WHAT: Sensory Deprivation Floating
Floating, or in more scientific terms, “Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy” or REST, is basically you floating in body-temp water loaded with thousand pounds of epsom salts. You may or may not have heard of it on the internet and in pop culture (I mean, John Lennon has done it, J Law has tried it too, there was an episode of The Simpsons where Homer and Lisa tried floating...and of course, Eleven from Stranger Things). It may sound intimidating after this definition but proceed through this review with an open mind and heart – floating restricts or reduces some of your senses so basically it’s one big “tune-out.” There’s no sense of sight (as it’s pitch black in there), sense of hearing, and sense of touch, as the water is lukewarm and you cannot sink in this environment. People have used Floating for many things like muscle tension relief for athletes, and even therapy for anxiety and addiction. For me, it was mainly one thing – relaxing.
Like many of us in this hyperspeed Age of the Internet, I suffer time to time from social media fatigue – 25 notifications when you wake up? Please leave me alone. *sob* That said, it’s hard to flat-out tune out, however much I plan for it. Most of our jobs require us to be updated on current events and news so I can’t arrive on monday morning meetings without a news bit. I may take a ~mental health day~ home every now and then, but as all of us may know, with switching off comes a bit of guilt and professional FOMO – what am I missing out on out there in the world wide web?!?! What if I wake up tomorrow and I suddenly have 75 articles due the same day because I wasn’t present to say no?! To me, Floating seemed like something that could address this. PLUS, I always always have horrible sleep, thanks to weird, vivid dreams nightly. While I was a bit scared my mind would wild out inside the pod, I was equally excited to see if it would help me get a good night’s sleep.
As somebody who gets to try the coolest and also the weirdest innovations in beauty and wellness (um, coffee colonic for example!) for a living, I would say I’m pretty adventurous when it comes to new treatments. So I went into this experience very open minded and with managed expectations. I wasn’t even scared, honestly, despite plenty of my colleagues and friends responding all afraid when I tell them about another strange new thing I was about to review. But, psh! I wasn’t about to be scared out of the experience. First of all, let’s talk about the float pod itself. It looks pretty friendly, nothing like Eleven’s isolation tank; zero demogorgons, we, um, checked. It looks like a white clamshell with soft lights inside that change color, very Aurora Borealis. It reminded me of those adult-wombs in The Matrix, except if it were less intense and if it were set in the world of the movie Her. It can also be something you could live your Ariel-in-a-clamshell fantasies in, if that gives you an idea. All in all, it’s a pretty welcoming pod.
Jeng, one of the owners (they are a husband and wife duo who founded Float Manila), oriented me before I even went in. Three things to remember before a float: silicone earplugs in your ear before you shower (they provide these!) so you can test it before you dunk, a water-only shower (any toiletries may contain oils that may contaminate the water) before you float, and apply a bit of vaseline on your sensitive spots like scratches or bites before getting into the pod. And also, make sure your face is dry before going in – we all know how wet spots just tend to... spread! Also an important thing to note: they recommend floating in the nude and they recommend to float without stimulation by any substance (like caffeine, or a sleeping pill, or whatnot). It’s great to have your first float be a really pure experience.
So I enter, and the first things I notice are #1, it definitely is more spacious inside than you would expect. I can sit comfortably inside, and being petite, I can float comfortably as well. #2 I would say that sense of smell is restricted as well as it’s very neutral odor-wise. So once I’m inside, I pull the hatch closed, and it shuts gently and slowly so there aren’t any feelings of being trapped. I lie down slowly, stretching my legs out first, then reclining my back, and then my head. Jeng and Ben also provide this thing called a “halo,” basically a small, round, flat donut-looking floating device to use as a pillow in the water. I know, strange, but apparently a lot of first-time floaters tend to tense their necks since their body isn’t used to this density of water and your brain signals your body to stay afloat. Thankfully, when I lie down, I remember Jeng’s advice to loosen up the neck and don’t find the need for the halo. Once my neck relaxed, the water rises, at most, to mid-cheek. The silicone putty earplugs work extremely well keeping water out, so there are no issues with the ears. There is also some soft music that accompanies the gentle lighting to ease you into the experience for about 20-30 minutes, but once it fades, the darkness and silence sinks in – up to you how to receive this stillness.
