While perusing the internet, specifically some expat sites, I stumbled upon an ad for what looked like the most exotic and out of this world experience. The question “Ever floated in space?” flashed before my eyes, followed by “relax, reflect, revitalise.” Coupled with the images of space and the soothing blue tones, the idea of “floating” was both intriguing and mesmerizing. I wanted instantly to feel what they were promising, a state of total relaxation; concepts that seem to be very distant when living in a place like Shanghai.
So I had to find out more.
But what exactly is floating?
Floating is when you immerse yourself in a bath of magnesium sulphate, or epsom salts and simply float on top. Floatasian uses 450kg of the stuff (equivalent to the Dead Sea) to keep you afloat in the 25cm of water in the tank, which doesn’t seem like much but it is the perfect amount to keep you floating whilst not freaking out about the depth of the water – in case you’re worried because you can’t swim – you will be perfectly safe.
Floatasian has been operating for around 15 months and is the first one in downtown Shanghai, 288 Dagu Lu to be exact. The mastermind behind Floatasian is Theo (pronounced Teo), a very friendly Swede who runs Floatasian with his brother Andreas and swears his life was changed by floating. As a result, he exudes calm and makes you feel both at home and at ease, instantly. His personalised service ensures you understand exactly what to do and makes you feel like you have all the time in the world to just relax, lay back and float the day away. And this is the exact experience they want for each and every valued customer.
So what does a session at Floatasian look like?
Upon arrival to the modern, noise-free and fresh looking building, shoes are removed and you are offered slippers and a beverage whilst you complete the introductory form. Theo explains the procedure briefly, hands you a pair of waterproof earphones to help guide you through your first float and then you make your way into the back where the tanks are (there are currently two but soon to be three). The tanks have been flown to Shanghai all the way from Sweden ensuring top quality whilst also being bigger than the normal sized floatation tanks, allowing you to stretch out completely, as well as enter and exit easily from the side.
Out the back, there is a bathroom stocked with (free) Aesop cleansers and lotions for you to remove any make-up or creams and clean your face before entering the water (oh and don’t forget to pee, no-one wants their blissful soak disrupted by a desperate need to go to the loo!)
Next it’s into the dimly lit tank room where you’ll also find the shower. Although you can turn on a regular light, a shower in the dim blue lights really enables you to get into the right frame of mind before starting your float.
So you strip down, have a delicious shower (again using more beautiful Aesop products to wash your hair and body), then slip on into the dimly lit tank – yes, you are butt-naked while you float, and it makes the experience all the more liberating.
As mentioned, the tank opens up from the side but also from the top and does not lock, perfect also for those claustrophobes who may be concerned about feeling unsafe. There is also a light inside for your comfort but for the true floating experience, you should be in full darkness.
Once inside, doors closed and lights off, lay down and omg, I’m floating! Zero gravity!
The feeling is very cool. There is no pressure whatsoever on the body.
Position yourself where you feel most natural and comfortable (options include hands above the head, by your side or savasana-style) and switch on the headphones. A meditation has been prepared for your first visits (they then have different recordings you can choose for subsequent visits for the more experienced floaters) which lasts around 10 minutes. The voice is soothing and helps you to really get calm and present in the tank, focusing on your breathing and allowing the thoughts of your day to melt away. The earphones are comfortable, just make sure you push the buds into your ears as far as they go to ensure perfect underwater sound (buds are pre-selected prior to entering the pool so you’re not sharing with others).
And then, just let it all go…
After the meditation, the soothing outdoor sounds, birds, water and the like continue, followed by silence. Personally, the moment the silence hit, I was at peace. My mind was free to rest and rest I did.
The sensation of floating is sensational, and then, the time is up. How did 1 hour go by so quickly?!
So what did I experience?
Overall, relaxation and a sense of tranquility and peace. Being without my ever-present devices was a refreshing and rare experience – even if for the first few moments I did want to be instagramming a selfie of myself in front of the floatation tank!
More specifically, there were moments, particularly in the beginning during the meditation where I would notice points of discomfort, namely my neck and upper back. This occurred, just as Theo had predicted. He had advised that if this should happen, I should just stretch out the parts of my body that felt sore or heavy. Moving my neck from side to side really helped relieve this.
As the session is ending, some music plays to let you know that it is time. Make sure you have a big stretch at this moment. It is like you are waking up and it feels amazing. When it is time to get out, be prepared to feel a little heavy. Getting out of the tub took a little extra effort as my muscles didn’t want to help me up they were so relaxed.
