What is float therapy, what to expect in a sensory deprivation tank, and where to find float spas!
We haven’t stopped going since we arrived in Vancouver 2 weeks ago. Or since we arrived in Canada 3 weeks, for that matter. And next week will be the busiest in the leg!
I love the adventure. I love the new sights, food, people, places…. I want to be as busy as possible.
But I’m also one of those extroverts whose actually a bit of an introvert. An introverted extrovert, I’m called. I love the stimulation of activity and feed off of the energy of other people, but it has to be balanced with proper down time so I can process all of that new information.
I haven’t had much time to process.
Enter Pure Float.
I knew I needed a spa break, but wanted to find something unique. I’m still up for an adventure, after all!
I’d heard of float spas offering sensory deprivation tanks before and was really intrigued by them. I didn’t know much about the process, but I figured if it truly was sensory depriving and a spa then float therapy was exactly what I needed.
We’ve been touring, walking, eating, and driving every day, and then spending our nights trying to analyze it all via electronics for this site and to figure out plans for the following day. I welcomed the opportunity to not only relax my body but to turn off my mind. That isn’t an easy task.
Pure Float Spa in Vancouver, Canada
We were given an appointment time to meet at Pure Float in downtown Vancouver and asked to arrive 15 minutes before our session began. The owner met us in the lobby, asked us to sign a waiver, showed us where to exchange our shoes for flip flops, then took us on the tour.
Coy explained everything to us. Before anything began we were familiar with the washrooms, the individual float rooms, how the light and sound systems worked, and protocol for showering before and after our float.
I like getting as much information upfront as possible so I don’t accidentally look like a fool, so I really appreciated Coy’s patience and calm explanations of the spa!
The NeuroSpa Chair
We decided to book a session in the NeuroSpa Chairs before our floats began. The reason we chose Pure Float over float spas in Vancouver was for this service! The NeuroSpa chairs help ease your mind, so beginning a float therapy session with one really heightens the experience.
We were led to a room with three oversized lounge chairs, each with blankets and a special hood. Once comfortably reclined in the most relaxing position ever Coy draped the blanket around me and then lowered the massive hood down toward my legs.
He left the room pitch black.
Suddenly I started to hear the sound of waves rolling in the distance, then I actually felt the rumble as they grew closer. It’s a sensory chair! We not only heard soothing nature sounds and music, but also felt corresponding vibrations.
The experience was so immersive that I really did have no choice but to let go of my to-do list.
After 30 minutes in the NeuroSpa chairs Coy came back to the room and slowly dimmed the lights back on. It took a second for me to snap back to reality, and luckily Coy reminded us of the float room protocols before we entered our private rooms (since that NeuroSpa chair wiped my brain clean).
Sensory Deprivation Tank
Ben and I were sent to separate float rooms. As much as we love adventuring together, it was nice to get some forced me time!
Our identical rooms had a dressing area on one side which opened to a shower area next to the door of the float tank. As instructed I rinsed off with the requisite soap (to keep the salt water clean of external oils) and inserted special earplugs (because you don’t want salt water to fill your ears!) before entering my tank.
Entering the sensory deprivation tank was like stepping into a futuristic world. I can only imagine that bathrooms will all be equipped with float therapy pods in 3018!
Almost a foot of water was tinted blue by underwater lights. Sparkling lights overhead were made to resemble the stars. The entire chamber was perfectly heated to the warm side of room temperature, so I never felt cold when a body part bobbed in and out of the water.
How the sensory deprivation tank feels
The water of the sensory deprivation tank is filled with thousands of pounds of salt. This makes anything inside the water buoyant, as it does in the Dead Sea or the Great Salt Lake.
The buoyancy makes it almost impossible to sit in the water, so it’s easy to slide into a laying position as soon as you enter. The deprivation tanks aren’t huge, so I found myself bobbing around the sides until I and the water settled down. Pure Float provided a floating neck pillow and pool noodles inside the tank, which I eagerly used to help keep my head comfortably above water.
Once I was used to the water I decided to use the oversized buttons inside of the door to turn off the bottom lights and stars. You can choose to keep both or one or the other on, and, while they promoted a very relaxing atmosphere, I wanted to try full sensory deprivation.
A few minutes of floating in the pitch black started to freak me out, though.
I pushed a third button (differently colored so it’s easy to pick out) to signal Coy to turn on soothing music to my tank from a control panel at the front desk. 30 seconds later I was floating in the darkness listening to relaxing music instead of the voices in my head.
The combination of blackness, floating, and light music was so wonderful!
I truly did feel my body melt into the water, all tension released from my aching bones as there was no need to support my own body. My mind had no choice but to follow suit.
While my mind kept drifting to the unique feel of the soft slickness of the heavily salted water over my body, in his tank Ben was keenly aware of the temperature implications of the float. He noticed that, since the temperature is the same both under and out of the water, he felt like he was floating through air once his body acclimated.
