I still needed to pack and prepare myself and my two children for a trip the following day. I worried about unfinished freelance projects, and I battled unrelenting thoughts of surviving virtual school instruction once again in just a few weeks. Stressed, yes. But as crazy as it sounds, I welcomed the anxiety on this particular Sunday afternoon.
I was headed to my first appointment at a float spa and wanted to adequately gauge if 60 minutes of weightlessness and sensory deprivation could actually calm my notorious nerves. When I arrived at Dream Float Spa in Virginia Beach, owner Beverley Scida handed me a hot mug of lavender tea and told me, a self-described yoga fan, that floating was “the ultimate savasana.” We were off to a good start.
Float therapy spas, around since 1979, have been regaining popularity in the last few years. Enthusiasts sometimes visit spas several times a week to experience touted benefits like pain management; better sleep; a boosted immune system; lower stress, blood pressure and cortisol levels; increased energy; and even glowing skin.
Scida explained how her near-zero gravity, spacious pods are filled with 11 inches of water heated to skin temperature and filled with 900 pounds of medical-grade Epsom salt. The environment allows clients to float with ease, fully supported by the water, for 60, 90 or 120 minutes sans stimuli like light, sound and weight. The goal is for the brain to calm as it stops processing outside information, and the muscles and joints should relax, increasing blood flow and helping to heal the body.
“Every stimuli that you take out of the equation is the opportunity for more benefit,” said Scida, who bought Dream Float two years ago after just one time in a pod. “We want your brain to do as little as possible.”
I agreed with Scida that “silence is golden” and was ready for her to take me back to give this a go. See you later senses, I thought. She led me to a private room with the glowing, cocoon-like tank and shower to wash off before and after my float. I inserted the provided ear plugs, stepped in, slowly closed the lid and turned off the light to remove all stimuli. Ocean sounds for the first 10 minutes helped me get adjusted before complete quiet and darkness ensued.
I will admit, floating was hard to get used to at first. The air seemed heavy with humidity, and I fretted my head would sink or water would clog my ears. About half-way in, I began to get the desired effect, completely relaxed even with my eyes wide open. Scida recommends at least three floats before evaluating the results and said I’d spend most of my first time learning to “trust the water.” She was right, but I still left loving the comfort of being completely undisturbed—by anything—for a full hour. I struggled to recall the last time that has happened, if ever.
Though I didn’t come out crying as Scida told me many do, I felt pretty phenomenal. Scida said everyone is different, and she loves hearing all the varied experiences, especially from many clients that are Wounded Warriors. As part of the four-week Virginia High Performance program, Seal TEAM members can take advantage of a variety of physical and cognitive therapies, including floating, to treat pain or PTSD.
“That’s one of the reasons I love being here is to see these guys come in,” says Scida. “They are just beat up. The difference from who there are when they come in on week one and week four is amazing.”
I noticed differences in myself on the night and days following my float, including less of my typical aches and pains from distance running and an enhanced ability to manage stress and unnecessary overreactions (even when traveling).
I lost weight but gained perspective.
“The whole world needs to float,” says. Scida. “It’s science, but it’s also magic.”