Float Like a Butterfly (Part 2)

Thanks for returning for Part 2. I’m excited to explain how using a sensory deprivation tank ultimately became a viable alternative to spending $10k for a backyard pool. I don’t recall how I was first introduced to sensory deprivation tanks, but I wanted to see if floating in a dark tank could mimic that peaceful feeling I could only achieve floating in a pool. 

Let me explain how a float tank works:


The person enters a tank filled with 8-12” of water.  The water contains a high concentration of Epsom salt, which makes the water denser and more effortless to float in.  (The very same that you pour into your foot bath for swollen feet.  Epsom salt is purported to help relieve stress and ease aches and pains.) The water temperature mimics your skin temperature of 93 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature makes it difficult to distinguish which of your body parts are touching the water. The Epsom salt and the tepid temperature combine to make you feel like you’re floating on air.  Your muscles and nerves become relaxed, reducing blood pressure and increasing circulation.


Image courtesy of Float Carolina

I recall I was taking a trip to NYC to visit my bestie Marty who lives in the East Village.  I had found a spa that had a floatation tank and wanted to make an appointment to try it out there.  Marty was willing to go with me but wanted no part of it.  Since my sole purpose in going to NYC was to visit her, I certainly didn’t want to waste two hours of our time together if she didn’t participate in it with me.  (Typically, you can’t float in a sensory deprivation tank with two people, so it wasn’t a great sacrifice.)


A couple of years later, I happened to Google locations near me, hoping that float tanks had caught on and the more upscale spas discovered the benefit of offering this sort of New Age therapy to their repertoire. I found a couple of locations in Boston, but I didn’t want to travel out there to try it.  I was shocked to discover that there was a small business about a mile away from my house.  I simply couldn’t believe my luck.  I booked an hour appointment and could not wait to try it myself.


Floatation therapy is gaining immense popularity now, but when I first tried it, I’d say it was a niche market in the spa world.  This spa that I was visiting was relatively small.  Most of their holistic services ranged from massage therapy, energy clearing, meditation, breath/prayer work, salt therapy, and an infrared sauna. I don’t even know what half of this stuff means…


When I arrived at my appointment, I could tell this place was kooky. A large paper flip chart was on an easel at the entrance.  I saw some abstract faces drawn on the page that wasn’t good.  I checked in for my appointment and asked about the artwork. I was told there was an experienced employee drawing guardian angels based on the client’s energy or some such nonsense.


Image courtesy of tw1tterpicasso

I was brought into the back of the spa and entered a very small room with a concrete floor, a make-shift shower, and (Finally!) the much sought-after float tank. On the side of the tank were large bags of Epsom salt and what appeared to be a couple of jugs of unknown chemicals. The room containing the float tank wasn’t painted with calming colors, nor was soothing music being played. The room more reminded me of the owner saying, “Oh shit, I spent a ton of money on a float tank, and I don’t know where to put it.  Oh, this room will do nicely.”  


I was instructed to shower and carefully entered the tank in the same skin suit I was born in -  yes, folks, I was butt naked.  (This wasn’t a surprise to me because I had done my research before the appointment.)  I was left alone to take my shower and carefully entered the tank.  Once I was situated, the person came back and gently shut the tank cover, leaving me in total darkness.


Darkness was my friend as I settled, tried to relax, and let the salty water elevate me.  But the problem was my ass kept sinking down, touching the bottom of the tank, which was not supposed to happen. I compensated by using my buttock muscles to do a sort of hybrid pool float to keep my ass from dropping.  It was distracting, and I blamed myself for being so fat that the salted water couldn’t support my weight.  I can hear the kids now: You’re Mama so fat that she sunk when she went into the ocean.


The remainder of the hour was spent trying to relax while working hard to keep me buoyant and just maybe have an out-of-body experience. I would say halfway through the float, all I wanted to do was get out.  I wasn’t claustrophobic but became agitated because this experience disappointed me.  It was like meeting your favorite celebrity and discovering they weren't as lovely as you imagined. Justin Bieber, I'm looking at you!


I was asked how the session went and explained about the ass sinking being very distracting.  Perhaps more Epsom salt needed to be added to the tank for heavier people such as myself?  The owner could sense my dissatisfaction and disappointment, so I wasn’t charged for the session.  She asked me to return and try it again.  At least there was that. 


The second time I went into the tank, I was told that additional salt had been added to help with the ass sinking I had experienced during my first float session.  Sadly it didn’t make much of a difference, although knowing what to expect the second time around helped me relax more, and I found myself not having that ants-in-my-pants feeling halfway through the float.


I left and decided never to return to this spa when it was over.


Here is where I caution you that what I’m about to tell you could be triggering if you’re a germ freak.  I apologize in advance, but knowing these details will make you appreciate the rest of my story.


I was at my hair salon, and somehow I was telling my stylist about my bad experience with the hippy-dippy holistic spa down the street. Unbeknownst to me, the owner had reached out to her asking if they could barter services.  She wanted a cut/color and offered a float session in return.  While I thought this was incredibly weird, my stylist told me it wasn’t uncommon for two business owners to trade services. 


Here is where it gets gross.  The next time I was at the salon getting my hair done, my hair stylist told me that she had heard from one of her clients that the spa wasn’t precisely diligent about sanitizing the tank.  The owner did not sanitize the tank after every use because ‘it was too much work.’  


EXCUSE ME?   


I floated in that petri-dish two times…NAKED as the day I was propelled from my mother’s womb.  It’s OK. You are more than welcome to throw up in your mouth now.   How are you doing? Are you good? Take some deep breaths and be grateful that you weren’t ‘floating’ in a soup of God knows what funk.


Think about it.  All I wanted to do was float in a pool on a Summer’s day to relax.  I wanted to shut my eyes, effortlessly float and listen to the secret sounds of the water reverberate in my ears. I discovered floatation in a sensory deprivation tank and expected it to be the happy compromise in place of buying a pool for our backyard that I would only get to use in the summer months.  Sadly, my two sessions certainly didn’t meet my expectations, and I was grateful that their lack of sanitation didn’t result in unsavory creeping crud in the mucous membranes of my exposed genitals. 

 

Sorry, did you throw up again? It’s perfectly understandable, and remember, I did warn you.


If you’ve been with me so far, I trust you can stick around for Part 3. I know you can do it.  The conclusion of how I learned to Float like a Butterfly is well worth the wait.


SPOILER ALERT!  This time my ample Lizzo ass didn’t sink.


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