Float your cares and stress away at Hong Kong’s first sensory deprivation centre.
When I first heard about Float On HK and the practice of floating, I was intrigued, curious, interested, excited, and even confused, all at once. I had never heard of anything like it before. You float in a private DreamPod, weightless, for an hour, with every muscle in your body being completely relaxed? Wait. You had me at ‘completely relaxed’. Okay, and also ‘weightless’. Let’s be real, you had me at ‘weightless’. For anyone living in fast-paced and hyper Hong Kong, but especially for mums busy with little ones on top of it all, this sounds like a glorious dream. So of course, it was imperative that I try it out.
When I arrived at Float On HK, I was warmly greeted by Dee, who owns and runs the place along with her husband. She sat down with me, talked me through what would happen and answered any questions I had. Being that I’m more than a tad claustrophobic, my first question was, “will I freak out in there?” She assured me that I was in control of the whole experience, and if necessary, I could keep the lid to the pod slightly open to help fight any feelings of anxiety. Phew.
Now that I had that fear out of the way, I went on to a more commonly asked question…
What exactly is floating?
Floating is a sensory deprivation experience in an individual tank or ‘DreamPod’ that is filled with 500 kilograms of epsom salt and magnesium mixed in 34 degree water, a temperature gauged to match the surface skin temperature. It mimics a zero gravity environment, making you weightless and able to relax from head to toe and everywhere in between.
Float On Hong Kong is the first sensory deprivation centre in Hong Kong. It is located in Mid-Levels on Caine Road in a lovely, relaxing and well-laid out basement space which opens to a private terrace. The atmosphere combined with Dee’s upbeat yet tranquil personality have you feeling calm the minute you step foot in the place.
Dee informed me that people float for pain relief. For anyone with physical injury from sport, suffering from migraines, back or neck pain or arthritis, floating works to alleviate pain by decreasing cortisol levels and increasing endorphins. Lactic acid buildup can be reduced by the epsom salts. People float for stress management and to achieve quality sleep goals. Floating is also often used as a form of mental and emotional therapy, and for personal and spiritual reasons.
But what stuck out to me as a mum were the benefits during pregnancy. Not only does the epsom salt in the float mixture decrease inflammation that is so often bothersome and even painful during pregnancy, but the floating can take that pressure that the extra weight creates off the body. Those gnawing and pulsating aches and pains are alleviated as you float. Another reason for pregnant mums to float? It’s an incredible bonding experience with your baby in the womb. You have an hour of silence in an environment which mirrors the womb. You and your baby connect through being in water and floating together.
Dee continued to tell me more about floating. I learned that sensory deprivation tanks have been around since the 1950s, but they of course looked much different than the sleek, futuristic pods that sit, each one in its own dimly lit, room at Float On HK. Dee has ‘floated’ all over the world, in all types of pods and even group float settings. She knows all things float. She’s a float master, if you will. Knowing her knowledge and expertise along with her passion for floating, I knew I was in good hands and would no doubt have a really cool experience.
Dee gave me instruction on how to float and got me situated in one of the private float rooms equipped with its own shower and the star of the show, the DreamPod. After a quick shower, I entered the pod by stepping into it and then sitting down. There was a soft light which illuminated the inside of the pod with alternating blue, purple and white light. The goal is to eventually turn the light off and float in total darkness. I wasn’t sure I’d get there, and actually had that last minute panic where I envisioned myself flailing about like a pigeon that had been dropped in a bathtub, but I told myself, let’s see. From there, I laid back and sprawled out, and…hey, I was floating. I was totally buoyant, and it was cool feeling, but it did take me about five minutes to quit fighting the weightlessness and totally relax my muscles. And that’s when I realised that my body’s usual resting state is actually quite tense. I had to consciously let go and relax muscle by muscle.
Drum based, tribal-type music played at a low volume inside the pod for the first ten minutes and then dropped out to silence. It was strange to be in an environment of complete and utter silence, totally isolated and wholly unplugged from any outside noise or chatter. There were no little hands scratching at the door. No “MOMMMM” echoing deep in my inner ears. No iPhone vibrate. No nothing. Except for the sound of my heart beat. And it was amazing. And for the next fifty minutes, I did nothing but…float. And I even managed to flip the light off.
It was the music that woke me from my half-conscious trance. It begins to play five minutes before the end of the session to help you come back to real life. An hour had passed in what seemed like a twenty minutes. I slowly dragged myself out of the DreamPod, a little disoriented and a lot ready for a nap. I showered, dressed then shuffled like a zombie out of the room to meet back up with Dee. I was in a different place, in my own little world still, and was unable to have any type of coherent conversation at that point. Floating had taken my body and mind to a type of quiet that needed to simmer for a while. I sat in silence, looking out the window, still dazed (and probably drooling) the entire taxi ride home.
I eventually came back to the reality of mum life when I opened my apartment door to see and hear my daughter and son building a fort with sheets and pillows in the front room. It was a stark contrast to the DreamPod. But, I welcomed them with new, rejuvenated eyes. And a few hours later, after the rugrats had gone to sleep, I welcomed my bed with open arms and a ‘hell yeah’. And I slept like a baby that night.
Go float, ladies. You’ll be glad you did.