Friday, 15 April 2016

Whatever Floats Your Boat

With my brain still pickled from celebrating (commiserating?) a recent landmark birthday, and having dashed straight from a two-day business conference, it's fair to say that I arrive for my appointment at The Floatworks feeling somewhat frazzled. I've been burning my 40-year-old candle at both ends and despite my best efforts with the make-up, it shows.

I get off the rammed Victoria Line tube at Vauxhall and head straight for my float session, tired feet aching in towering heels, and am relieved to discover it's merely a stone's throw from the station, nestled amongst plush residential apartments in St George Wharf.

I am greeted by two fresh-faced, smiling young staff, who shake my hand warmly and politely introduce themselves, before offering me some water and a comfy seat and handing me a health and safety sheet to read. There is a pleasant aroma wafting throughout and a flat screen TV on the wall plays hypnotic psychedelic patterns enhanced by chilled background music, which all contribute to the relaxed ambiance.

"How deep is the water?....And how much salt?" I ask skeptically, contemplating the enormous corporate buffet I inhaled at lunchtime. It's gonna take a whole load of epsom salts to get THIS body a-floatin'....

Soon, my pod is ready and I'm led into a room where my i-Sopod awaits. Sounds futuristic? Well, it looks it too : a huge shiny egg with a lightweight lid sits surrounded by a calming blue light. The water inside is around 25cm deep, and about half a kilo of magnesium-rich Epsom salts are added to create a super-buoyant detox soup.

I need all the kidney cleansing I can get right now, so I take a quick shower and hop right in, slowly lowering the lid on my watery tomb. I have reservations that the pod will feel as claustrophobic as a coffin, but to my relief it's actually very spacious, and the high curved roof contributes to the airy feel. The water is so salty that it's impossible to lay on the bottom, and I instantly bob on the surface like a careworn rubber duck.

During the first ten minutes the lights gradually dim and soft music is played which fades out whilst I adjust to my surroundings, until I'm left floating in the pitch darkness. Initially, I'm lying rigid with my arms stiff by my sides, but as my tense limbs become accustomed to the sensation I start to unfurl and I'm soon star-shaped and weightless.

As the water is body temperature and I'm engulfed in blackness, it's impossible to feel which parts of your body are submerged, and I have to physically touch them to find out. Fortunately, for a die-hard make-up wearer such as myself, there's no danger of your face getting wet. I already removed my face make-up in the shower, but this means I don't have to worry about panda eyes with mascara ending up somewhere around my knees, plus you're advised to dry your face before entering the pod. With this level of saltiness, you're certainly not going to want to get it in your eyes, much less ingest any!

Similarly, if you have any cuts it's sure going to sting, so those thoughtful reception staff hand you a few packs of petroleum jelly at the outset to apply to those areas. Shaving your legs (or any other area for that matter!) beforehand is a definite no-no.  However, these pre-float precautions are worth the effort, as the benefits of soaking in this high concentration of Epsom salts seem endless: from eliminating migraines to lowering blood pressure, reducing stress levels, improving circulation, concentration, reducing toxins - the list goes on...

I'm no hippified yoga bunny, quite the reverse, so I'm hardly expecting some transcendental spiritual experience - and none comes - but I am acutely aware of both my heartbeat and breathing slowing considerably.

I'm sure meditation experts can zone out and reach a higher plane, but for an uninitiated stress monkey like me it may take a little practise. I'm sure with regular visits even I could learn to reach that level of zen, such is the calming womb-like environment. After a while, my aching muscles feel less tense, my head clearer. I haven't had a single urge to check Facebook for almost an hour now, so something strange is definitely happening to me....

I'm happily floating about contemplating life when, to my astonishment, the ching-ching tunes start up and the blue lights gradually come on, indicating I have five minutes left of my hour-long session.

I reluctantly climb out of my pod and enjoy a hot shower, availing myself of the delicious complimentary toiletries. Then it's time for a quick tidy-up in the Hollywood room using the turbo-powered hairdryers and GHDs. I'm offered a free herbal tea on the beanbags in the chill-out area, but alas, I have to dash, which I do as quickly as my blissed-out bod will allow. Back at Victoria Station there are delays and an accompanying level of travel chaos which would usually make my blood boil, but to my surprise I struggle to even raise a frown.

Finally home, I sleep like a baby and wake up in the morning with the soft skin of one too, which is an unexpected added bonus. Floating has never before been on my health radar, but I think from now on I will be making space in my diary for it. This is one item on my to-do list I definitely won't be pushing to the bottom....

The Floatworks
St George Wharf

 0207 357 0111
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