It’s a simple idea: you submerge yourself in a pod full of salty water; your body floats effortlessly on the surface of the water – and you experience the (slightly strange) feeling of weightlessness. The only hard part is getting your mind to silence, so you can truly relax.
The solution in the floatation tank creates an environment similar to that of the Dead Sea, and floating is supposed to have all sorts of benefits such as pain relief, alleviation of stress, reduced blood pressure and improved sleep.
How it works
Enter Floatworks London Bridge and you’ll be asked to complete a consent form that basically tells you that you’ll be entering the floatation tank at your own risk – what a way to put the frighteners on a weary first-timer!
When your appointment time comes around, you’ll be lead you to a somewhat dull treatment room, in which you will find a floatation tank and a shower cubicle. Shampoo and conditioner are provided, as well as slippers, a towel (£1 charge), a neck pillow (for use when floating), a small sachet of lubricant (for use before entering the tank, to cover over any skin abrasions so as to minimise any irritation on contact with the salty water), ear plugs (to prevent the water entering your inner ear) and a spray bottle of water (in the event that you get the salty water in your eyes or mouth).
The receptionist will give you five minutes – to get undressed (it’s a lockable, private room so there’s no need for prudence), take a quick shower and enter the tank – before he or she dims the lights. Soothing music plays at the beginning and end of the treatment, to signal the start and finish.
Inside the floatation tank
After you’re in the treatment room and the music goes off, you’re left to your own devices. I entered the tank and tried to figure out how I should position myself. At first I sat up and felt the floor of the tank, to get a feel for how deep it was – it wasn’t deep, and the water was lukewarm rather than hot. Then I attempted to lie down on my front, but remembered that the water wasn’t supposed to go near the eyes, so backtracked to lie back in the water. My body immediately bobbed to the surface – a very strange feeling! The weight of my head did make my neck feel quite strained, but the neck pillow helped to alleviate this pain. Then came the dilemma of where to put my arms – by my sides or behind my head – I preferred them behind my head.
To add to the fun, I remembered that I could close the lid of the tank, and I could even turn off the light inside it. Although I am quite claustrophobic, I tested the lid. Enclosed in the tank, the treatment felt cosier, and there was no longer a breeze from the treatment room, so I felt warmer and a little more comfortable with the top half of my body bobbing out the water. With the tank closed and the light off too, I was in complete darkness and it felt a little scary, so I fumbled for the switch and turned the light back on. It did get a little too hot for my liking with the lid on – and my fear of being stuck inside led me to open the hatch again. My heart stopped for a millisecond as nothing happened immediately after I’d pressed the button to open the lid, but then there was a whirring sound and the lid slowly lifted off. Phew!
Half way through the treatment
After all that initial excitement, I felt a little bored, and wished there was a clock in the room to tell me how long was left of the treatment. But then I remembered that I was in this place to relax – and so came the battle to switch off my thoughts and internal chatter. I feel like it took me half the session to achieve this. Focusing on my breathing – in, out, in out – helped to clear my mind. By the end of the treatment I felt like I had actually drifted in and out of consciousness for a while. I was a bit cold for a duration of the treatment (probably because I had the lid of the tank open for the majority of the time I was inside it), but also because the water is kept at a lukewarm, rather than hot temperature. This is to ensure that the air and temperature are balanced so that while floating, the feeling of water beneath the body fades and your brain is tricked into thinking you are suspended in the air. Clever!
When the music sounded, signaling the end of the treatment, bits of my body had salt crystals stuck to them, my hair felt gooey and my fingers a little prune-like. A few of the grazes on my skin, and my eczema had stung relentlessly throughout the treatment, so I was glad to get out of the tank. It was then that I understood why they advised visitors not to shave prior to the treatment. I was relieved to take a shower, although my long hair required two rounds of shampoo and conditioner before it felt clean.
Overall, I did feel refreshed after the treatment… it’s a bit like taking a long bath, I suppose! I don’t know if I’d do it again, but then again, it could be that the magic happens the more you visit…