Only people with anxiety know how much havoc it can reek in 90 minutes. That’s a long time to sit alone with your stress, I thought, as I read reviews about float therapy. Customer after customer wrote that their hour-and-half-long session passed in a flash. Honestly, I didn’t really think it would work for me even before I stepped through the door of om.life in Jersey City, NJ, but I was willing to give it a shot. What do I think now that I’ve been through it? Can float therapy really treat stress? I think so, but it’s more complicated than a yes or no answer.
I did sit alone with my thoughts and anxiety for 90 minutes. It was hard. It was even a little like exercise. I honestly wanted to quit before my time was up. But something kept me in the tank. Maybe it’s the same thing that tells me I need to try it again. And, despite all of that, I felt brand new when I finally showered off after the session.
What is float therapy?
So, what is float therapy anyway? In the same of mental clarity, boosted creativity, and inflammation reduction, you’ll lie perfectly still in a pod filled with 10 inches of Epsom salt water. No, you can’t replicate this at home. The salinity of the water, om.life founder Anand Sukhadia tells me, is 30 percent whereas The Dead Sea sits at around 25 percent. That means you float effortlessly.
Without worrying about staying on top of the water, you can relax completely. It’s heated to the same temperature as your body so you can’t tell where you end and the water begins. That adds up to an experience that can feel like you’re drifting through outer space. I sat down with Anand after my session to talk about float therapy benefits, including how your brain enters a theta state, so you’ll be getting a more in-depth post about that later.
How does float therapy work?
If you’re booking through om.life, which I highly suggest if you’re in the area, you’ll make a reservation for your float tank. (You might recognize the name since they made our roundup of where to get a CBD massage in NYC, or near the city.) They have several options of different sizes, and a larger one in case you’re wary of small spaces. With the lights out and your eyes closed, though, you won’t notice the space too much. In each private room is a built-in shower for you to rinse the oils off your body and hair before you climb in.
You’ll ease yourself into the water, turn out the lights, and stretch out into your floating position. There are control buttons for star lights and ambient music volume so you can customize your experience. You then lay back and think about nothing, or try, at least. When your session is over, a gentle message comes over the loudspeaker to let you know your time is up. You’ll shower off again, this time conditioner is allowed, and get dressed.
om.life also offers a relaxation area for after your sessions. There you can read, sip tea and stare at the marina, and even sketch what came to you during your float session. They have a book filled with sketches of clients capturing how they felt during their session.
How my float session went
I have to be honest, I struggled. It’s hard to have a sense of time in the pod, but I’m guessing I managed to draft off after about 20 minutes. You’ll move around for the first few minutes because of the water movement you caused getting in. I found this relaxing, sort of like dozing off in a hammock. But for the first few minutes, parts of my body didn’t want to let go of their tension. (Anand assured me that’s perfectly normal.)
I’m also anxious, constantly, and work in digital news media, which means my brain is “always on.” I’d be enjoying the relaxing, gentle movement of the water, only to be interrupted by work worries. One by one, every worry from the day and week popped up. I had a hard time dismissing them, though I did keep trying to focus on the floating sensation.
It did feel long for me, though not nearly like 90 minutes. I must have drifted off a few times because I did lose at least three chunks of time. Maybe they were five minutes, maybe they were thirty. I’m not entirely sure. I do know that my mind did not want to cooperate, and it fought me throughout the session. Sometimes the floating won, sometimes my worries won. It was definitely mental exercise, but I think it’s worth getting good at it.
Can float therapy really treat stress? What it did for me
Despite feeling like a challenging mental exercise, I’d eagerly book another float therapy session. Float therapy is meditation, and meditation is a practice. After my session, I sat with Anand and asked about clients who have issues “turning off” their minds. It’s normal, he says, but everyone who comes back for a second session has an easier time. In fact, it’s because this was so hard for me that I believe I need it.
I did get immediate results from the entire experience, though. Leaving Manhattan to get to the spa in Jersey City was a relief. There was sky, it was less noisy, people weren’t rushing on the sidewalk. Before I even arrived, I was a little less tense. The staff at om.life ushered me in with such warmth that it was a comforting experience from the second I arrived.
Immediately after my float therapy session, I felt like a weight had been lifted. Sitting on my own without sound for 90 minutes was something I didn’t know I needed. Even if my head kept coming back to work, at least I could hear my own thoughts for a change. It also helped me pick out my biggest worries; they were the ones that kept bubbling back up to the surface. Even if I didn’t get into the theta state as much as more experienced floaters, I felt like I came away with a plan for relieving stress. I had pinpointed my sore spots. I knew where to put in more work. And I had done it in a place that made me feel like family. Even if it’s exercise, I’d gladly sign up again.
A quick 20-minute commute from FiDi, om.life is a spa offering a wide range of wellness services, from CBD massage to cryotherapy. You can read up on all of their floatation pods on their website, and read more about customer experiences on their Instagram account.