— image credit: Miranda GATHERCOLE/Langley Times
For first timers, it can seem daunting.
A pitch-black tank, filled with 10 inches of water and 800 pounds of dissolved Epsom salts, strips away all sense of sight, sound, gravity and even touch, as participants float in water for 90-minute intervals.
And yet as Float House approaches its one-year anniversary of opening their fifth location on Glover Road and 96 Avenue in Fort Langley, their client list continues to grow.
Floating, as it is known, is a sensory deprivation experience where individuals lie completely still in body-temperature water, with only a small amount of sensory input. The Epsom salts make the water extremely buoyant, allowing floating to happen effortlessly.
Founded by Mike and Andy Zaremba in Vancouver in 2013, Float House is now one of many floating companies to spring up in the Vancouver area, but the only one to expand to Langley.
“I was very tense at first, because it’s a new environment and it can be a bit scary,” recalled Beau Taillefer, manager of Float House Langley.
“It just seems weird, I’m in a dark refrigerator full of water. So I was very tense. But I knew it was in my head, and I knew I was safe.
“And after half an hour it was like one of the most relaxing things I had ever done. And I knew that wasn’t the end of it, I knew that I could relax more than that. So I signed up for their membership.”
At the time, Taillefer had suffered an arm injury that prevented him from playing music — the subject he was majoring in at university — and ultimately led him to develop anxiety and depression.
In an effort to combat this, he started a daily meditation practice, and about a year after, added floating as a complimentary exercise.
“It’s very difficult to get a sense of what is going on inside your mind. I’m a pretty practical guy, so floating seems to help me notice my thoughts more. And I always notice how those thoughts direct my physical tension levels. It just seems like a direct correlation between the two that I wasn’t very aware of before,” Taillefer said.
“Once you take sight and sound out of the equation, you really get a chance to feel physically what’s going on in your body.
“I’m a lot more aware of my stress levels now. I’m a lot more mindful of stress coming up. It is a practice.”
The reason people float can vary, he added. Some use the space to meditate, while others use it as a quiet place think and plan. Some clients use it for stress reduction, for relaxation, or for pain management and athletic recovery.
Taillefer has even seen children with Autism or Attention Deficit Disorder use floating for therapy.
There is also the option to play music in the tank, and Taillefer has had people request everything from AC/DC to The Lord of the Rings movie soundtracks.
“It’s called sensory deprivation, but when you’re in there, there’s actually a lot of stuff that goes on. Your body is actually quite noisy, there’s a lot of sensations going on,” he said.
“I don’t like to give people too many instructions, but trying to get still is the most important thing for having a good float. And I don’t really like to derail anyone’s plans. If their plan is to come in there and just relax, I don’t want to give them too many tips on mediation. I try to see why they are there. If they are there to relax, I’ll put some music on for them to have a good time.”
Taillefer says many people initially come to their first float with concerns of claustrophobia, or the 90-minute time frame, but “it is actually extremely rare that people have had a problem with it.”
“I would really recommend that they just be open and try it. If you come in feeling concerned about being claustrophobic, that is the focus for the day. That’s what you’re working with. You’re not trying to manufacture anything, you’re just trying to work with what is there.
“It’s not always about what goes on in the tank for 90 minutes. I’ve had a lot of floats where they seem really relaxing and quite normal, and then when I get out I realize how much more relaxed I am than when I went in.”
After each float, the water, which is treated with bromine, goes through a three-stage filtration system cleanse, and participants can continue to unwind in a relaxation lounge with tea, journals, and adult colouring books.
For more information, visit floathouse.ca/locations/langley or call 604-888-7258.