Float therapy – also known as Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy, or R.E.S.T. – is achieved by floating in a light and sound restricted pod of water. While it might sound like something out of science fiction, decades of research have shown the stress-reduction and other therapeutic effects of floating. I was curious to know more about what it was like, so I booked a float at Still Life Massage & Float in Bellingham.

Float therapy is achieved by floating in a light and sound restricted pod of water. Photo credit: Sara Holodnick.

Float therapy is pretty straightforward in theory, but the thought of floating in a pod of water for an hour leaves a lot of folks asking questions. Why? What is it like? Is it scary? Allow me to demystify the experience a bit.

Appointment Time

Upon arrival, a friendly member of Still Life’s staff checked me in and got me set-up with a brief orientation video with a rundown of what to expect and helpful tips. After the overview I was led into Float Room 1 where I had an opportunity to ask any questions or get clarification, but I felt pretty confident that I was ready to get floating.

Once I was alone, I locked the door and followed the simple instructions to get ready for my float: I got undressed, put the provided earplugs in and took a thorough shower before carefully stepping into the pod.

A Vast Expanse

Everyone’s experience is unique and different when it comes to floating. Photo courtesy: Still Life Massage and Float.

One of the first things my friends asked me after my float was if it felt small or cramped inside the floatation pod. The short answer is no, but it might not be obvious why.

Once I closed the hydraulic hatch door, a calm light illuminated the inside of the white pod. I gently reclined and allowed the water to settle a bit as I centered my body in the pod. An easy push of a button turned the lights out, and that’s when the real magic of the float began.

Once I found the most comfortable position for my arms, I felt completely still and weightless. The 1,200 pounds of Epsom salt in the water allowed me to float without any effort. The air and water were both about the same temperature as my skin, so my body felt limitless.

In the darkness, there were no walls. Rationally, I knew that I was inside a pod of water, but I was almost certain space went on forever. It felt like my fingertips expanded into the universe.

An Immediate Meditative State

Let your cares float away in Still Life’s float chamber. Photo courtesy: Still Life Massage and Float.

There was a lot happening in my life on the day I had my float appointment. I had spent the morning feeling scattered and stressed, and I was nervous that my time in the pod would be wasted by a mind racing through to-do lists.

What I hadn’t known was that it would be very hard to dwell on or worry about the rest of my life once the float began. It felt like my stress dissolved into the water the moment I laid back, and for an hour my mind was free of distraction and my body was free of gravity. My ears were just below the surface of the water (no problem with the provided earplugs) and the pod was totally still and quiet, so all I could hear was my own breath.

My mind marveled at the feeling of a great expanse around me. The unique sensation of being cradled in the water – coupled with a calm but constant awareness of my own breath – allowed my mind to rest. I didn’t find myself thinking much about the rest of my life because floating helped bring me into my body to experience the present moment. I was truly able to leave the world behind.

Long-lasting Calm

I felt inspired after my float therapy session, so I spent a bit of time in the lounge writing and staring out at the marina. Photo credit: Sara Holodnick.

Gentle music alerted me to the end of my hour-long float, so I climbed out of the pod and back into the world. Immediately I noticed that my body felt loose (similar to the effects of a massage) and that my skin felt soft but not pruney. I felt refreshed and centered. I was at peace. Once I’d rinsed off and gotten dressed, I spent a bit of time in the lounge writing and staring out at the marina. I felt inspired.

I had turned my phone off before my float and I was satisfied to leave it that way well after I got home. The rest of the world could wait a bit longer as I enjoyed my post-float focus. And even after the immediate effects of the float had subsided, I noticed that the peaks of my stress were lower than they had been before my appointment.

My float therapy session at Still Life Massage & Float left me feeling calm, collected and full of gratitude. I’d encourage you to give floating a shot if you’ve been struggling to keep up with your self-care. Book your float online to take advantage of this uniquely relaxing experience.


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