This floats our boat – and it floats us, too.
Recently, our writer, Joshua Tan, was invited down to Palm Avenue Float Club‘s new outlet in Kampong Bugis for a float.
Here’s his account of how it went!
For many years, I’ve always thought of floatation therapy as being a medically prescribed treatment for problems like chronic pain and chronic anxiety. Little did I know, that you can float “recreationally” without a doctor’s recommendation.
Floatation therapy is not new. It was first developed in 1954 by medical practitioner and neuropsychiatrist John C. Lilly. He experimented with sensory deprivation using floatation tanks to observe its effects on conditions like stress, anxiety, pain, insomnia and jet lag.
Early floatation pods required the user to wear a breathing device, which made the experience unpalatable.
Today, modern floatation pods – also know as isolation tanks – are highly advanced and only requires the user to float nude.
The moment you enter Palm Avenue Float Club, its calming environment takes hold. Soft music plays in the background and an abundance of natural light shines through the windows. Reception greets you and you fill up a customary form to join their mailing list and answer some brief questions about any prior experiences.
Visitors to PAFC are encouraged to arrive early and chill in their lounge for 15 minutes before a float. This allows the body to settle down and get ready for an out-of-this-world experience.
Whenever you’re ready, one of the friendly staff brings you to a private room to show you how to use the flotation pod. There is an ensuite shower with shampoo and body wash that smells heavenly (I must remember to ask where they source their toiletries from next time).
You’ll notice a clear liquid in the pod, the same liquid you will float in. I was told that this is not clear water, as clear water would cause our bodies to sink.
Instead, this is a highly saturated solution containing 600kg of Epson salt! If you remember this tiny trivia about how the Dead Sea is so salty, you will float if you swam in it, this is pretty much the same idea.
After I was briefed on everything, I proceeded to take a hot shower which I thoroughly enjoyed. The hot water and scents from the bath products worked well together to relax my body.
Halfway through my shower, meditation music started to play. Earlier I was told that music would run on for about 15 minutes to help me get settled into the tank. The tank is lit for this 15 minutes as well.
Initially, I asked if people normally did this nude or in a swimsuit. Derrick, the owner, told me that it is best to do it nude because wearing a swimsuit can cause discomfort and harm the sensory deprivation experience.
So I did as I was recommended and hopped into the tank nude. The water was skin temperature and silky due to the high concentration of Epsom salt.
I submerged myself into the solution and no matter how hard I tried, I ended up floating. I guess that was the point! I closed the pod and floated in the solution, founding it a bit awkward and strange! I turned off the lights (there’s a blue button for lights and red panic button for well, panic situations) and laid in the darkness while the music played on.
It was hard to find a position that worked, which totally reminded me of how I toss and turn every single night before bed. I must have been pretty tightly wound!
After the music faded, I was forced to confront nothingness. No lights, no sound. Nothing. Every itch, every ache and every thought were amplified greatly. It took me a good 30 minutes-ish (there’s no clock in the pod) to finally let go of everything and just float.
Focusing on my breath helped a lot, just like meditation.
Eventually, I drifted into a cosmic space where my body no longer existed. My mind ran free and it felt like an ethereal dream state.
If you think this is sleeping, it’s not. Scientifically speaking, when a person is awake, they’re in an alpha wave brain state. Just prior to falling asleep and when we wake up, we are in a state called theta. Research has shown that an extended theta state enhances creativity, learning and problem-solving skills.
Before long, the music came back on. And that means it was time to get out. I almost didn’t want to despite my initial struggle. I hopped into the shower and washed off the salt, which left my hair a little rough but I was hoping to emerge from the shower with awesome beach hair (but I didn’t).
I patted myself dry, got dressed and went back out to the lounge, feeling high as a kite. Not because the solution was drugged or anything, but my body felt so much lighter than it did pre-float.
I sat on one of the comfy beanbag chairs and was offered a hot cup of tea. I helped myself to the literature on floatation therapy, nicely arranged by the bean bag chairs.
I read something about how a float can highlight to you exactly which part of your body was bothering you and I was slightly creeped out. I clearly remembered certain spots on my lower back and shoulders aching during the first few minutes of my float. The brochure also talked about how regular floats can gradually help us manage stress levels and chronic pain bothering us.
The first float, I was told, is meant to be an introduction. For most of us, the first float is always the hardest.
Why? Many of us find it hard to let go completely and hang on to our reality, even in the pod. By letting go, we’re allowing ourselves to achieve a meditative state like nothing else on Earth. I was truly in awe with my experience floating and I felt light for the rest of the day.
If you’re worried about cleanliness, the Epsom solution is cleaned after each float through an in-built filtration device in the pods. The solution is also treated with hydrogen peroxide regularly. It is also changed every 6 – 8 months. The staff here float once a week on average and that can be clearly seen in the zen-like calmness on their faces!
Their advice to a first timer: Try not to read much about it so you do not have expectations and come with an open mind. Floating is definitely something that all stressed out individuals should try.
I would definitely come back sometime!
Floats are available by appointment only and can be booked online. It costs $90 for a one-hour float.
By Joshua Tan, July 2016
Palm Avenue Float Club’s original outlet is located at 20 Waringin Park, Singapore 416333.