By Robin Wojtanik
Journalism usually requires the reporter to stay out of the story, but sometimes you can’t explain a new experience without experiencing it yourself. That’s why I packed a swimsuit for the first time on an assignment. I wanted to climb into the float pod to offer a firsthand perspective from someone who had never floated before. It’s a personal decision whether you float in the buff or in a swimsuit, or in this case, what you might call a floatsuit.
At Kennewick’s Float Euphoria (read our story about Float Euphoria here), operated by married couple Ryan Wright and Bethany MacLean, each suite contains a robe, shower, ear plugs and detailed instructions on how to prep for the experience.
A caution sign reserves the right to issue a hefty fine for those who do not follow posted instructions, resulting in the need for a pod to undergo extensive cleaning outside of its normal filtration. But the instructions are not difficult to follow, as the goal is to strip your body of any chemicals or products before you climb into the salty water.
Visitors are required to shower and remove all make-up, lotion, hair products and deodorant. It’s not recommended you shave the day of a float, or the salty water may sting the skin. Two styles of ear plugs are provided, along with petroleum jelly to rub on any minor cuts or scrapes.
Once I was prepped, it was time to step in. It’s a unique experience to raise the large lid of this space age-looking capsule and climb into the silky, smooth water.
Soft, neon lighting illuminated the pod, gradually changing colors from purple to green to yellow. There’s a little basket positioned on the inside wall with a spray bottle of fresh water and a washcloth to use, if needed. Otherwise there are just two buttons: a green button to turn the lights on or off, and a red button if you panic or experience an emergency while inside.
The lid cannot lock and easily pulls down and reopens with the assistance of a hydraulic strut. Visitors are free to leave the door open or closed during their personal float experience, but don’t expect full sensory deprivation with the lid open. The pod is roomy enough to sit up in without hitting your head on the top. End to end, the space is more than six feet so visitors aren’t likely to touch either wall while floating flat in the water.
I closed the lid and chose to initially leave on the lights. MacLean told me other visitors had described the muted lights as feeling “like you’re in a rainbow.” Soft, relaxing music played and I felt comfortable enough to turn the lights off after a few minutes.
It was quite effortless to relax and feel simply enveloped by the warm water and weightless sensation. My float was programmed to shut the music off after ten minutes, and then turn it back on during the final five minutes to rouse me back to reality. Visitors have the option of playing music during their entire float or not using music at all. The current audio choices include three soundtracks, with the plan to add more.
As I floated peacefully, I tried to remain conscious of relaxing my neck. I had read ahead of time that this is the biggest adjustment for your body in the water. It’s a natural tendency to support your head with your neck since you do this all day long, normally. But in the pod, the water easily supports your head for you and the buoyancy won’t allow your face to fully submerge. A foam halo is provided for those who want extra assistance in releasing their neck muscles. It wasn’t difficult to quickly relax in my warm, silent and pitch-black surroundings. Wright explained the pod encourages theta waves in the brain, which are the first stage of sleep. While I did not fall asleep during my float, many people do.
Floating feels quite different than soaking in a bathtub or hot tub. The water is cooler, yet you’re not cold. You can stretch out completely, yet only part of your body is immersed. It wasn’t long before I noticed I had shut off the thoughts that swirl in my head, from a looming deadline, to a sink full of dishes, to the shrinking percentage of space on my DVR.
My heightened state of relaxation switched off like a light when I made a rookie mistake: I itched my nose. I quickly learned why the spray bottle of fresh water was posted inside the pod. Instead of remaining zen and ignoring the itch, I dripped water into my eyes, which quickly made me aware of just what 35 percent salinity feels like on your pupils. (Hint: fire.)
As I grappled in the dark for the water bottle and tried to furiously spray it into my eyes, I somehow managed to drip water into my mouth. It’s not a pleasant taste and much worse than typical salt water. I managed to eventually ease back into a prone position and found the sensory deprivation quickly returned me to a state of calm and relaxation, and a newfound respect for letting itches lie.
When the float time is up, visitors must shower again to rinse off the salty water. I noticed a sense of lightness as I exited the spa, a lingering sense of weightlessness that had me relaxed, and even a touch drowsy for the remainder of the afternoon. I would consider going back as a form of relaxation and would recommend a float to someone looking for a unique gift or a way to pamper themselves.