It’s taken me quite a while to write up this review – I had to really process the experience, and figure out what I wanted to say about it. I’ve been to F.LO.A.T St. Louis and used their isolation tanks twice, and while that doesn’t make me an expert, I do have enough information to pass along to a newbie floater.
What’s an Isolation Tank?
An isolation tank (formerly called a sensory deprivation tank) is a “lightless, soundproof tank inside which subjects float in salt water at skin temperature”.
They are meant to convey a host of benefits, both from the experience itself and from exposure to and absorption of the magnesium in the Epsom salts used in the tanks. I cannot speak to long-term benefits, as I’ve only been twice.
I’ll have a couple of tips and tricks to pass on at the end of the review, but for now follow me on my trip!
F.LO.A.T is located at 3027 Locust St., (near The Fountain on Locust, for those who prefer landmark-style directions).
Upon walking into the space you’re immediately aware that you’ve entered a completely different kind of atmosphere. It’s quiet, warm and the air is salty and humid. Calming music plays, everyone speaks in hushed tones, and there is very little light.
You’re supposed to take your shoes off upon entering, and I hadn’t read those instructions closely enough, so I was reminded by the man at the counter and started off my first visit feeling rather oafish and uncivilized. Oops.
You will be offered water (don’t take the water) and a chance to rest and relax on their very low couches while you fill out some paperwork, and sign a waiver. Other floaters (three people float at a time, in separate spaces) will begin to arrive, and you will chat with them about whose first time it is, and what everyone’s expectations are.
The previous batch of floaters will begin to emerge from their rooms, some talkative, some not. Staff will sanitize the rooms/pods, and then you will be offered a chance to use the restroom (USE THE RESTROOM) and then escorted to your space. If it’s your first float, the basics will be explained to you. You need to shower, rinse off any grooming product on your body or in your hair, cover any open wounds with Vaseline (you won’t taint the water, but it will burn.) and then install the provided ear plugs. You float naked. Floating with any sort of clothing on is not recommended, as it would distract from the experience.
You will be floating either in a pod:
Or a room:
This photo is shockingly bad, I know, but I was taking flash pictures in the dark, and had no idea what I was getting. This does give you an idea of how the rooms look inside, mostly like a very large shower/tub combo.
I’ve floated one time in each, and I prefer the pod by a large margin. The rooms were designed (I think) to alleviate the concerns of those who don’t like enclosed spaces. However, once you’re in there with the lights off, you won’t be able to tell that you’re in a room with a taller ceiling anyway. It’s black in there, pitch black. You can’t even tell if your eyes are open or closed, once the lights are out. So the taller ceiling is really just a psychological comfort.
The pod has a fairly tall ceiling anyway, it’s not coffin-height or anything, and it’s also larger side to side than the rooms, so I found it to be much more… comforting, I think, to be completely enclosed. It was also warmer in the pod. The water is at body temperature, so you’re not supposed to be able to tell where your body ends and the water begins, and that’s true – unless you move. If you move (in the room) some of the water on your body will evaporate, and as most of the heat will have risen to the ceiling, you will feel a chill. I had to stay very still in order to stay warm. In the pod this was not a problem, as the heat stays closer to you.
When you’re ready, you get into the water, close the door (in the room) or the lid (in the pod) and then (again only when you’re ready) you turn off the lights. At any time during the float you can turn the lights on and exit the pod/room. That’s entirely within your control. Do you see the dials in the pod above? You can even leave the colored lights on while you float, if you really want to.
Here’s a short video (remember it’s really dark in there) to convey the size of the pod and the size of the room.
Getting into the pod is easier than getting into the closet/tub/room thing. If you look at the picture of the room exterior above, you can see that there’s a fairly well-sized wall that you need to step over to get into the tub. I am 5’4″ and I am notably unsteady on my feet, so that was a challenge for me. There are grab bars inside, which is great, but there’s also a wooden bath mat on a wet tile floor on the outside, and you have to balance on that while you climb in. Keep in mind that you’re wet (cuz you showered) and you’re naked and doing this in extremely low-light conditions. It was challenging for me, and produced some fall anxiety, not going to lie.
