I’m all for trying unique experiences and when I first heard about floatation therapy and float tanks, I had to try it out! I had seen something similar in a hotel lobby in Las Vegas a while back, it was a kind of water bed in a pod which moved in a way that massaged you. This is a little different though, a float tank is like a giant bath filled with a saline/epsom salt salution which allows you to float in just a few inches of water, similar to the dead sea!
Floatation Therapy – What is it?
Floatation Therapy is said to have lots of wellness and health benefits, from relieving stress, depression and anxiety to helping with joints and muscles, thanks to the weightless feeling that the tank creates.
I was the perfect candidate for float therapy when I first arrived at Float and Fly in Dubuque! Typically I had got stuck in traffic for the first time ever because of an accident and was already panicking that I wouldn’t get there in time for my appointment! I’m sure you know the feeling, constant clock watching, couldn’t sit still, biting nails, chewing on your lip, minor road rage at other people trying to push in front of you and make you even later!
I literally ran through the door and up to the counter, I think the poor lady on the front desk was a little worried about me!
My First Time Float Experience
After calming down (ever so slightly), I was sent into a cozy waiting room where I was given a glass of water and had to fill out a waiver form. I’ve filled out many waiver forms for all the crazy sports I’ve done, but the one for float therapy is important to read through as there are several ‘rules’ (you have access to the waiver and information before arriving) such as:
- Avoid caffeine and large meals 2 hours before floating
- Avoid shaving 12 hours before floating
- Do not wear perfume before floating
The staff will double check and ask you to confirm some of the points.
I was told to take my shoes off, leave them by the door and change into a pair of their flip flops (minus the toe bar) rubber shower slippers…I probably should have done this before running up to the desk in my ‘I’m late’ panic (I’m never late for anything), because they were right as you enter the building! I would recommend going for the largest pair. I have average sized feet but found the medium size that I chose, a little too small!
I was then taken through to my float pod room and was given a run through of how it all works.
Before floating, I was instructed to take a shower while the pod was filling up automatically. Everything was provided for the experience, including towels etc. I was told to use the shampoo and the body wash…making sure I had washed off any deodorant…but NOT to use the conditioner until AFTER the float.
This had me worrying a little bit, as I know how my hair usually reacts to salt sea water. When I was at the Blue Lagoon in Iceland, I caked my hair in the conditioner before entering the lagoon, so I had a slippery head during the experience but I avoided the common dry hair problem due to the silica and sulphur in the water!
I was also advised to take a warm shower…not hot/regular shower temperature. This is because the water in the floatation tank is body/skin temperature. If you have a hot shower and then get in the tank, the water will feel colder rather than comfortable!
I had no idea what I was supposed to wear during my float. I just wore a bikini and made sure I rinsed it off in the shower before I got in.
The last few optional steps included putting in ear plugs…you don’t have to do it but considering your ears will be underwater for an hour, it is recommended, plus the salt water may dry inside them and make them a little crispy when you get out!
If you have any cuts, I was provided with a small sachet of gel which creates an invisible skin over cuts and scrapes. If you didn’t know you had a cut before you get in, I’m pretty sure the salt water will let you know about it!!
During The Float
As mentioned above, the float tank cycle is done automatically, so you don’t have to worry about a thing. The staff press a button, the tank fills up by itself, starts the programme and then even empties itself at the end.
I got in a little before the water finished filling up.
Now something that a lot of people worry about, is that big ole lid and that they might get claustrophobic during the experience…
YOU DO NOT HAVE TO CLOSE THE LID
You can leave the lid fully open, you can shut it half way, you can shut it the whole way. I decided to shut it completely. I could sit up in the tank with the lid closed and because it’s dome shaped and white, when the tank lights are on, it actually feels quite roomy.
The lights in the main room work on a sensor, so if the lid is open and you move around/sit up, the chances are the room lights may be triggered and will turn on. However with the lid closed, it’s only when you open the lid that the lights come back on.
You won’t float while sitting up, it’s only once you lay down that you’ll float. You have the choice to use a foam ring to help keep your head afloat. I found it more relaxing to use the ring/pillow even though my head would have stayed floating without it.
The sensation is SO WEIRD! I could star fish, cross my ankles, put my hands behind my head, rest them on my tummy, however I laid, I could still float perfectly! For me, I found the most comfortable position was to cross my ankles and have my hands behind my head.
