By: Jensen Moore

Floating was a new experience for me- not the run of the mill “wow, that’s new” experience, but the “I never knew this feeling existed and I don’t have the slightest inkling as to what to expect- and that really intimidates me” experience.

What is floating?

For those of you that don’t know (and I would take that to be the majority), floating is a self-care practice that involves literally floating in a soundproof tank or pod that is designed for short-term sensory deprivation. Midwest Float, Topeka’s local float center, utilizes 850 lbs. of Epsom salt and over 200 gallons of water in both its two tanks; types of tanks include a pod, a tank the size of a full-size bed which includes an overhead hatch, and a cabin, which is the larger of the two tanks and more closely resembles a pool. If you’re wondering, I chose the pod.

So, maybe you’re asking yourself “why in the world would you do this?”

For purely selfish reasons, I assure you.

My First Experience

The atmosphere inside Midwest Float was warm, both literally and figuratively – the temp was about 75 degrees. The front room consisted of two large couches, a desk and a coffee and tea bar. After completing my first-time float paperwork in Midwest Float’s comfy lobby-lounge, I was escorted down a hallway to my float room.

The instructions were fairly simple. Remove clothes, shower, float, shower again, put clothes on, go about normal life. But in all seriousness owner Casey Campbell gave a very thorough description of the prep and safety procedures that went into the entire process.

Once the safety sermon was finished and Casey exited the room, I began to take stock of the pod. There was a definite Alien/2001: A Space Odyssey feel to it. The hatch was open; the lights inside it were flashing. It just stared at me and I at it.

After the prep was finished I stepped in (using the protective, slip proof mat – Casey would be so proud), closing the hatch behind me. The water was warm – body temperature, in fact- and thick with salt. The physical act of floating came easy. From there a voice came on and greeted me and stated my chosen float time (60 mins), and I could have sworn it say, “sit back and relax.” But I couldn’t really be bothered to listen to it intently.

I mean, could you believe what I had gotten myself into – literally and figuratively?

With that music came on and I began to float, opting to keep the music and lights on (both of which can be manipulated from inside the tank). Soon I noticed my body started floating from side to side. Toes dabbed at one side of the tank; arms extended above my head as the tips of my knuckles bobbed and occasionally tapped the other side. 

“I am alone now…but it’s fine; I’m fine.”

And all was fine, except for one minor lapse. There came a point half way through the session that I realized that I couldn’t feel my extremities. I stared intently at arms as I waved them back and forward in the water. And a thought came into my head: “what if I can’t get up?” In the moment I really didn’t know for sure.

I got up in a hurry, then just sat there in the tank for a moment.

“I’m fine; it’s fine.”

I lied back down. It was easier to do then, and for a moment I forgot where I was. And before you could say “Don’t rock the boat,” the voice came back on and told me to exit the tank. I stepped out, showered, dressed and went to the bathroom to blow dry my hair.

And while I might have entered the float center as a lumpy, boney bundle of aches and anxieties, I left feeling like a well-oiled machine – my body was grounded, my movements were fluid.

Before ending my session, I sat down in the lounge-lobby to collect my thoughts and drink a cup of tea.

Initial Takeaways

I found this to quite the luxurious experience. All of my haircare and primping needs were taken care of; there were quality shampoos, conditioners and face cleansers. Much to my delight, there was even contact solution. Warm towels, a robe at the ready – very spa-like. What’s more, Midwest Float also supplied numerous float-aid products, as I like to call them. These include an ear dropper of vinegar and swabs for clogged ears; petroleum jelly for any minor cuts- you are floating in salt after all; and makeup remover to minimize contaminants from entering the tank. I can honestly say the service was 10/10. However, this only covers my experience outside of the tank.

I can only sum up my experience in the tank as: a full-on meditative and rejuvenate experience that I tried- desperately- to mentally distance myself from. I was too afraid to give up control and be present in the situation, which I feel like I can mainly attribute to the uncertainty of my situation.

And because of my uncertainty, I played it very safe at every turn. I relied on the floaty pillow; needed either my toes or finger tips touching the pod always; and I absolutely refused to keep my eyes closed- no way, nuh-uh, wasn’t going to do it.

My Second Experience

During my second visit to the friendly neighborhood float center, I found that I was more aware of my body – less focused on mentally distracting myself like before. I had a sporadic twitch in my leg, which was either a sign of my continued inability to let go or the fact that I had went running the day before. It had to be one of the two. What matters was that I was listening and observing, not detaching.

Final Takeaways

I’ll admit it sounded like something I could brag about. “I entered the pod and lived to tell about it!” It’s a rite of passage. A test of true grit. A badge of honor. But I’ve realized there’s much more to get out of the experience than bragging rights. It’s time you can dedicate yourself, without outside stressors invading your mindscape. It’s time to let your body and mind recoup.

Some important things to know before your first float

  • There’s nothing to worry about. It’s 8 inches of water, 800 lbs. of Epsom salt – you will float.
  • Your muscles are relaxed, not paralyzed. Despite my brief state of panic, my body knew what to do and so will yours.
  • There is a bathroom available. Just dry off, take the robe available in the float room, put on your shower shoes and make your way down the hall.
  • The Epsom salt will have your skin smoother than a fresh jar of Skippy!