Urban Float, the city's first sensory-deprivation spa, is now open in Fremont. Never heard of such a place? We hadn't either, so we decided to stop by and sample a futuristic float session.
Floaters tune out during hour-long sessions in Urban Float's specially made pods (think one-man hot tubs with a lid). These tanks are filled with water treated with high amounts of Epsom salt that keeps users effortlessly afloat. Both the water and the air in the room is kept at skin temperature, resulting in a gravity-defying sensation.
Aside from simple quiet time in the dark, sound-proof tanks, proponents of floating claim that tank sessions open users up to a variety of health benefits that include improved memory, relief from joint pain, and improved circulation. In theory, time in the pods gives the brain and central nervous system a break from the stimuli of the world, which allows our mind to function at a higher level. As owner Brandon DeCuir told us, "By improving the function of our nervous system and relaxing throughly, we improve the function of our entire being."
I'm not a huge relaxer, but my typical stress-induced, can't-put-down-my-phone attitude had me thinking that I could use this one-hour break.
To start the session, floaters take a quick rinse in the in-room shower before getting into the pod and closing the lid. You then have the option of turning off the serene blue light to float in relative darkness. Music plays for about ten minutes, easing you into the session, and then all is quiet, and dark, and wet.
I spend the first 20 minutes ticking off my to-do list in my head and trying to avoid getting the water in my eyes (which stings like hell). At one point I jump out to rinse my face off and take a quick peek at my phone—old habits die hard.
But once back in the tank, I vow to totally commit to this chilling out thing. After fighting to quiet my brain I finally fall into a not-quite-asleep, not-quite-awake zen state. I had no major revelations, no spiritual encounters; it just felt good to feel nothing at all really.
The music comes back on to signal the end of the float, and I pushed open the lid half-expecting to find myself in the year 3013. Alas, I stepped out into 2013's clean, white lobby feeling refreshed and somehow lighter. I guess I could be in the Matrix, though?
I can't speak to any health benefits or levels of enlightenment, but for those of us who need a moment to tune out and get centered, or just some quiet time to look inward, I would certainly recommend an hour in the pod.
Urban Float sessions start at $89 with discounts for first-timers and special packages and membership rates.