I’m 5ft 4 and I could have my arms stretched out to the sides of me and not feel the sides of the tank, I could also stretch out completely above my head and not be touching the ‘top’ or the ‘bottom’ with my hands or feet touching the walls at the same time.
The programme starts by playing relaxing music and colour changing lights, I’d have been quite happy if this lasted for the whole 60 minutes, but after a little while it faded out, becoming completely dark and silent.
Float pods are also known as a sensory deprivation tanks with floatation therapy being called floatation R.E.S.T (Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy). Once the sound and lights have got you into a relaxed state, it’s then easier to fall into a meditative state. I found it similar to the Savasana at the end of a yoga practise, which ironically is said to be one of the hardest yoga poses as it’s meant to get your brain to switch off from all thoughts.
I actually found it OK and managed to switch off, but I can see how some people could struggle and get bored laying in darkness for almost an hour. I got into such a relaxed state, that when a pipe made a gurgling noise I jumped 10ft in the air and splashed salt water in my eyes…and man does it BURN!!
(The tank fills up to the blue lights)
When you’re getting set up, I was advised to lay the clean ‘eye emergency’ wash cloth over the lit up emergency help button so I could find the towel in the dark. Just outside the tank was a spray bottle of clean water that can be used to wet the cloth to help get rid of the salt!
I didn’t always lay dead still while in the tank, I actually found it quite relaxing to gently bounce myself off the walls!
As you get near the end of the programme, the lights fade back in and the relaxing music starts up again. The tank will then speak to you and tell you that you have reached the end. It’ll give you a minute or 2 and then it starts to empty itself.
After The Float
You then have a little bit of time to shower again, drown your hair in conditioner, use the special ear cleaner, face wipes and all that. They do ask to not take forever in the shower, as for hygiene reasons the surface of the tank needs to be manually cleaned before the next guest arrives. As for the water, that gets filtered 4 TIMES before being used for the next person (it’s no different to going in a swimming pool if you think about it).
Although you are expected to leave the room with the floatation tank, at Float and Fly Wellness Studio, they have a peaceful area where you are welcome to hang out for as long as you want. There’s a day bed where you are free to journal (there’s a notebook/guestbook that you are free to share your thoughts in) and there’s an area with hair products, hair dryers, spray deodorant, that you can use too, so you don’t leave looking like a drowned rat. I was also offered a cup of tea!
When you leave, you chuck your used slippers in the ‘dirty’ basket on the way out and are then good to go!
My Conclusion of Float Therapy
I was impressed with my floatation therapy session. Considering how worked up I was when I arrived…much more than I usually would have been…the change in how I was feeling at the end was amazing. They say that 60 minutes of float therapy is the equivalent of 5 hours of sleep, and from my experience I could well believe this! I was in a state of zen by the time I left!
I possibly would recommend being familiar with yoga/meditation before floating. Even now Savasanas can be a bit hit and miss, sometimes I lay there and have a million things going through my head, but I know I CAN switch off when, ironically, I really put my mind to it.
If you’re like me and you’re laying in bed and can’t sleep, the first thing I do is roll over and flick through my phone…which is of course, a terrible thing to do, but floating in water, you don’t have that option, your phone is switched off or on silent and anyway, you are in a pod full of water. The sensory deprivation helps with this too, even if you are looking around, you can’t see anything, it’s total darkness, you can’t hear anything as your ears are underwater, so there’s nothing to distract you!
Visiting Float & Fly Wellness Studio in Dubuque, Iowa
My float experience was at the Float & Fly Wellness Studio in Dubuque, Iowa. They are located in the Downtown district but further out from the ‘Main Street’ area.
1344 Locust Street, Dubuque, IA 52001
There isn’t a private car park, only on street metred parking. The metres are the ‘longer’ ones in Dubuque at $0.25 for 30 minutes…I put in for 1hr 30 and it was flashing red by the time I got back to my car (usually this alone would send me into an anxious panic but I was so relaxed I didn’t even care)!
Price wise, floatation therapy is on a par with the cost of a massage. Float and Fly now offer floats for 30 ($49), 60 ($79) or 90 ($99) minutes. If you keep an eye on their facebook page, they sometimes offer discounts. I made use of their slightly cheaper ‘rainy day float’ offer. I’d missed this offer a couple of times before I managed to ‘catch’ it one day!
Float and Fly also offer various massages, saunas and even aerial yoga!
Would you like to give floatation therapy a go?