Before I knew it I was napping. I woke a while later due to a slight crick in my neck from the floatie, but otherwise feeling super peaceful.
This is where things get interesting.
Before our floats began Coy showed us a list of possible “wake up” songs. The list was short and included happy classics like “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley. He asked if we wanted to choose a song to play to signal the end of our session. Ben chose the Marley, I said I was fine without. Coy explained that the signal would the be for the music to stop playing if I chose to turn it on, or for the music to begin if I chose to float with it off.
Since I chose to turn my music on I started to listen for it to end once I awoke from my nap. We opted for the 90 minute float, and I had no idea how much time had passed.
I heard the music end, waited for a few seconds to make sure it wasn’t simply turning to a new track, and then exited my pod. The first thing I did when I got out was to use one of the supplied towels to dry dripping hair, then sit on my bench and acclimate to the light.
After a minute or two I started to hear the music start up again! This was different music, an instrumental piece I recognized from an Enya album, but still soothing. I assumed Coy had needed to change the CD since our floats were so long.
I was wrong.
I should have asked for a special song like Ben did. Ben always knows the right thing to do.
Soon after getting back in the pod Enya stopped and Marley began! Did Coy hear my subliminal lamentations or did he confuse my room with Ben’s? Either way I took it as a welcome signal that my float was over and started to shower off.
Once I was clean and dressed I walked out and back to the lobby. Ben was already there, and he and Coy asked if I had fallen asleep.
Yes… but only for a bit.
Apparently there’s a sensor at the front desk that goes off when the shower is turned on in each room! This is how Coy knows who is up and out and who might have fallen asleep and missed their signal.
Since I didn’t shower right away Coy decided to signal me with Enya, only I misunderstood since that song was as soothing as the ones I’d heard during my float. His second attempt to get me out was Bob Marley, third would have been to turn on the jets.
I have to admit that I’m pretty embarrassed that they thought I’d slept through my ending signals. But that’s life, right?
Benefits of a sensory deprivation tank
The benefits of sensory deprivation tank therapy are twofold: to heal your body and relax your brain.
Our bodies take quite a hit! We are constantly tensing muscles to do even the simplest tasks of walking, typing, or driving. Our bodies are incapable of distributing our weight equally, which puts heavier amounts of pressure on certain parts of your body with each movement.
We get close to being able to equalize our weight distribution when laying down flat on a soft surface, but even then we experience pressure points.
Floating in water is the closest we can ever come (unless you’ve been to space, but that comes with it’s own set of problems) to releasing pressure all across our bodies. When swimming you still tense and work certain muscles to keep yourself afloat, which is why the flotation tank is so wonderful! When you don’t have to worry about supporting your body at all you are truly able to relax and decompress those tired bones!
Factoring in the ability to float in silent darkness helps release the tension of your mind as the salt water releases the tension in your body.
Whether you’re an athlete putting constant pressure on your body or not, we could all use a brain vacation from Internet And Smart Phone Land. Amiright?
Our tips for the sensory deprivation tank
- If given the opportunity, opt for the NeuroSpa chair (or similar service). It really does help ease your mind!
- Come with a bathing suit if you think you’ll be more comfortable, but you don’t have to wear it since each room is private.
- Don’t bother doing hair or makeup in prep for a float since you have to wash beforehand, anyway!
- Come with an open mind. If you’re determined to suffer through the experience you’ll find it boring and frustrating. If you are able to turn off your brain and focus on the feeling you’ll really enjoy it!
- If offered, choose special wake up music! Just avoid that whole “Am I done?” nonsense.
- Ask questions. If there’s something you want to know about the process or if you forget some of the steps just ask. Chances are anyone interested in working at a float spa will be the sort of person to appreciate your interest and have lots of patience.
How to find a Float Spa
If you’re in Vancouver I highly suggest you visit Pure Float. Visit their website for more information >HERE<, or call them at (604) 559-3999.
If you’re anywhere else it’s easy to find float spas near you by searching online. Just search for “Float Spa” or “Sensory Deprivation Tank” to find something close to you!
I do suggest reading reviews and the FAQs of a float spa before you make an appointment.
Do some research to be sure the place is clean with a good reputation. They should be able to tell you exactly how clean their sensory deprivation tanks are and how they are sanitized. Salt water is naturally sterile, but there are still ways a float spa can increase the health of their tanks!
We researched three different places before choosing Pure Float, and I’m glad I did. I went into the experience with an idea of the process and knowing I could trust them. That’s important!
More of a visual person? Watch our short video on what it’s like inside the Sensory Deprivation Tank!
I hope you consider finding a float spa near you for a fun, unusual float therapy session!
Planning to visit a float spa soon? Pin our tips to save for later!
Our visit to Pure Float was complimentary, but all opinions are our own. We truly loved our visit to Pure Float and consider it one of the best things we’ve done in Vancouver!