Getting into the pod is a much easier process. You can sit on the edge, swing your legs over and then settle yourself into the water. I didn’t feel at all nervous or as if I might fall, either getting in or getting out. The floor has some texture, and the pod itself is very sturdy for gripping
You will also be offered some cut up pool noodles, and you can use them to lift or support various parts of your body. I used one behind my neck (to keep my head elevated so salt didn’t get in my eyes) and one under my knee. You can play around with them to see what’s most comfortable for you.
Speaking of salt in your eyes – that’s no fun. You’re supposed to make sure your face is entirely dry before you get into the pod/room, so you don’t wipe your eyes with a salty hand. If you do happen to get salt in your eyes, there is a spray bottle of fresh water, and you bring a hand towel in with you.
Once you’re in there floating, that’s all you have to do. Float. You will float, the water is very buoyant. You may bump into the sides at first, if you have a big bootie, it might graze the bottom sometimes, but mostly you’re just floating.
The first time I went I was so worried about relaxing correctly that I ended up not relaxing much at all. After my first visit I was actually extremely agitated for about 24-36 hours. Everyone experiences floats differently, they say, and if you’re high strung it may take you time to get the hang of it. My second go-round I knew that all I had to do was lay there, there were no expectations, and then I got really blissed out and relaxed. That was a lot more fun. I also think I just felt more comfortable in the pod.
When you float you really can see nothing, hear nothing. It’s wonderful. The water feels good, your back relaxes, your legs stop existing. There’s a disconnection from self that can be very appealing, if you’re stressed. At one time during each of my floats I stopped knowing my back existed at all. That was a very strange feeling, as if the whole back side of me disappeared.
You will not have any idea of time, and if you’re uptight, this will bother you. Try not to let it. You have as long as you have. When your 90 minutes is up, they will raise the lights, so you don’t have to worry about knowing the time.
When you get out you shower, you can wash your hair with the products provided, and then you get dressed. You’re asked to exit the room within 15 minutes of your float so that they can sanitize the pod/room for the next floater. You drift into the holding area, sit for awhile to come back to yourself/the real world, then head out into the day.
In the day or so following the float you’re supposed to drink lots of water. My skin did not feel dry, but I did have a very salty taste in my mouth for a day, day and a half. As I said above, after the first float I was very agitated, but after the second one I was extremely relaxed, and that feeling lasted a day or two.
Tips and Tricks
- If you have long hair, tie it up. I wore a very tight bun both times. I have long curly hair that’s very dry, and though they said the salt wouldn’t hurt it, I knew 15 minutes would not be enough time to wash and condition and brush it out, so I just did that at home.
- The day of the float, do NOT drink caffeine. You don’t want your thoughts to be racing, or your insides to be active. Which brings me to…
- DON’T DRINK ANYTHING for a few hours beforehand. Pee right before you go into your room. 90 minutes floating in warm water activates the holy hell out of my bladder, and by the end of each of my floats I was bursting to get out.
- If possible, schedule your float in the evening, or on a day when you have nothing to do directly afterward. You don’t want to float and then go to a meeting. You want to float and then wander around looking at flowers, or whatever your equivalent of that may be.
- Wear comfortable clothing, things you can slip in and out of. It sucks to put tight clothes on a damp body. Especially when a minute ago you were floating all blissfully naked, then you’re hopping up and down on wet tile, trying to get back into your jeggings.
- Don’t expect anything of the experience, or yourself. Just go to see what it’s like, and whatever it’s like for you, that’s what it’s like for you. No wrong way to do it. You may relax, you may become more focused, you may see colors, you may see nothing, but whatever happens, happens. You really can’t do it wrong.
I will be back to float again, but since it’s not exactly cheap ($60/90 minutes, still cheaper than a massage) I think it’s something I will save for the winter months when I am in the grips of seasonal affective disorder and need to feel warm and comforted.
I think that’s about it for my recap and review. If there’s anything I didn’t cover, be sure to ask in the comments, most people I spoke to about it had quite a few questions.
You can reach F.LO.A.T at (314) 833-3444 or at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit their website at http://www.floatingstl.com/.
Their hours are:
Monday 9:00am – 11:00am
Tuesday – Sunday 9:00am – 9:00pm
Thanks for reading, and if you go float, let me know how it goes!