Showering again afterwards to wash off the mag salts was also a great experience (and noticing that I had no wrinkles at all on my body after soaking for 60 minutes!). A feeling of calm is upon you and the warm water falling gently on you is divine. Once changed, you move into another room that has all the tools you need to dry your hair and more luxury lotions for you to use. I think they should employ a hairdresser though. Holding up a hairdryer was not what my muscles wanted to do at this point!
Finally, you exit into a chill out room where you are served a beverage of choice: coffee, tea, coconut water, kombucha or an exotic elixir to refresh you after your float. Kale chips were also served. The boys are working on ways to create a holistic experience that promotes health of mind, body and spirit and their current packages also include a free Rawk meal (healthy food delivered to your door) as well as some free exercise/swim sessions with Move Shanghai at a selection of first class hotels and some discount vouchers for online farmers market and organic food supplier Yimishiji (wechat ID yimishiji).
So will you float again?
Definitely. I think there is much more to this than one float can allow you to experience and explore. Theo tells me that every float is different and you never know where your mind is going to go. He has floated so many times that his experiences now see him feeling as though he is in an infinite space with no boundaries. He, like many others, report seeing colours and images whilst floating. Your mind can truly escape and become creative whilst in the tank, but this will not happen on the first go, time needs to be taken to achieve this state of mindfulness…but it sounds pretty cool to me.
In addition to this, there are promises of improved sleep, pain relief and stress reduction associated with regular floats.
Is floating for everyone?
Definitely. Magnesium is a mineral that many people have heard of (nearly every household having a bag of epsom salts for bath time) and yet around 80% of people are deficient in it. In fact, it is believed to be the most important mineral because it is involved in widespread functions throughout the body. We used to get ample magnesium from our food as it was in the soil our plants grew in and therefore absorbed by the plant. Nowadays, we can get some magnesium from the food we eat (such as leafy greens) but the amounts are minimal and often do not reach our daily recommended intake (600-800mg). Magnesium in the body ensures optimal function of muscles (especially your heart) and nerves, whilst is involved in creating ATP (energy), aids digestion, balances blood sugar, regulates cholesterol and the list goes on. It also improves healing post workout, eliminates cramps or any muscle twitches and aids sleeps. So, it helps, A LOT! And a regular blood test won’t show a deficiency as most magnesium is stored in your bones and your organs. [1. Mercola] As a result, magnesium baths can help every individual in so many different ways. [2. Taylor & Francis online] [3. American Diabetes Association] [4. EBSCO host] [5. Gale Academic] [6. Taylor & Francis] [7. Clin Kidney J]
This is not just another expat haunt either; anyone and everyone is welcome and both groups and singles can attend. In fact, this would make an awesome way for a boss to promote wellbeing into any office, give those biohackers another way to live longer and help meditators get that one step closer to total awareness! Floatasian does have a warning for women who are pregnant in their first trimester and recommend that they gain approval from their doctor before floating but they have been assured that all pregnant women who have floated, have been fine and felt fantastic afterwards.
Why should you float?
If you live in Shanghai, that should be a no brainer! However, floating has been studied extensively and it has found to improve sleep, reduce stress levels and improve muscle-related pain in the body. These are the reasons most people choose to float. I can tell you after my float, that is exactly how I felt. That evening, I was ready for bed come 8.30 and slept beautifully through till the next morning, my cats couldn’t even wake me! My tight calf muscles also felt soft and supple.
Floatasian is tucked away on Level 2 of building 5 at 288 Dagu Lu, just near Chengdu Bei Lu. They are open every day of the week, from 9-11pm, but may open earlier if you need an early morning float. Floats before 11am are cheaper. The morning one-off float is 299RMB whilst post 11am is 488RMB. All floats are 60 minutes. The introductory offer is a great option with 3 floats for 1050RMB and includes those added extras with Rawk and Move Shanghai. The three floats should be used within two weeks but are not limited to time of day. Memberships are also available at discounted prices after the trials have been completed.
So considering a boutique massage can cost over 300RMB and is often hit and miss as the masseurs are not qualified or particularly well-trained, I consider floating a treatment that is definitely on par but considering you get the amazing benefits of magnesium AND the meditation, I would say it even surpasses a massage…and I LOVE massages!!
So get your stressed butts to Floatasian and give it a try so you can alleviate your ailments but also so you can say that you’re one of the cool kids who “floated” before everyone else did. ‘Cause I have a feeling that this is going to become something everyone starts talking about soon.
Have you floated before? What was your experience and did you love it as much as I did? Feel free to comment below!
Love (and healthy fats) Bianca x