When I arrive at Float House Victoria in Chinatown, I’m pleasantly surprised that it isn’t one of those patchouli-scented hippie dens, which Victoria has so many of. Nope, this place is positively chic — polished concrete floors, a ten-foot high tropical plant wall, a cozy window seat and cushy beanbag chairs.
It’s a Friday night and yet the place is bustling with folks of all ages and descriptions who have come to experience “floating” — which is basically exactly what it sounds like: lying in a tank of water enriched by 1,200 pounds of Epsom salts.
Floating has boomed in popularity in recent years, with researchers finding that something special seems to happen in the brain when the body floats. One researcher has found floating has a similar affect as lorazepam, or Ativan, shutting off the amygdala, where the fight-or-flight response originates.
I’m all over the idea of shutting off the annoying parts of my brain for a while, so I’ve come to try floating for myself.
An attendant leads me to one of the facilities’ five float rooms, complete with heated floors and a private shower. There she fills me in on the process: take a shower, get in the tank, chill out for 80 minutes. I can get out at any time, I can choose to leave the tank light on or off and when my time is up, music will come on. Sounds simple enough.
Soon I’m floating in a tank of lukewarm water so salty that my body can relax completely. My neck, chronically strained from spending waaay too much time on a computer, is blissed out. I was a bit worried about feeling claustrophobic, but the roof of the tank is far enough away that it’s not a concern at all.
I hit a button on the side of the tank and descend into total darkness. As monkey mind takes hold I start to worry this is going to be a verrry long 80 minutes.
I take solace in a recent article I read in Time Magazine, which notes that floating seems to create a short-cut to a meditative state, as well as improving blood pressure, mood, pain, muscle tension and stress-related hormones.
Aside from feeling a bit cold (the water is only heated to skin temperature, so I should have taken a lukewarm shower, rather than a hot one beforehand), I’m super comfortable and before I know it the music comes back on. Aha! Take that, monkey mind.
After one experience, I can see why some people really love floating. In 2011, there were 85 float centers in the United States and now there are more than 250, according to a source quoted in the Time Magazine piece.
Erik Zaremba opened Float House Victoria 18 months ago, following in the footsteps of his cousins, who opened Float House Vancouver in Gastown in May 2013 (there are now four locations and more on the way).
Aside from the five float rooms, Float House Victoria also has a massage room so you can easily pair a massage and floating (a combination I can only imagine would be next-level relaxing).
The regular price for a single float is $75 ($50 for students), but until Dec. 6th, you can purchase two floats for $89. There is also a membership option for $59 a month, which gets you one float and extra floats for $39.
Better yet, visit The Vic Life’s Facebook page to find out how to win one of three free floats.