While I was in Melbourne for the Melbourne Hat Ultimate Frisbee tournament, I visited Gravity Float centre situated in the suburb of Northcote, which is a short 20 min bicycle ride from the city. I was very excited to finally float again after about 10 months. Also, I was excited to check out the centre’s set up and operation.
A very quick explanation of what ‘floating’ is: it is also known as sensory deprivation where all your 5 senses are deprived of any stimulation. The process involves floating in a soundproof and lightproof tank, filled with highly saline water that is typically about 10 inches deep, with about 400 kg of epsom salts (very good for your skin, and detoxifying your body) dissolved in it. When you float, there is virtually zero tension on your joints and muscles. This lets your body go fully into healing mode. It can help alleviate pains and tension in your body that you never knew were there, and those which you can never pinpoint out. If majority of the healing process in your body takes place when you sleep, imagine what your body can do when you put it in an environment where it can go into super deep relaxation. When there is nothing else to distract your body, it can focus on only one thing: healing. Floatation can also be used for meditative purposes, to go into an alternate state of mind. Basically it’s how you can go into your avatar state, seek help from past avatars, and talk to spirits and shit y’know? (Shout out to Aang and Korra!). Floatation can also be used to get a good night’s sleep if you have bat powers like Daredevil.
One of the main reasons for my excitement was that my brother also runs a float centre in Singapore called Palm Avenue Float Club. PAFC started as a home-operated floatation therapy service in January 2014. But PAFC moved from our home to a commercial space and officially became a float centre in August 2014 – the same month that Gravity Floatf officially opened as well! Both float centres use Dreampods, a brand of isolation pods. From the updates and photos of their centres on both of their Facebook pages, you would think they were sister float centres or something. I had already left Singapore for studies overseas during this transition from home to shop, so I still have not been to PAFC :'(. Soon, when I go back for the Lunar new year! Looking forward to it :).
So considering the similarities of both float centres, I saw it as some kind of sign, some connection. It may not mean anything, but it just made going to Gravity Float (GF) special for some reason. But it could also simply be the anticipation of finally floating again. I had my first float when we still had the float tank at home. I really enjoy floating, and see it as something I would do regularly, like how some people regularly visit the chiropractic (hmm, I wonder if how does floatation therapy compare with it? Would be interesting to do a study!). However, floating is a more (w)holistic form of relaxation to me. It affects the mind, body, and soul. I think it’s a great way to get away from city life for a while if you don’t have the time to get out into some remote place or wilderness that doesn’t remind you of the city. If you ever feel stuck, go have a float (or get out of the city! Go somewhere away from all the distractions, bring a pen, paper/notebook, and some fruit).
Anyway, I digress, so I had already bought a pre-opening special 3x 1h float package from GF in July before they opened and only until December did I finally get to use it. I split the 3 hours of floating into 2 sessions, 2 h on the first day and 1 h the next day. The owners of Gravity Float were really friendly. They seemed to genuinely enjoy getting to know their customers and love what they do – they are there almost all day, every day, so I’m sure regular floaters will get to know them very well. The shop front has full glass doors and windows, so it’s easy to see what’s going on inside. The interior design of the centre was minimal but sleek. The first room you step into when you enter the centre is the waiting room. It had a few comfy chairs and egg chairs on one side, and a counter/desk where they operated on the opposite side. A wooden-panelled wall with their company name and logo separates the waiting room from the float rooms. According to them it makes people walking past curious about their business as all they see sometimes is a couple of customers sitting around, having a chat, drinking tea, and looking happy (probably due to the post-float euphoria).
I wanted to float for muscle recovery after my multi-day bike trip and before the Melbourne Hat that was starting 2 days later. I was looking forward to some deep deeeeep relaxation after so long since my last float. To be honest, I did wonder for a bit if 2 h was too long after a long break from floating – what if I get bored? But I shut that thought down by remembering that when and if I do get bored, I tend to just fall asleep anyway and that is good enough to fulfil the purposes of my float. I know some say that the point of floating isn’t to fall asleep (but maybe it’s something inevitable if you float without a specific task in mind?) but it absolutely doesn’t mean that you have wasted your float session even if you do. I always go into the pod intending to do meditation or conscious breathing for as long as I can without falling asleep. But I think sometimes the interesting parts come when I reach my alertness threshold and I get so relaxed I start to balance between the point of still consciously counting my breaths and falling asleep.
