Floating: The ripple effect…

(Story previously published in Canstar weeklies)

DSC_0138In order to seek the benefits of floating in salt water, North Americans used to travel halfway around the globe. The Dead Sea, also known as Salt Sea, is a hypersaline lake bordering Israel and Jordan. With 33.7% salinity, it’s one of the saltiest bodies of waters on the planet, and provides natural buoyancy. It’s a popular tourist destination, and was the world’s first health resort.

Personally, I hadn’t given much thought to the idea of floating in salt water until visiting Nordik Spa-Nature in Chelsea, Quebec. There, you can descend underground to Källa – a large salt water pool dug five meters into rock. It provides the extraordinary experience of weightlessness, and is only the second pool of its kind (the other is in Switzerland).

DSC_0107It has long been believed that floating in concentrated saline is healthy. Physical benefits touted include improving blood circulation, reducing inflammation, removing toxins, increasing immune function, even accelerating the healing of wounds.

On the mental side, it is supposed to reduce stress and anxiety, release tension, and provide optimum conditions for visualization and meditation. For athletes who want to maximize fitness training, it is said that floating helps eliminate lactic acid, and accelerates the regeneration of muscle tissue. With such a multitude of possible benefits, it’s no surprise there has been a surge in the practice.

DSC_0137Here in Winnipeg, FLOAT.Calm has five floatation tanks (referred to as ‘pods’), each in a private room, and each containing 26 centimeters of water saturated with Epsom salt. Climb in your pod, close the door, lie back, and feel yourself instantly rise up to the surface.

It’s completely lightproof and soundproof, evoking sensory deprivation. And because the water and air are heated to the same temperature as the body, it doesn’t feel like you’re floating in water. Or anything, really. It’s a bizarre sensation, and what I’d imagine floating in space would be like. Completely weightless. Connected to nothing. Pitch black.

Sessions are 90 minutes, and the intro pack offers three floats. I recommend you try it at least three times, because each float feels totally different. In the first session I had to get used to being alone in the dark, hearing nothing but my own breathing and heartbeat for an hour and a half. I definitely felt anxiety. But after a while, after just focusing on my breathing, I began to get comfortable. Once I was able to let go, it became deeply relaxing.

DSC_0120The second session, I had no anxiety at all. So I began to experiment with my space inside the pod – stretching my body out fully to see if I could touch a wall. I tried moving around gently, making the water ripple and noticing the effects, and being aware of my limbs. I tried visualizations, affirmations, meditations, even singing. Every motion, movement and sound was highly magnified. It was kind of awesome.

DSC_0132By the third session, I must have found my calm. I welcomed the dark and silence, enjoyed the hypnotic rhythm of my heartbeat, and let my mind drift. I must have fallen asleep, too, because at one point, I was abruptly brought to the present by the sound of someone snoring. It took a moment to realize that it must have been me.

Now that’s what you call floating away.


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