Have you heard of flotation? I don’t mean those big inflatable pool-floaty things or those foam pool noodles or rectangles you use to help you to learn how to swim. Turns out, floatation actually has nothing to do with swimming at all. Shows like Stranger Things brought a little more attention to floatation, but many people still haven’t heard of it or know what it does, so I had a chat with Mark Smethurst – The owner of a flotation therapy center in my little town of Stafford (the first one that opened in the West Midlands, actually!) to find out about the center and what flotation is actually all about. Spoiler alert: It’s fascinating, and I think everyone should give it a go!
Time to Float‘s location was a little bit surreal to me, as it turns out, it’s actually in the building of an old radio station that I used to volunteer for. I’m good at getting lost, so thankfully, it means I know exactly where the place is! (Which is at 146 Marston Road, Stafford, ST16 3BT, if you decide you'[d like to give it a go!)
So what actually is flotation? It’s basically a less scary way of talking about a sensory deprivation pod. It doesn’t make you awaken latent crazy powers like TV may have you believe, but it can do a lot of other things for you; but I’ll go in to that shortly. First I’m going to tell you a little about this particular flotation center.
As I mentioned, Time to Float was the first flotation therapy location to open in the West Midlands. Flotation is gaining more traction in the world and when you understand what it can do, it’s easy to see why! The location is a small one in the Northern Quarter of Stafford county town (which has some lovely places to visit in general) and delightfully cosy with warm and welcome staff who are happy to have a good natter with you or just let you do your thing.
So, what do you do, and what can it do for you?
Well, I won’t go in to too many details of what happens when you get there, but basically you fill out a health form, have a little tour and have the place explained to you and this introduction is tailored to you based on your responses to the health form if you have certain medical issues.
In the room is a flotation pod (it’s actually about the size of a Mercedes A Class) and a shower and a few other bits and bobs that will be explained to you before you start, and they’ll only leave you once you’re comfortable! You have a shower and get in this big-ass pod of water and literally sit back and float, thanks to the 800lbs of epsom salt! Now, its advised you close the pod and turn off the light but you can have the light on if you want or prop the pod open or whatever you like.
The water in the pod is heated to body temperature, as is the air, which is circulated to keep the flow of oxygen. Thanks to the 800lbs of epsom salt (which leave your skin feeling so soft, and you don’t look like a prune when you get out either!), you just float in the water effortlessly. (The pod water is filtered four times after each use and the room cleaned, plus the salts are a natural disinfectant too, if that concerns you at all!) Apparently, it’s so relaxing, many people simply fall asleep half way through, which is totally okay! In fact, sleeping for a short while in the pod can have the effect of several hours of really blissful sleep. The salt has a sort of anti-gravity effect, resulting in a feeling of weightlessness; this also helps muscles to get complete rest (and breakdown lactic acid) and for your skeleton to re-align in its natural position. This effect, combined with the high levels of magnesium thanks to the salt (which is also anti-inflammatory) mean floatation can actually help a huge variety of ailments and chronic illnesses, including chronic pain, sleep disorders, mental health issues, or even just being sore from a workout.
Music lulls you away and will also slowly bring you back to reality after your hour is up. You get out, shower to wash all the salt away and get changed and then there is a little recovery room with a hair dryer and mirrors and some skincare products if you wish to use them. Then it’s back through to the main area where they will give you all the water you can drink and let you chill for as long as you like. They’re happy to talk about your float or just leave you to it. Whatever you’d prefer to do basically.
There’s way more I could go in to, but this post is already getting a little lengthy. However, chances are, if you suffer from any ailment, floatation can probably help as an alternative therapy – keep in mind though, it’s not a magic cure, nor does it claim to be! However, as someone with chronic illnesses, I couldn’t resist looking in to it and the science checks out. Though you’re welcome to do your own research or contact the center for a chat if you want to learn more. If you choose to book, they have a Float More program they can tell you about too. (that link will take you to referral by me, but if you go in person or talk on the phone or social media, be sure to give me a cheeky little mention)
Even if you feel pretty well in yourself, floatation can really have a great effect as it helps encourage production of endorphins and a reduction of cortisol, so it may just be good for some self-care or a slice of zen. I think that it’s certainly worth a go. If anything can help my pain without having to dose up on medication, that’s always good.