I was soon invited to proceed to my float room where I was given a short briefing of the pod and where things were etc. When I was left to myself, I took a quick shower, dried any excess water from my hair and the front of my body – a tip from my brother. This was to prevent the ticklish feeling of water droplets rolling off your body, arms, legs, and face.
I climbed into the pod, closed the lid, lay back on the water and felt the stings from the small cuts and scratches I didn’t know about until now. This stinging sensation inevitable for me since I’m naturally prone to injury, but the stinging sensation goes away after 5 min, so no big deal there. I switched off the lights, took a deep breath, and starting counting my breaths – both in and out breaths, and up to 10 counts before restarting. I first counted with with my eyes opened, but then decided to close them. This is one thing I’m still playing around with – whether to keep eyes opened or closed because the darkness in both situations is identical. But it takes less effort to close them so I did.
As I count my breaths I thought, this is pretty slow, I’m gonna be doing lots of reps of 10 counts for two hours! Wonder how long I can keep this up. Time felt slow, but I knew from experience it goes really fast after my mind and body starts to settle. I noticed that even when I’m counting my breaths my mind can still wander sometimes. Perhaps I need to try a different meditation technique to help me stay focused in the present. I find it fascinating to watch how my mind works when I’m complete deprived of any stimulation. How thoughts can so easily come and go. And I think it’s good to notice what kinds of thoughts are occurring during your float, probably means something. You can also experience something similar while you’re meditating outside of a float pod, but it’s just easier, more fun, and more beneficial in the pod for me. I think what draws me to the pod is that I can get so many benefits from it, all without any physical effort!
After I’m not sure how long, I experienced an involuntarily muscle jerk, which brought me back into an awake and alert state. This jerks are common during a float, they are called hypnic jerks, experienced as people drift into that state between awake and sleep. I opened my eyes and I recall seeing blue specks of light floating around. I closed and opened my eyes again just to make sure it was really there. I thought, ooh! Am I hallucinating? This was the first time I experienced that. It was cool that I experienced something new in the pod, although I probably see similar specks when I knock my head on something… Anyway, I closed my eyes again and resumed counting my breaths…
Next thing I knew I opened my eyes, and saw nothing but darkness. I was confused and disorientated. Where am i? I mildly panicked for 5 seconds; I sat up and started using my hands to feel around me, then I felt a button and pressed it. Blue light filled the pod. Oh… I’m floating. Woah am I still here? Feels like ages and the music to signal the end of my float hasn’t even gone yet. I lay back into the water, closed my eyes and started counting my breaths again. What felt like only a few minutes later, the music came on. I didn’t feel like leaving but I did of course.
I lifted up the lid, and emerged from the pod as I felt the salt water roll and drip off my body. Haha, it probably looked like a scene in some sci-fi movie. The room lights came on automatically as it sensed movement. I had a post-float shower, put my clothes back on, left the float room and went to the pantry/toilet room to use the hair dryer and refill my water bottle.
Ah that feeling after a float. I felt so refreshed, like my body really needed that rest. My mind felt calm. It wasn’t buzzing as it usually would. I was just doing things and focusing mainly on doing that thing alone. I went back to the waiting room and was greeted by the owners. Poured myself I cup of tea and chatted with the owners about the float, about PAFC, about Ultimate (Frisbee) etc.
I went to get some vegan sushi after. It was delicious. I cycled to a park to watch some Ultimate action that I knew was going on at the time. Then I decided to go back to the sushi shop to get more sushi because it was delicious. It felt especially good cycling around after the float. I think it’s good to not have to rush somewhere after a float. Though maybe if you were rushing somewhere you would be calmly rushing.
Floating is awesome, and everyone should try it! Everyone can use floatation therapy for multiple purposes, it’s a very versatile tool for self-improvement. For example, I would like to practice visualisation techniques in future float sessions to see if it can help me improve my Ultimate game or something. Too bad Tasmania doesn’t have a float centre but I’m thinking maybe a Zen Tent could fill that void?