A lot of people are afraid of silence. Mostly, it’s described as awkward. For me, the stillness of the pod is pretty neutral, like you can really do anything with it. And yet, I won’t lie. Once I get settled in, after a bit of paddling around and trying to keep my body from rotating (yes I’m small and yes the pod is that big!!), I get this “what now?” feeling. Honestly, I over-thunk and overestimated how my mind would react – if there’s one thing I feared it was that my mind would play my super-vivid dreams during the float. But it was pretty calm. The craziest thing I thought of in there was what I was going to accomplish next on my to-do list when I get out of the pod....wild, huh? Pretty soon, I try to practice my “ujjayi” breathing, aka the long, deep, controlled breaths you learn to integrate into your poses in yoga. I thought I had a pretty strong breathing practice until I hear it in focus, and it sounds pretty ragged! I also start to hear my own heartbeat, which is why they don’t recommend you have caffeine on your float day – you don’t want to hear palpitations. Another great thing a pod is useful for actually, is to enhance your meditation practice if you have one. As focusing on your breathing is a big thing in meditation, this really directs one’s attention to the breath. Eventually, I feel myself dozing off, at least into that half-awake state. I think, this must be what it feels like to be in your mind. It’s just you and... well, you. Or, this must be what it feels like to be in the womb. Shoutout to my mom - #throwback! At least once, my body jerks itself awake like those embarrassing jolts you get when you’re sleeping where you’re not supposed to (lol!), and this is where I feel a bit scared, a bit panicky about the darkness. But it only lasts a couple of seconds. Pretty soon, I’m asleep. And before I even know it, the gentle music comes back on... and I reach for the huge rubber button to turn the Northern Lights on. Just like that, I’ve made it through my first float.
I would most definitely recommend my friends to try it. If you’re stressed out, anxious, or just need to tune out, this is a perfect chance for you. It’s 1 and a half hours of “resetting” or just being inside your own mind. The most common fears about floating in a pod are mostly us overthinking it. I mean, on a scale of 1 to hell no, I would say I’m about an 8 when it comes to claustrophobia – as in, I would choose cliff jumping over hiking through a crack in the mountain. But being in the pod was actually comforting, especially because the water is warm. The non-feeling and technically zero gravity helped me realize and release unrecognized tensions in my body like this stiffness in my right calf I never knew I had; maybe it’s a reflex from driving so long every day? I also realized why it’s not sucha good idea to float in a bikini – you’re acutely aware of your breathing and your body in there. I have never been so aware of an itch on my foot. So if you’re wearing something, the wet swimsuit sensation might drive you crazy, and not in a good way. Overall, the experience was very relaxing. I appreciated the “after” a lot, especially that cold shower you take immediately post-float. It sort of wakes you up and brings you back into reality. Physically, you get this happy, drowsy feeling, like you’ve just had a good swim or massage (except you don’t have to go home all slick and oily). If I lived near, I would float at least once a month.
SOME IMPORTANT Q’s:
What if my hair is colored?
They don’t recommend you to float when you’re freshly dyed because you might stain the water and pod! But like me, I did it a day or two before my next retouch so that I’m sure all possible dye leaks are gone. Also, as for the effect, it didn’t turn my hair brassy or anything. It did give me good volume, though!
What does it do to your skin?
Apparently, everyone raves about that post-float glow, which I did appreciate. I just felt very rested and renewed, and that’s always a good look for everybody. Salts also subtly exfoliate you but I do recommend bringing a scrub or loofah so you can wash well after. I did develop a lowkey itch on my cheeks some 24 hours after, but maybe that’s because I have overly sensitive skin. You may use the vaseline they provide for sensitive spots in this area to provide a barrier against the chemicals in the water.
Float before or after a workout?
Like I mentioned, a float feels like a good massage and it’s scientifically proven to relieve muscle tension – so definitely, after.
When is it best to float?
Depends on your preference, but there are times you shouldn’t go for it like:
- When you’re sick (you should wait out your cold or flu)- Recently dyed your hair
- Large open wounds or sores – obviously, salty water is painful-
- Tattooed recently – wait for it to fully heal
- On your period – you may not feel up to it, or use the same precautions as if you were swimming in a public pool (if you’re using a tampon or what not)
Want more info? Watch the video below and check out Belle's experience.