Stressed out? Having trouble sleeping? Need to jump start your creativity? If so, perhaps you need to try FLOATING. Say WHAT, you say? I said the same thing until my husband surprised me with a Valentine's Day float session.
He set the evening up by telling me to clear my schedule on the Wednesday before Valentine's between 8:00- 10:00 p.m. He also told me not to go to hot yoga before like I normally do each afternoon. I was convinced this was a detail to throw me off so I wouldn't guess that we were doing a wine tasting or dinner. What else could it be, right? Just be ready at 8:00. I had no idea what was in store for me until we approached a building with Float Milwaukee displayed on the exterior.
Upon seeing this sign, panic set in. I had heard about floating. I knew it involved a pod, water, and sensory deprivation. Being a person who suffers from claustrophobia in places like the middle seat in an airplane and the dentist's chair, you can understand why I was worried at the thought of being immersed in water with no light or sound.
Yet, this was a sweet, unique and fun date gesture, so I didn't want to back out and ruin the whole night by being a big wimp. I decided to buck up and give this floating a try.
With a few moments to spare, I checked out the lobby pamphlet to see what I was in for. It suggested no caffeine, alcohol, or heavy meals prior to the float. This explained my husband's "let's just eat a light meal before we go out" suggestion earlier that evening. Later, he would tell me he had heard hot yoga was not a good thing to do before floating, which answered my other question.
The FAQ's in the pamphlet covered my basic concerns:
"What if I'm claustrophic?" The pamphlet explained that being in the pod was more like floating in outer space than being shut in a box. Since I had recently watched and liked The Martian, the idea of outer space had just the reassuring trippy sentiment I needed.
Next, "How do you clean the tanks?" Note that this was a good question to me, a former lifeguard, who has seen it all when it comes to disgusting water issues. I like my water clean, thank you very much. No worries, as the water is fully filtered at least 3 times between each float and is passed through a micron filter. That sounded good to me.
I was beginning to feel a little better about what was about to happen, but I still had one burning question. I'm sure you're wondering too.
"Can I drown if I fall asleep in the tank?" (Right?) Not at all. Yes, you heard it, I saw it in writing that I would not drown. At all.
Knowing I'd at the very least survive, I was ready to give floating a try. I went to my float room, my husband went to his. No kinky business in the pod world - floating is a one-person per pod deal. The guide had told us to shower prior to entering the pod (the shower is right there in the room next to the pod) and then wait for the voice that would tell us when the session was to start.
A Star Trek-like woman's voice let me know it was showtime with her explicit direction, "You may now enter the pod." As I stepped in, the water definitely felt like its 93.5 degrees, a temperature which they call "skin receptor neutral." In other words, I wasn't really supposed to be able to tell I was in water. While at first I felt I'd like the water to be a bit warmer, I soon forgot this, and didn't think about the temperature at all, therefore proving they nailed it with this temp.
For my one hour floating experience, I had a few options- I could keep the pod lights on or off. I could listen to music or be in complete silence. I could keep the pod open, or close it. Finally, I could choose to wear or not wear ear plugs.
These freedoms made me feel a little less helpless with the whole idea of sensory deprivation. I began with the lid of the pod wide open. Soon, I found I was a bit chilly this way, and decided to tackle my claustrophobia and close the lid. Much to my surprise, it was fine. I felt perfectly relaxed and not a bit claustrophobic. I thought I'd soon drift off into the same coma state that I reach in yoga class when on the mat waiting for class to start. Nope. I stayed awake the entire experience, or at least "sort of awake." I believe I did enter the state that the brochure describes as between waking and sleeping. (How do I know this? Maybe because what I do remember about the experience is that I went on some sort of a "tour" of my fourth grade house- details of every single nook and cranny of the house came to mind during my session. Most trippy.)
After all was said and done, I exited the tank and felt extremely relaxed, and slept like a baby that night.
The only negative from the experience was an ear full of water and salt, caused by not putting the earplugs in. (This step was optional per the guide, but both my husband and I advise... WEAR THE EARPLUGS!)
Would I recommend this to others? Yes, definitely. This world is crazy, and we need all the chances we can to calm our minds and reconnect to our innervoice, sharpen creativity, and generally just escape for an hour. If you have the opportunity to float... go for it!