in the dark) I switched it off again.  This time it was a totally different feeling.  I was really comfortable and I couldn't tell the difference between me and the water.

I actually took along a swimsuit with me as I wasn't sure what Floating etiquette was.  I asked the assistant during the debrief if I should wear them and as with all aspects of the experience I was advised to do what felt right for me but generally no, it is recommended you go in naked for full participation in the experience.  I did just that and I can now fully appreciate why.  When used correctly the Float Tanks provide you with total sensory deprivation - no sound, absolutely pitch black, no tactile sensations, body temperate water etc.  Wearing swimwear would only create a sensory awareness and detract from the full experience.

Before I knew it I had actually fallen asleep and music was gently being piped back in again to let me know my session had ended.  What a turn around for someone who had a mild panic attack only 30 minutes earlier!  Time for another shower and hair wash (with conditioner this time).

TIP NUMBER 4 - Any salt not washed off will dry white and powdery!  Pay particular interest to washing your ears!

Everything including face, body and hand lotions plus a hair dryer are all provided in your room.  Float Culture have thought of it all!  The facility is also spotlessly clean!  In the weekends you can also book a 45 minutes massage straight after your Float which sounds pretty heavenly!

I spent about half of my session easing in to the experience and finding out what I felt comfortable with.  If I were to visit again I'd know what I was doing and I'd be straight in to it.  I think it would be particularly beneficial for pregnant women to ease their lower back pain!  I came out of my session feeling quite light headed and my back, which is normally an area of tension for me, was lovely and loose for the rest of the day.  Thank you very much Float Culture for the unique experience.  It was unlike anything I've ever done before and I would absolutely recommend giving it a go.

Float Culture have kindly given us a 90 minute floatation session to giveaway to one lucky reader.  All you need to do is head over to the Little Housewife Facebook page, find the Float Culture post and tag a friend who you think would be interested in visiting Float Culture.  Giveaway closes on Wednesday 3 June at 8.00pm and the winner will be announced on our Facebook page.

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