Hailed as being great for memory, sleeping, and even for dealing with chronic pain, the practice of floating from the 1950s is currently gaining popularity all over the Pacific Northwest. If you’ve never heard of it, the concept is that, by resting in incredibly salty, buoyant water at body temperature, you can reach brain activity states similar to meditation without needing zen mastery. I’m the child of hippies who settled down and bought a nice house in the suburbs, so I took this with a huge grain of salt when I accepted the invitation to try out Urban Float in Seattle.
While it can be hard to find parking on Fremont Avenue, once you’re in Urban Float it’s a white, calm space, with art all over the walls and rock salt bowls everywhere. Before you get in the water, you’re invited to the upstairs lounge to sit, drink water, and watch a video about safety features and how to best enjoy your time.
The rooms are set up simply: each has a shower, a bench, a storage stand for your clothing, and the floating pod that dominates the space like some kind of sleek alien spaceship, with blue light emanating from within the clamshell. You shower first – they provide shampoo, body wash, and conditioner – then strip to your level of comfort and slowly walk in. Once you’re ready, you close the pod, lie back, and float.
Once you’re in the water, you can leave the light on or off, you can keep your eyes open or closed, and there are several recommended arm positions. I opted to keep the light on and close my eyes, as I was worried I might feel claustrophobic, and let my arms relax by my sides.
A few minutes in, the music turned off and I was left alone in my head. I never managed to breathe slowly and count to 300 as the video suggested. Instead, I got to around 120, then my mind would start drifting, or the nerves in one hand would begin to twinge, and I’d start counting from one again. Even as a scuba diver, it took a while to adjust to letting my head relax in the water and just being still. You’re advised to not move much, as the splashing can distract, and it’s slightly surreal in our rushing world to simply be calm for an hour. I’ve seen other reviews where you were told nothing but to just be in your thoughts, but there is nothing as weird to me as to not be focusing on my needs and plans. It was disorienting and relaxing all at once.
I exited feeling groggy, but calm. I’d definitely recommend using the provided earplugs to reduce salt in your ears, and bring your own shampoo if you’re nervous. I currently have dyed blue hair, and the warm water didn’t seem to fade my color. Once I finished my second shower to get rid of the salt, I sat in the lounge and drank more water, listening to the ladies next to me chat about trying it out, and started to slowly bring myself back to reality.
I still kept that calm feeling for the rest of the day, and that evening, I slept better than I had in a while. I didn’t notice any difference in my injuries, but Brandon, the owner of Urban Float said going once a week is necessary for full effect. Even if it can’t cure my injured arms, I’m thinking of trying it a couple more times, especially if they ever branch out to Capitol Hill, just to bring that calm into everyday life. With first time floats at $45 and a single float at $89, I’d opt for the membership, which cuts float prices to $35-$45/session, just because $89 for an hour is a bit much for my budget. Still, it was a great reminder that I can always use more time for myself.
3420 Fremont Ave N
Seattle, WA 98103
Image: Urban Float