Earlier this year I booked "a float" with the lovely Vivian of Hydro-ease.
The idea is that you take an hour (or more) to float in a warm bath of Epsom salts. The water is kept at an even body temperature, and because of the high salt content you really do float. The feeling is incredibly relaxing, and wonderfully indulgent.
Before I took the plunge, Vivian enthusiastically explained the whole system to me, and outlined some of the benefits of the weightless sensation, and the deep relaxation that results. She explained that the experience is almost womb-like, and to get as close to that experience as possible, it is quite acceptable to wear nothing! I laughed, and showed her the new swimsuit I'd bought online!
There are two float units at Hydro-ease. The one I used was lit with a gentle pink light. The private changing area has a light controlled by a movement sensor, so it goes out once you start floating. Inside the float tank you have the option of either relaxing in the soft low light inside, or you can opt to float in complete darkness.
After stepping into the tank, you close the doors to keep the heat in. Inside there is a light switch, an emergency button which will call Vivian, and also a fresh water sprayer in case you get the salt water in your eyes.
I lay back in complete darkness.
The first few seconds felt a bit weird. There I was finally floating - in the dark - with just myself for company, and the full knowledge that I'd be here - alone like this - for another hour.
So I stretched my arms out to feel for the sides of the tank. I found if I lay star-fish-like in the middle of the tank that I was small enough to not touch the edges, but also that I could float a little to one side and use my finger tips to bounce my floating body gently back and forth. I did this for a while enjoying the gentle watery sounds and sensations.
Soon my mind started to wander. I found that although my thoughts touched on many ideas, I was becoming too relaxed to dwell on any one thought for long. I'd touch on a thought, or a concern, in my head, but then feel content enough to just leave it there.
I experimented with a few more floating positions - pencil shaped with my arms by my sides - curled up in a foetal position - tall with my arms above my head . . . but in the end I just relaxed into a neutrally comfortable sun-bathing type of position and let my mind empty.
Time drifts, and when I paused once to wonder how long I'd been floating for, I realised I had absolutely no idea, and also that it didn't matter.
Eventually a gentle sound alerted me to the fact my time was up. I suspect by then I'd actually fallen asleep, or if not asleep was certainly in a deeply relaxed state.
I took a few deep breaths and allowed myself to wake slowly. Vivian had told me that there was a generous time for coming round, and I was glad of that.
Vivian also recognises that after such an experience, that we don't just want to dash straight back out into the real world - so after showering and dressing I spent some time relaxing with a cup of herbal tea in her snug resting room. Ahhhhhh......
Afterwards I chatted to Vivian about her work and realised that Hydro-ease is very new venture, being just a year old. Hydro-ease is also the first, and to date only, floatation centre in Northern Ireland and on top of the floating, Vivian also offers counselling and other therapies.
So was my session worth the cost?
I have to say YES! A resounding YES in fact, because I left with a totally refreshed and re-rejuvenated feeling. Sadly however it did not change my symptoms of ME, and as a therapy it would only suit those well enough to travel, shower and change at the venue. (I would not have been well enough to try this last year.) Yet as part of a holistic approach to wellness and self-care, I would still highly recommend it.
I really must get myself over there for another session soon.
And for those who were wondering about whether I went for the full womb-like foetal experience? Well, let's just say I didn't take the tags off my new swimsuit! xx
Edit April 2017: I have now been back for several more floats and have even booked a series of further floats over the coming months. I now float for 90 minutes each session instead of only 60, and this added time seems to give me a more long-lasting benefit. I also find that in the days coming up to each float, I am increasingly looking forward to the experience. So, well worth trying, if you are considering it at all.
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Note: I am in no way linked to Hydro-ease and have received no payment or benefit of any kind for writing this post.