Upfront Reviews: Float Toronto
by Cameron Brtnik
When you enter into Float Toronto, you’re entering into another world… If you haven’t “floated” yet, do yourself a favour and get buoyant!
If you haven’t tried it, you’ve most likely heard of it: known as “float pods,” “isolation tanks” or the more ominous sounding “sensory deprivation tanks,” they’ve started to amass a cult following amongst its practitioners. It has also been called “floatation therapy,” and is anecdotally said to cure a multitude of ailments. Joe Rogan claims he sleeps in one every night. As Float Toronto – one of the few venues that carry float tanks in Toronto – say in their promotional video, “Your experience in a float tank is about everything you won’t be doing.” I personally always go in with some intent: think on my goals, focus my energy, reflect on my actions or simply to meditate.
Welcome to Float Toronto!
You are greeted by a chill receptionist who is more than happy to give you a tour of the spa. In fact, it’s more of a “do it yourself spa.” What comes to mind when you think of the word “spa?” Relaxation, meditation, and healing – and that’s exactly what you’ll get during your float. In fact, I’ve found floating to be far more relaxing than a traditional massage. I believe it’s because your body actually relaxes, I mean fully relaxes, without friction against your body, and your muscles for the first time can fully relax. That’s the problem with traditional massage: your body is still lying against another surface so it’s impossible for your body to completely relax. Because the water is heated to the same temperature as your body, you don’t really feel it after a while and your mind becomes “untethered” from the rest of you. As Joe Rogan says, “Your body is a distraction.” Now it’s time to travel to the centre of consciousness…
As you enter your own private room complete with personal bench, tiled shower and your very own float pod, you’re overcome with a sense of relaxation before even stepping into the glimmering abyss… The dim lights and their sapphire glow make it feel as if you’re stepping into a spacecraft – and that’s exactly what you’re doing. After a soothing shower (there’s no rush as you have a whole hour to float), you step into your personal pod and it feels ethereal. At first you’ll feel slightly nervous to lie down on a bed of water. Don’t worry: each tank has a thousand pounds of epsom salt which gives the water a buoyancy akin to the Dead Sea. You fully lie back – yes you can even rest your head on the surface of the water – or you have the option of using the provided halo cushion for your neck. You have the option of earplugs if you get swimmer’s ear, soothing body cream to rub on your skin after your session, and your very own robe; you’ll feel like you’re staying at the Hilton. If you are claustrophobic, not to worry; the tanks are easy to exit at all times by just pushing up on the pod door. But don’t fret: Float Toronto’s tanks are much larger and voluminous than most, so even the most claustrophobic guest should’ve have a panic attack.
There is heavenly zen music playing as you enter the glowing hull. As you descend into the warm glow of the lights, it’s nice to just lie in it for ten minutes to get fully immersed into the experience. You can control the settings from inside the tank if you want to control the lights and music, but this floater recommends trying the full experience: FULL SENSORY DEPRIVATION. Oh, and one very important tip: never rub your eyes! Don’t put your hands even near your eyes. Doing so will result in a disruption of your meditative state and quickly propel you back to reality. In case of this scenario, there is spray and a towel provided in the tank which will quickly remedy the situation. As you’re in a “sensory deprivation” tank, after about ten minutes you’re encouraged to turn all these distractions off…so you’re floating in pure blackness, like the blackness of space, the thick water fully supporting your weightless body. At first you may feel helpless, anxious, or even nervous…but slowly a relaxing feeling encompasses you like a warm blanket. As you lay there naked – oh yes, I forgot to mention you are encouraged to go “au naturel” to get the full experience – typically your mind will start racing to all the things you have to do that day: go to work, pick up milk, take the dog out, watch the season finale of Game of Thrones. In today’s age you may even have a full-on panic attack that you can’t whip out your phone to check your notifications and like your favourite insta posts. But eventually these thoughts fade and suddenly, for the first time in forever, your mind becomes empty…or at least void of any trivial thoughts. You begin noticing your environment and because there’s no light to “influence” your vision, you may even start hallucinating. I have envisioned that I am floating in space with stars hovering above me (these experiences are heightened by a quick hit on the ol’ vape before floating. I feel this enhances the experience but is not necessary.)
Top 5 Things I Like To Do While In The Tank
- Listen to my knuckles crack underwater
- Hum and chant underwater. Your voice is intensified so that it sounds like it could fill a stadium. (One time floating with a friend he heard me chanting from an adjoining room. He thought he was hearing things in the tank!)
- Force myself to be creative. If I have an upcoming project that I haven’t reflected on yet, I simply focus on that one thing and – boom – ideas come streaming in
- Pretend I’m a frog swimming around in my own private pond
- Massage my body. The salty, viscous fluid helps with this
Because you won’t be “fighting gravity,” it’s hard to tell where the water ends and your body begins… You became “one” with the water and the space around you, as if you’re a naked astronaut floating through space. I am usually fully relaxed halfway through the float, and that’s when my mind starts being creative. I like to use the tank time to think, create and brainstorm ideas – like a literal think tank! But each person’s experience is subjective, and you may prefer to just relax and enjoy the experience. With around twenty minutes to go, I often pass out due to feeling so relaxed. You may call that a waste of a float, but trust me when I say when you wake up you will feel like a new person, and I guarantee you will have never slept like that in a bed before. The music comes on again at the end, sort of like a heavenly alarm clock, to wake you. But if you find it hard to snap out of the trance you’re in, the water will start gushing around the tank to “nudge” you awake. You’ll want to take another shower to wash all that salt off your body. One thing you’ll notice is how smooth your skin feels: “Like a baby’s bottom,” is the best way to describe it. Another thing I find is that, ironically, my muscles are sore, almost like I just ran a marathon. I think it’s because they’ve never fully relaxed before. But it’s in a good way, like that feeling after a good workout at the gym.
After getting dressed, you can enjoy some hot herbal tea in the lounge and share your experience with the staff. They even provide a journal where you can share your experience by writing a poem, drawing your visions, or writing a short diary of your experience. I’ve heard from people who have had very visual hallucinations (particularly one guy who did mushrooms in the tank. But I don’t recommend that, at least on your first float!), to those who have none and just find it to be a therapeutic experience. I recommend you book a float to find out what you’ll experience. They also sell bags of epsom salt in the lobby so you can enjoy the health benefits in the comfort of your own bath. Whatever your reasons for trying it are – therapeutic, spiritual or psychedelic – I believe floating is the best way to achieve it. Bon voyage!
Book your float here: https://float-toronto.com/ and use their online calendar
Recommendation: Book a package of ten floats and it’s almost half price! Tuesdays are “clean for float” days where you can volunteer to come in and clean for a few hours in exchange for a float!
Float Toronto on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=3nHbY3lNOJI
Post-float reactions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jI_EL3IvmKQ
Joe Rogan on Sensory Deprivation Tanks https://player.vimeo.com/video/97880537
Cameron Brtnik is a freelance writer and blogger based in Toronto, and a practicing “floater”