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What It’s Really Like To Try ‘Float Therapy’

One of the pods at Fundy Float Crop. (Image: Cherise Letson/Huddle Today)

ROTHESAY – “You’re going to be like Eleven in Stranger Things,” my boyfriend Dan jokes, “You’ll hear and see things!”

We’re talking about my upcoming trip to Fundy Float Corp., a new business in Rothesay that offers float therapy, also known as sensory deprivation therapy.

The truth is, float therapy isn’t going to give you psychic power or allow you to see into another dimension as it did for the popular Netflix heroine. But Fundy Float owner Ryan Lavigne is used to hearing the crazy and often hilarious misconceptions around the practice.

“It’s always portrayed in a kind of bizarre way,” he says, “which might keep people from trying it.”

In reality, Float Therapy aims to achieve deep relaxation by spending an hour lying quietly in the darkness, floating in a warm solution of Epsom salt. It’s based on the theory that up to 90 per cent of our brain’s normal workload is estimated to be caused by the effects of routine environmental stimulation, things like gravity, temperature, touch, light and sound. The idea is that once you are free of this external stimulation, your body can achieve a state of deep relaxation that could even be more beneficial than sleep.

Lavigne got the idea to open a float therapy clinic almost two years ago when he tried it in Halifax. After dealing with his own anxiety and stress, he decided to give it shot. It worked.

“I came out of that float and my wife was already in the lounge waiting for me and I sat down next to her. I won’t forget Lindsay, the owner of the floatation centre in Halifax, coming around the corner and saying, ‘how was your float?’ I got so caught up. I couldn’t process language. I was at a loss for words,” says Lavigne.

“That carried with me throughout the day. Throughout the next week, [I] just this overwhelming sense of calm. I didn’t find that I was attached to my phone. I was sleeping better and I knew there was something bigger than me telling me that this was a worthwhile venture. There’s a piece of it that told me, ‘you have to bring this to your area and try to help your community.”

Located at 83 Hampton Road in Rothesay, Fundy Float Corp offers two floating rooms with one pod in each. Each one holds 225 gallons of water and is heated and maintained at skin temperature. Each tank also includes over 900 pounds of Epsom salts.

“It’s denser than the Dead Sea,” says Lavigne. “The Dead Sea is the saltiest body of water on the planet. It’s about 15 per cent salt. A float tank is about 30 per cent. You’ll float very high up in the water.”

Clients can customize their pod experience. They can adjust the colours of the LED lights or turn them off completely. They can keep the music on, or turn it off. They can use earplugs or decide not to.

But if you’re going to go for the full sleep-deprivation experience, you want the lights out, music off and ears plugged.
That’s what I was going for. Go big or go home, right?

I was pretty excited about my first float experience. As a 20-something with her fair share of stress and anxiety, I’m always down for trying anything that could help with that. Plus, I really like naps, so floating in the dark in complete silence in a pod seemed to be in line with my interests.

Once I got into the tank and closed the door, it took me a few minutes to adjust, as one would when they find themselves floating in a pod for the first time. After about 10 minutes I turned off the light and found myself floating in pitch dark. Again, it took a few minutes to adjust, but I eventually found myself in full relaxation.

I started losing track of time and awareness of space. Aside from a few times when I bumped the sides of the pod, I felt like I was just continuously floating along in nothing. My thoughts also slipped away into nothing. To-do lists, assignments, what the rest of the day had in store, it all drifted away. When I’d start to think of something, I’d just acknowledge it and let it go. I was fully present in this calm nothingness that was the pod.

After my time was up, I got out and showered. Once I got dressed and left the pod room, I was greeted by Lavigne with a bottle of water.

“How was your float?” he asked.

I’d say my first float went well. I felt an intense sense of calm. I felt happy and glowing. This feeling lingered on for the rest of the day, even when I had to go back to work and had to jump into a meeting.

Float therapy isn’t just for 20-somethings looking to reduce stress and disconnect, though it’s great for that. Lavigne says it can be for anyone, whether you’re dealing with stress or anxiety or recovering from an injury with aches and pains. Even if you’re just curious, as long as you’re over 18, floating in a pod could possibly help you.

Pricing starts at $80 for a session, with packages available for those looking to float more frequently. As the research on float therapy grows, Lavigne says he hopes to see it covered by insurance companies in the future.

“It’s just a matter of time before it’s embraced like massage therapy was,” he says. “Massage therapy took forever to get recognized as something that’d be covered. Give it time.”

Float therapy has been around since the 1950s but has seen a resurgence in recent years, including on the East Coast. Moncton and Halifax have operated floating therapy businesses for several years. Besides Fundy Float Corp, St. John’s NFLD, and Bangor, Maine have also had float therapy centres open.

“Now with this resurgence of wellness, they’re really popular out west and they’re starting to pop up across North America and other parts of the world,” says Lavigne.

Since opening in December, Fundy Float’s client base continues to grow, with just two floating rooms, Lavigne says he is now booking around 30 clients per week.

“I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of asking people how their float was,” he says.