First Time Floating in Montreal
I felt like I was slowly spinning and tumbling through space, but I knew that I wasn’t actually moving. I had lost track of where my hands and feet were. Was I high? Nope. I was floating.
I read about Captain and Clark’s experience with a sensory deprivation tank in Seattle and I knew I had to try it out for myself. We don’t have any in St. John’s but I was going to be in Montreal soon and wouldn’t you know it, Spa Ovarium offered flotation baths for about the same price as a massage. Done!
But what is it?
Also called an isolation tank or float tank, it’s essentially a really big enclosed tub with a hatch filled with less than two feet of a salt water solution. You float face up, naked in the skin temperature water, for at least an hour. It’s one of the most relaxing things I’ve ever done.
Spa Ovarium keeps their solution at a 1:1 ratio of epsom salts to water so you’re crazy buoyant. Soaking in an epsom salt bath can have a lot of health benefits on top of being hella relaxing. Increased magnesium levels. Easing muscle pain. Reducing stress. Preventing and easing migraine headaches. Yep, all benefits.
The first thing that most people said to me when I told them that I was going to check out an isolation tank was “that sounds terrifying.” Now, if someone had put me immediately into a tiny dark tank and closed the hatch on me I would’ve been out of there faster than you could say ‘seat sale’. But I had complete control over my experience, start to finish.
A spa staff member gave me an overview of the experience and pointed out the various buttons for light and music. Then I was left alone in the private room to undress and shower before climbing into the float tank. The lights were all on and soothing, meditative music was playing. Nothing panic inducing here.
As I got in, I was immediately struck by how incredibly buoyant the water was. Yes, I know that was the entire point, but I didn’t realize how much effort it would actually take to keep my legs down while I was just sitting. So don’t worry about sinking – you couldn’t if you tried.
Word of warning: if you have any cuts or scratches anywhere, you’re going to have a bad time. I’d been playing with my cat a few days before my trip and I had a few scratches on one hand. Never thought about it and wow, that stung like a mofo. Oddly enough, those scratches seemed to heal faster afterwards.
Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream
After a minute or two of getting used to the novelty of effortless floating, I turned off the main room lights, leaving just the little blue light at the foot of the tank. Ok…this was more relaxing. Then a few minutes later I killed the music.
I floated along like that for who knows how long (it’s really hard to judge time) before I decided to go all in and turn off the blue light and close the lid. It was a weird sensation. My ears were filled with salt water (next time, use earplugs) so there was no ambient noise. My eyes were open but I couldn’t see anything. The water was skin temperature so I even eventually lost track of where I ended and water began. It was very peculiar, but the opposite of anxiety-inducing.
Left alone with just my thoughts and no distractions I tried to clear my mind. It was like the best yoga savasana times ten. Muscles relaxed that I hadn’t realized I’d been tensing. Longstanding pain in my shoulders ebbed. My breathing slowed. My mind drifted.
It felt like my body had gone to sleep but my mind stayed awake. I later learned this is because after about 40 minutes of relaxed floating your brainwaves can switch from alpha or beta to theta, which usually happens right before you fall asleep and when you immediately wake up. A lot of people will use this extended theta state to enhance their creativity or problem solving.
While I didn’t solve any of the world’s problems or come up with amazing business ideas, I did relax. Fully and completely. I left feeling more loose and rejuvenated than any time I’ve had a massage. It was like yoga, massage, and the best night’s sleep all rolled into one 90 minute session.
I’m already scoping out where to get my next float fix.
Would you ever try out a float tank?
- Who: Spa Ovarium
- Where: 400, Beaubien Est, Montreal (QC), Canada H2S 1S3
- Cost: Single float – $70, Three floats – $179
- Included: bath robes, towels, soap, shampoo, conditioner, earplugs and hair dryers
- Not Provided: comb/brush
- Note: Do not float with freshly coloured hair as the colour will leech out