Imagine yourself in a dark, enclosed tub filled with nearly a foot of water with more than 400 kilograms of Epsom salts dissolved in it, a solution so dense that you float in it effortlessly — in the nude.
The water is heated to the same temperature as your skin. With no light, sound, smell or other sensations to stimulate your brain, you slip into a trance-like state called “theta”: the term neuroscientists use for the brainwaves typically exhibited just before sleep or after waking.
After a hiatus in Vancouver for the past several years, floatation tanks like these are making a comeback. Vancouver was home to a couple of spas that offered them in the 80s, but they had all but disappeared, until recently.
A couple of brothers, Mike and Andy Z., opened the Float House at 70 W Cordova St. in Vancouver on Thursday, and Mike (who declined to give his full last name) says they sold $20,000 in packages the first day.
The sign outside the centre, which has five private rooms, proclaims: “Get ready for nothing.” Sessions start at $65 for 90 minutes, and get cheaper with monthly membership.
“Your heart rate decreases, your blood pressure decreases, all your muscle tension goes away, you literally kind of melt into this super buoyant solution,” Mike told Metro.
“If you practice yoga, it correlates very well with a savasana at the end of class, where you’re just lying there in corpse pose. Basically, this is like a savasana on steroids.”
There are few other ventures like Float House in Canada. One man in Abbotsford, about an hour outside Vancouver, opened two tanks about 10 months ago.
The 30-year-old Ovarium in Montreal may be the nation’s most successful floatation spa, with six bath rooms.
Nick Ashfield, owner of Tranquility Tanks, Toronto’s only float centre, has just one, but says he has noticed a resurgence of interest in the past few years — thanks, he thinks, to the enthusiastic endorsements of UFC commentator and TV personality Joe Rogan, who has one in his house.
And according to science, the tanks actually do have their merits. A study by researchers at Karlstad University found that regular sessions provided significant relief to more than three quarters of subjects who suffered from chronic stress-related ailments such as anxiety, stress, depression and fibromyalgia.
Float House worked with the B.C. Ministry of Health and Vancouver Coastal Health for more than a year to develop regulations and get the proper permits to run their Gastown operation. The warm water is cleaned by a pump filtration system, a UV light, plus bromine, and the 25 per cent Epsom salt solution itself is anti-pathogenic.
Mike said all you have to do to prepare is shower. What you do once you’re in there is entirely up to you.