It’s a weekday afternoon and I’m floating in a tank of salt water in my birthday suit. No one else is here. There is no sound, no light, and — gasp! — no iPhone.
I’m doing my first float at Float House Singapore, a float spa founded by actress-turned-boss lady Michelle Goh (once known for sizzling up the screens in Mee Pok Man as Bunny the prostitute). Flotation therapy, essentially, is spacing out in a sensory deprivation pod that’s free of any external stimuli — you’re left alone with your thoughts, lulled into a mental state conducive for meditation and mental restoration. It purportedly helps with stress, insomnia and even depression. The tank is filled with 28 cm of body-temperature water and 600kg of magnesium sulphate salt (making it denser than the Dead Sea) and this apparently helps relax the muscles and nerves to promote healing. All this may sound hokey to sceptics, but I have a chronic back problem and occasionally suffer from insomnia, so my interest was piqued.
Claustrophobics have nothing to worry about — the pod is spacious enough to fit two adults (though only one person is allowed in at a time. It’s not called ‘me’ time for nothing.). All three pods at Float House are installed with mood lighting that you can choose to turn on or off during your float. Michelle runs a few basic pointers by me (“Once you find a comfortable position for yourself, stay there.”) and I’m good to go. I take a shower, remove my make-up and jewellery, pop in the earplugs provided, and hop into pod, ready to… do nothing, a task more daunting than meeting your in-laws for the first time.
I’m all for the full experience, so I lower the lid fully. As I bob around gently (the water may come up to your ears when you’re laying flat, but never covers your pretty mug), soothing ambient music tinkles softly from the sound system (only for the first 10 minutes). I spend awhile fidgeting to find a good resting position. The music stops. It’s pitch black. You’re encouraged to leave all your work stress at the door, but I find myself making a mental list of emails that need to be sent out, messages to be replied, Instagrams to post. Either my thoughts run out or I’m slowly and unwittingly lulled into a state of relaxation, but gradually, the outside world is the last thing on my mind. I stare into the darkness; my mind a blank. I’m getting sleepy. Suddenly, my stomach growls and shatters the silence. Argh! There goes my almost-Zen moment! My mind begins to wander: What to have for lunch? Maybe I’ll have a salad or a sandw… Before I know it, I’ve drifted off to snooze-land. Occasionally, a little water dribbles into my ear and I jerk awake, only to fall asleep in the next few minutes (or seconds? It’s hard to tell when you’re in the pod.)
(Pictured above: Lush 99.5FM DJ Rosalyn Lee and actress Cynthia Koh are among the celeb fans who float here. And in case you’re wondering, Rozz is decked out in a bikini just for this Instagram pic. Yes, you’re meant to be buck naked in there.)
The next time I wake from my slumber, I imagine there are about 20 minutes left of my hour-long session. But a few seconds later, the music begins playing again, signalling that I’m into my last five minutes of the float. What? How did an hour pass so quickly? Michelle later tells me that it’s normal for first-timers to spend almost half the session getting used to the surroundings. As I take a shower nearby (Tip: don’t forget to wash your ears, where salt residue may have built up), the water filter in the pod begins churning (it filters up to 10 microns, the size of bacteria and UV light is used to kill germs. Water is refilled every few days.)
Post-float, I emerge all Zen-ed out. The world seems to have slowed down a little, and I feel more relaxed, like you would after an immensely shiok massage, lighter, more refreshed, and dare I say, happier. Sure, I didn’t see any of loopy, out-of-this-world stuff that others have reportedly ‘seen’ (Someone online said that in his meditative state, he’d ‘met’ Luke Skywalker.) But when I meet my friends for dinner at a noisy Thai café that evening, I’m unusually calm amid the cacophony. That night, I fall asleep quicker than you could say “total shutdown”. I don’t know how many floats it’d take me to attain Nirvana, but a day of Zen-ning out sure didn’t hurt.
Float House Singapore is at #10-21 Novena Medical Centre, 10 Sinaran Drive. Open daily 10.30am to 9pm. Prices start at $50 per session. For more info, go to www.floatsg.com.
This story originally appeared in 8Days Magazine.
Story by Jasmine Teo