First, for context: I’m not the ideal customer for alternative therapies. I was raised by a truck driver whose therapy was mostly crushing shiny silver cans of Coors, figuratively and literally. I can be wary of the unfamiliar. I’ve only tried acupuncture once and I left just as creaky and kind of confused by it.
That said, I’m probably the picture of someone who should be enticed by alternative therapies. I have a 3-year-old, thus am both existentially tired and constantly harangued. My work — typing stuff all day — is sedentary. I was born with a wonderful flair for extreme anxiety. If I had a motto, it’d probably be, “Why think it if you can’t overthink it?” It feels, too often, like to really relax and detach, somebody’d need to shoot me into space and let me be catatonic in a pod for a week or four.
Add that all up, and I had something of an intrigued but perplexed reaction to the recent opening of Float Horizen, a float center/alternative therapy spa in East Nashville. Stick me alone in a tank to strip off my stress? Weird, but OK.
What float therapy is
If you’re also new to the float center concept, how it works is pretty self-explanatory (if a bit unusual to the layman): You step into a tank, and lay down into a few inches of extremely Epson salt-y water. The salt makes the water more dense, so you float gently up at the top, like a calm, salty lily pad.
The aim is to mute your senses and let you focus internally, so you can tap into a calm, meditative, dream-like state.
Floating strips away the weight of gravity (float experts say it’s by some 80 percent), and in the tank, with a pair of earplugs and the lights turned down, you have silence, and darkness, and space.
The only thing in the room with the potential to distract you from tuning out to tune in: your own weaving, winding brain. Your standard float therapy session gives you enough time to tussle with it and win, though, at 60 minutes.
The theory, as with really solid meditation, is that the extreme amount of mellow you can achieve will cut down on stress hormone production, release endorphins, give your mind and body a chance to reset and rejuvenate. (The Epsom salts are supposed to have some detoxification qualities too, Dad.)
How Float Horizen does float therapy
The overall concept of float therapy traces back to the mid-century, and it's steadily broadened and grown since. If you’ve only seen sensory-deprivation tanks on TV/in movies (Fringe is a really good show, fellow bingers), you might expect something… rusty and vaguely terrifying.
Float Horizen’s newly built space, however, is light and bright, fresh and comforting, and their float rooms are too — the smaller Dreampod looks like a sleek, modern space egg, and the larger Wave float rooms look and feel something like a swim spa, just enclosed. (The latter: a better bet for anyone who, like me, has a little bit of claustrophobia. But in either case, you have control of light, sound and the door, so if you feel any weirdness, you can quickly alleviate it.)
Lots of common spa amenities are in place, like cozy seating areas where you can decompress and have a cup of tea. But you’ll also find things that are uniquely tooled toward what float therapy is supposed to help with, like creativity. A nook in the back with headphones and seating, both indoor and on a covered balcony, might be the perfect perch to pound out a song or essay post-float, with a boost of calm creativity.
Once you're in your float room, the space is all to yourself. Each has a shower, for pre- and post-float, and after you settle in, music and lights will softly ramp down to start your session, ramp back up to signal the end.
What float therapy does
After an hour in a Wave float room, my takeaway: It isn’t scary, or all that weird, and even if you have an overdriven brain that fights you ferociously whenever you try to meditate, you’ll get enough encouragement from the total lack of stimuli to slip into calm.
It probably took me half the session to unclench my muscles and stop trying to control my surroundings, but once I did, I managed to fall into that sort of hazy contentment you feel after a good massage. Or, I assume, what it’d feel like being catatonic in a space pod for a week or four.
The water in the tanks is heated to just a few degrees below your natural body temperature, so fairly quickly, you stop feeling the water itself, and just feel the floating sensation — weightless, calming and relaxing.
Float pros say it takes a few sessions to get in the rhythm of the thing — once you get past the unfamiliarity, your body doesn’t fight the relaxation so hard, and just falls into that aimed-for zen state. Which sounds logical, and likely.
And I can say that, even after only 30 minutes or so of real tuned-out/tuned-in relaxation, my screeching toddler did feel a little less loud and rowdy, at least for a night.
My only misfire — which the Float Horizen folk are clear to warn you about: As the Kids in the Hall once said so wisely, “Never put salt in your eye.”
Learn more/try a float
If you’re curious, February’s a good month to give Float Horizen a look. A few specials they have going:
For the whole month of February, there’s a special Valentine's Day Couples Package, including a private salt therapy session and floats, at $160.
To add something more widely familiar, they’re also doing a Yoga and Float workshop on Friday, Feb. 23, 9:30 a.m. to noon, including a Dynamic Gentle & Relaxed Restorative Yoga Practice led by Robbie Michelle Short of Half Moon Yoga Healing in Franklin, then a full hour float session, at $99 per person. More at Float Horizen’s Facebook Event page.
You can also schedule sessions at your leisure (and if you’re taken by it, memberships drop the per-float rate considerably). Basics below:
Where: 1012 Russell Street, Suite 204
Hours: 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday
More info: www.floathorizen.com